compiled by Rudy Scheibner, Extension Entomologist
and Stephanie Bailey, Entomology Extension Specialist
The following information may come in handy for display boards, starting
discussions, guessing games, etc.
DO YOU KNOW...
1. How many different kinds of insects are there?
There are over a million species of insects. There are over
90,000 spp. of insects in North America. Insects outnumber all
other animals at a rate of 4 to 1.
2. What is Kentucky's state insect?
Our official state insect is the Viceroy butterfly. Kansas has
chosen the Viceroy as well. Other state insects include:
Monarch - Alabama, Illinois, Vermont
Honey Bee -
Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi,
Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, South
Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin
Praying Mantis - Connecticut, South Carolina
Ladybug - Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, New York,
Firefly - Pennsylvania and Tennessee
Tiger Swallowtail - Georgia, Ohio, Virginia and
California Dogface Butterfly - California
Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly - Colorado
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly - Florida
Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly - Maryland
Spicebush Swallowtail - Mississippi
Oregon Swallowtail - Oregon
3. How many lenses are in a dragonfly's eyes?
Dragonflies have as many as 30,000 lenses in
4. How far can insects fly?
Painted ladies migrating from Africa to England
must travel over
5. What was the biggest insect ever?
The fossil dragonfly, Meganeura, that lived about 250 million
years ago was probably the largest insect ever. Its wingspan was
over two feet.
6. What is the largest living insect?
LONGEST - a tropical stick insect - 13 inches from end to end.
HEAVIEST - the goliath beetle in Africa (weighs 1/4 pound and is 5 inches long).
They belong to the same family (scarab beetles) as the
eastern hercules beetle, which is about 2 inches long including the horn.
7. What is the largest butterfly?
The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing from New
Guinea (an endangered species), with a wingspan of 11 inches.
The largest moth is the Owlet moth of tropical America, with a
wingspan of 18 inches.
8. What is the smallest butterfly?
The smallest butterfly is the blue butterfly from Africa, which
has only a 1/2 inch wingspan.
9. What is the smallest insect?
The smallest insects are fairyflies, which are insects that
parasitize or lay their eggs inside other insects' eggs
(including pest insects!). Fairyflies are only 1/5 of a
10. How fast can insects fly?
The male deer bot fly is reputed to develop flying speeds of
several hundred miles per hour, but this is probably an
exaggeration. A tabanid fly, related to horse flies, has been
clocked at 90 miles per hour. Hawk moths have been timed at 33.5
miles per hour. A dragonfly of the species Anax parthenope has
been clocked at almost 18 miles per hour. Honeybees fly at about
7 miles per hour, and have to beat their wings 190 times per
second to do it.
11. How fast can insects flap their wings?
Insects with the fastest wing beat frequency are the no-see-ums,
or very tiny midges, which beat their hairy wings 1,046 times per
second. Male mosquitoes beat their wings 450 to 600 times per
second. Cabbageworm butterflies beat their wings nine times per
12. Which insects are the fastest runners?
The fastest runners are cockroaches, which can move almost a foot
per second. However this only translates to a little over 1 mph.
13. What is the loudest insect?
The loudest insects are male cicadas, which can be
heard about a
quarter of a mile away.
14. How far can insects jump?
Fleas jump 200 times their body length-like a human clearing a
70-story building. Grasshoppers jump 80 times their
like a human jumping 1 1/2 football fields. Flea beetles 1 inch
long can jump up to 2 feet--like a human jumping over 15 cars. A
1/2 inch click beetle can catapult about 1 foot.
15. What is the most dangerous insect?
The most dangerous insects are mosquitoes,
which pass on a
parasite causing malaria, as well as the diseases dengue, yellow
fever and certain types of encephalitis. Malaria kills a million
people a year.
17. What type of insect has been on Earth the longest?
The oldest group of insects are the cockroaches, dating back 300
18. How long can insects live?
aphids - 3 weeks
Periodical cicadas - 17 years
The queen of a termite colony may lay 6,000 to
7,000 eggs per
day, and may live 15 to 50 years.
19. What is the most common household insect problem?
20. How much silk comes from each silkworm?
Each cocoon of a silkworm produces a single thread about 1,500
feet long. More than 25,000 cocoons are needed to make a pound
MORE INSECT TRIVIA
Locusts, or swarming grasshoppers, breed rapidly and many fly
together in search of food. They are not common in the United
States anymore, however in Africa, Europe and Asia, a large swarm
may eat up to 80,000 tons of grain and other vegetation in a day.
The biggest group of insects are the beetles, numbering 330,000
The insects with the biggest nests are termites. The largest
termite mound, found in Australia was 6.1 meters across the base. The
tallest termite mound, found in Africa, was 12.8 meters high, however
only 3 meters across.
Some African and Australian
termite colonies may have as many as 3 million individuals. (If
termites were packed at the rate of 100 per cubic inch, a pickup
truck with a bed 4 x 8 x 1.5 feet would have to make 7 trips to
carry away 3 million termites.) (If one termite was 1/8 inch
long, 3 million of them placed end to end would form a column 100
The first week as an adult worker, honeybees clean the hive. By
the second week, they feed the young. The third week, they make
and repair wax cells in the hive. By the fourth week, they have
begun guarding the hive, and finally, they will visit flowers for
pollen (bees have built-in saddle bags) and nectar from the
fifth week till they die. Workers might live for 6 to 8 weeks,
while queens live up to 5 years. The total distance of the many
trips honey bees travel to produce a pound of honey is about
equal to twice the distance around the world.
In warm weather, if the host plant is healthy, an aphid can
produce 50 babies in one week, which will mature 1 week later.
In one season, a single cabbage aphid and its young, if none
died, could produce 1,560,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1
heptillion, 560 hexillion) individuals under ideal conditions.
Also under ideal conditions, one hectare of vegetation can feed 5
million aphids, which could produce 2 tons of honeydew every day.
The Asiatic silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) has been so domesticated
over the centuries that it probably does not exist in the wild
anymore. It has been reared in China for 4,000 years.
Spider silk may be stretched as much as 1/4 its length before
breaking. (bungi jumping?) The silk of Nephila spiders is the
strongest natural fiber known, and South Sea Islanders use the
silk to make bags and fish nets.
Comparative studies show that humans have 792 distinct muscles,
whereas grasshoppers have 900, and caterpillars may have as many
as 4,000 separate muscles.
An average man can pull about 0.86 times his own weight, but a
leaf beetle (Donacia) can pull 42.7 times its own weight. Horses
pull .5 wt, ants pull 52 times their weight (comparable to a human pulling 4.5 tons)
Some insect orders are always wingless as adults. However, all
orders of insects, except for Odonata (Dragonflies and
Damselflies), contain some species that are wingless as adults.
Among most insects, both males and females occur; but in many
species only the female sex occurs. Hermaphroditism, where both
sexes are functional in the same individual, rarely occurs in
insects. In the California race of the cottonycushion scale, 90
to 99% of the individuals are hermaphrodites that can fertilize
their own eggs. The remaining individuals are all males. No
true females occur.
Egyptian mythology and art included the following insects:
- Dung beetles or scarabs-jewelry, dung rolling reminded
Egyptians of the sun (which they called Ra) rolling
across the sky each day.
- Buprestid beetles-wood borers are the symbol of a myth,
where a goddess (Isis) brought a warrior? Odyssus back
- Click beetles - the pronotum is shaped like the shield of
ancient Egyptian soldiers
- Biting flies were symbols of determination, preserverence,
valor, gold medals in the shape of the flies were given to soldiers
- Grasshoppers, dragonflies and bees were used in jewelry, as
a symbol of life on the Nile
- Praying mantids were a symbol of funerals, and the afterlife
Biosatellite II orbited the Earth with gnats, flour beetles and
Springtails and mites have been found at both of the Earth's
Nicknames for Dragonflies:
- DEVILS DARNING NEEDLES - from a belief that dragonflies sew up children's ears
- SNAKE DOCTORS - from a belief that dragonflies warn snakes of approaching danger
- HORSE STINGERS
- MOSQUITO HAWKS
In Japan, dragonflies are a symbol of victory on the battlefield.
Insects with really interesting life histories include:
- the coffin fly maintains itself for many generations in
human bodies buried in coffins
- petroleum flies feed on other flies that get trapped in
pools of crude petroleum in California
- mosquitoes of genus Malaya steal honeydew from the jaws of
- a female bot fly lays her eggs on the proboscis of a mosquito; when the
mosquito bites a human, the bot fly larvae emerge from
their eggs and crawl under the human's skin through the mosquito bite or by boring into the flesh
- blister beetles have been used both as an aphrodisiac and to
produce hair on bald heads (neither claim has been
- An Australian bee, called a karbi, invented the rack: if
an intruder arrives at the hive entrance, guards grip its
limbs in their jaws and immobilize it by stretching its limbs to their full extent for an
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