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6 Extremely Weird Insects (With Photos)

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Extremely Weird and Strange Insects

The natural world is beautiful and strange, with million and millions of wonderful designs. Here are 6 of the weirdest insects out there – everything from a tiny leafhopper with a solar system on its head to a waddling, furry "monkey slug" that packs a powerful sting! Get ready to learn something new, as we peek into the weird and wild world of bugs. Enjoy!

Brazilian Treehopper

Brazilian Treehopper

1. Brazilian Treehopper

Treehoppers are small insects that spend their time among branches and leaves where most people never see them. They are mostly plain little bugs that no one notices, but in some tropical parts of Central and South America, treehoppers have evolved some truly bizarre forms.

The treehopper in the photo above, scientific name Bocydium globulare, is only one example of the weird looks that tropical species present. It looks like a model of the solar system glued onto the head of a random little bug. One theory about the odd look of these insects is that their headdress resembles a parasitic fungus that can attack and kill small insects. If a predator comes across an insect that looks like it's already been killed by a fungal infection, it will almost certainly give it a pass.

There are other treehoppers with even weirder body designs, all shaped by evolution as the insect evolves to survive the constant pressure of predation.

It looks like a model of the solar system has been glued onto the head of a random little bug!

A scorpionfly

A scorpionfly

2. Scorpionfly

Scorpionflies are very cool insects in the order Mecoptera. They look truly scary, combining two intimidating looks: a wasp and a scorpion. Put together, these two designs result in an insect that is not just weird but actually frightening. But before you head for the exit, take some comfort in the fact that the scorpionfly is less than an inch long. It is also completely harmless to humans.

The strangest thing about the scorpionfly is actually the most normal thing: it is completely harmless. The "scorpion stinger" that arcs over its back is actually part of its reproductive system. It's not venomous, and it can't sting.

Scorpionflies have another habit that some may find unusual: they are attracted to freshly dead human corpses. They lay eggs on the dead body, making them among the first insects to arrive that eventually consume the dead body. Medical examiners and forensic investigators sometimes use the presence of scorpionflies as a way to determine the time of death.

The very strange monkey slug caterpillar

The very strange monkey slug caterpillar

3. Monkey Slug Caterpillar

When it comes to weird-looking caterpillars, the competition is pretty fierce. There are so many wild varieties of color and shape that it takes a truly odd individual to stand out from the pack. But one kind of caterpillar is freaky-looking enough to win the Strange Bug award running away. Or, to be more accurate, waddling away.

The monkey slug is not a true slug – it's a moth caterpillar that belongs to the family Megalopygidae. The moths are pretty but seldom noticed; it's the caterpillar stage that takes the cake. For one thing, nearly all caterpillars in this family can really sting; for another, they all glide along on sucker feet, like slugs. Some are decorated with DayGlo neon designs; some have spines or thick "fur." Even though Megalopygidae larvae are a wild-looking bunch, the monkey slug is the wildest.

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Rather than describe these weird little guys, it's easier to simply provide a video. Have a look at these caterpillars rolling along, fake "legs" waggling (those are fleshy tubercles, only there for show). See if you don't agree that monkey slugs are truly as strange as they come.

Caterpillars in this family glide along on sucker feet, like slugs. Some are decorated with day-glo neon designs; some have spines or thick "fur." Even though Megalopygidae larvae are a wild-looking bunch, the monkey slug is the wildest.

A charismatic jumping spider

A charismatic jumping spider

4. Jumping Spiders

With their 8 shining eyes and perky, can-do attitude, jumping spiders are weird in their own special way. These little spiders don't spin webs to catch flies or other prey; instead they wander around looking for unsuspecting bugs to mug. Their prey often doesn't see the attack coming, since these little spiders sidle up within range and then suddenly jump on their victim. They also use their jumping skills to escape threats. Being alert, quick and jumpy are good qualities to have in the insect world.

The thing that makes jumping spiders truly weird, besides the goofy "face," is their eyes. Like nearly all other spiders and most insects, jumping spiders have multiple eyes; 8, in this case. The strange thing is what those eyes are used for. The two big, forward-facing ones pick up detail and color. There is a pair that points backwards and lets the spider see anyone coming up behind them. The function of another pair is a complete mystery to science, and the foremost pair detect motion. That's a lot of eyes, and a lot of points of view!

Catacanthus incarnatus

Catacanthus incarnatus

5. Face Bug

It can be hard to remember that the facial features on this insect (scientific name Catacanthus incarnatus) are just markings on its back – the eyes, mouth, and "hair" are just lines and spots. The insect's real face is very small and hidden from view in this photo.

The face bug is part of a very large group of insects that includes stink bugs, insects that can emit a nasty smell if anyone bothers them. If that wounds weird, be aware that bad smells are very, very common in the insect world as a way of driving away predators.

The resemblance to a human face is coincidental, given that the markings have been there for millions of years. It could be that the eyes-nose-mouth arrangement looks enough like a monkey or other animal to give the face bug some protection.

Owl butterflies mating

Owl butterflies mating

6. Owl Butterfly

There are very few insects big and bold enough to look like a fierce, staring owl, but this butterfly is one of them. The eye spots on the underside of the this huge butterfly's wings are exactly color, shape, and size of an owl, and they come complete with white highlights that look like light glinting off a wet surface.

Everything else about this butterfly is "cryptic," meaning it is designed to blend into the background. But if a hungry bird or lizard is poking around too close to the owl butterfly's perch, one look at the big, staring eye of a "bigger animal" is likely enough to send the attacker scurrying away.

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The following sources were used for this guide:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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