STEMAcademiaAgriculture & FarmingHumanitiesSocial Sciences

Bugs up Close and Why We Are Glad They're Small

Updated on September 21, 2017
Casey White profile image

We both love that the particularly vicious-looking bugs are very small and can be photographed using a macro lens, without having to touch.

The Praying Mantis

This praying mantis is so ugly he's cute. Remember, however, that he is NOT a "preying" mantis, so you shouldn't be too afraid of him. He does prey, but not on humans.
This praying mantis is so ugly he's cute. Remember, however, that he is NOT a "preying" mantis, so you shouldn't be too afraid of him. He does prey, but not on humans. | Source

The Praying Mantis

The name praying mantis was given to these insects because they have very long front legs that they are able to hold in a position that reminds people of praying, although they do "prey" upon some things, just not people. They mostly eat insects and other very small animals, and they are often welcome by farmers and gardeners because they eat insects that can damage crops. Some of the things they catch are grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, lizards, frogs and some very small birds.

A praying mantis is very well camouflaged (it can adapt a color and blend in with plants) and has a strange-looking triangular head atop a very long neck, as you can see in the photograph above. And, that triangular head can turn a full 180 degrees, an entire half circle. They are able to hold onto their prey because their front legs have rows of sharp spines. They usually like to begin their meal by eating the head first, and that's nothing you probably want to witness regardless of how much you might hate the bugs and animals they eat.

My Facebook friend, Anthony (Buck) Taylor captured this regurgitating beauty.  I can't wait to use more of his great photos.
My Facebook friend, Anthony (Buck) Taylor captured this regurgitating beauty. I can't wait to use more of his great photos. | Source
I guess the eyes are the windows to a fly's soul.
I guess the eyes are the windows to a fly's soul. | Source

The Cicada

There are actually two different types of cicada - referred to as the "dog-day" and the "periodical" cicada. The dog-day cicadas are very dark with greenish markings and they spend up to seven years underground before they emerge in July and August.

On the other hand, the periodical cicada emerges in May and early June, after spending up to about 17 years underground, so you might say they are one of the elders of the insect world. They are dark with red eyes.

New generations of cicada emerge annually because new groups of young (nymphs) are born every year to females who lay up to 600 eggs at a time in the tiny branches of shrubs and trees. Upon hatching, the nymphs immediately begin burrowing their way underground so that they can attach to roots, where they will remain for the rest of their underground lives sucking tree sap.

The cicada emerges from underground at sunset at the end of the dormant period and is guided only by instinct as it climbs the trunk of a nearby tree where it sheds its skin allowing the adult cicada to begin its relatively short lifespan of about five weeks.

A cicada will only pierce or suck on you if it thinks you are a tree. But, don't worry because they don't have jaws that are built to tear or chew flesh, or stingers, so you simply need to pluck it off of you and continue with whatever you were doing.

The Periodical Cicada

This ugly guy is referred to as a "periodical" cicada.  His red eyes help to identify him as a periodical cicada, as opposed to a dog-day cicada. They are relatively harmless and only live about five weeks above ground.
This ugly guy is referred to as a "periodical" cicada. His red eyes help to identify him as a periodical cicada, as opposed to a dog-day cicada. They are relatively harmless and only live about five weeks above ground. | Source

An Annoying Sound

Above ground, male cicadas fill the air with shrill, buzzing sounds that are considered pretty annoying, the result of small drum-like plates on the abdomen quickly vibrating. The male cicada creates the vibrating sound and uses it to attract female cicadas for mating. All cicadas die in about five weeks after they emerge from under the ground.

A Robber Fly

This is a robber fly, which is also called an assassin fly.  If mishandled, he can inflict a painful bite, so stay away from this one.  Mostly, he just wants to eat other bugs.
This is a robber fly, which is also called an assassin fly. If mishandled, he can inflict a painful bite, so stay away from this one. Mostly, he just wants to eat other bugs. | Source

The Robber Fly

You might want to avoid this one. They don't really go looking for human prey, but if they are mishandled, they could inflict a painful bite. Not only is he ugly, but he is also called an assassin fly and comes by his name honestly. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis (elongated sucking mouthpart) enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx (functions as the tongue) and they are opportunistic predators.

The adult flies attack other flies, as well as wasps, bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers and some spiders. These flies are particularly abundant in arid and sunny habitats and will seize their prey in flight, injecting them with saliva containing a nervous-tissue-damaging neurotoxin and proteolytic (digestive) enzymes. This injection, inflicted by the hypotharynx, quickly immobilizes the prey and allows the fly to digest the bodily contents, essentially turning the prey into a liquid meal.

A robber fly in living color, preparing its lunch (an unidentified bug).
A robber fly in living color, preparing its lunch (an unidentified bug). | Source

Robber Flies Also Eat Beneficial Bugs

There is a downside to the appetite of the robber fly. They also tend to dine on those insects that gardeners consider to be beneficial, like beetles.

Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar

This is a hickory horned devil caterpillar and you absolutely DON'T want to be afraid of him, as he may be ugly but he is harmless.  He is going to turn into a large, colorful regal (or royal walnut) moth.
This is a hickory horned devil caterpillar and you absolutely DON'T want to be afraid of him, as he may be ugly but he is harmless. He is going to turn into a large, colorful regal (or royal walnut) moth. | Source

The Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar

For this ugly little devil, I am going to refer you to an article that I wrote on him. You can access it here.

The Green Bottle Fly: Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me!

This is a green bottle fly regurgitating a drop of digestive liquid to dissolve his food.  Creepy, so  just go ahead and grab a fly swatter.  He's only going to live two to three weeks anyway and is really irritating to humans.
This is a green bottle fly regurgitating a drop of digestive liquid to dissolve his food. Creepy, so just go ahead and grab a fly swatter. He's only going to live two to three weeks anyway and is really irritating to humans. | Source

Green Bottle Fly: Ectoparasite

A green bottle fly is considered an ectoparasite (they live on the outside of the host - either on the skin or the outgrowths of the skin). When this fly lands on a solid food it will throw up enzymes that will begin to break down and dissolve that material.

The Jagged Ambush Bug

This is a jagged ambush bug, and they are called that because they are very patient and simply wait for their prey to come within striking distance.  Maybe they wait because they realize they are very slow flyers and can be outrun by their prey.
This is a jagged ambush bug, and they are called that because they are very patient and simply wait for their prey to come within striking distance. Maybe they wait because they realize they are very slow flyers and can be outrun by their prey. | Source

Ambush Bugs Are Very Patient

You wouldn't exactly consider ambush bugs to be stalkers, as they don't go looking for their prey - they simply wait (usually on flowers), completely motionless until something gets within striking distance and seize it in powerful raptor-like forelegs (they are thick and shaped like those of a praying mantis, perfect for grabbing and holding prey). The victim is then stabbed by an extremely sharp, blade-like beak and injected with poison, and at that point, it is good night to the poor, unsuspecting victim - usually a fly, caterpillar, beetle, wasp, bee or one of many other flying insects, some of which are larger than the ambush bug itself.

The poison not only paralyzes the prey, it also liquefies the body's contents, and turns it into a liquid that can then be slurped up by the jagged ambush bug.

One article I read about the jagged ambush bug referred to it as "an armored shell of terror," which I thought was very appropriate.

Depending upon your gardening needs, this bug may or may not be beneficial, as it eats thrips, flies, moths and butterflies. In regard to humans, they are simply regarded as pests which could inflict a slightly painful bite because they contain venom, but they are not dangerous.

This Jerusalem cricket has a face that even a mother couldn't love, but at least he's more scared of us than we are of him.
This Jerusalem cricket has a face that even a mother couldn't love, but at least he's more scared of us than we are of him.

What's a Bajeezer, Anyway?

At the end of this article are three amazing videos showing extreme close-up photography of scary-looking bugs, some of which were only recently discovered. You will find it worth your time to check them out. Some of them will scare the bajeezers out of you!

An Immature Leaf Hopper

He's very ugly, but he's just an immature leafhopper, and usually only causes damages to plants. They rarely bite humans, and their bite is not harmful.
He's very ugly, but he's just an immature leafhopper, and usually only causes damages to plants. They rarely bite humans, and their bite is not harmful. | Source

Leafhoppers

Leafhoppers are capable of causing extensive damage to the plants on which they feed. They deposit a toxic saliva secretion in the leaves and stems, causing white or yellow bumps to appear. The term used when leaves turn yellow or brown from leafhopper damage, causing stunted growth or death of the plant, is "hopperburn". Some of them can carry or spread plant diseases, causing devastation to some plant species and agricultural crops.

Leafhoppers can bite humans, but they are not harmful.

A Crab Spider

A crab spider - they are capable of completely changing colors when needed and grasp their prey in their two long, strong front legs, administering a poisonous bite.  Their bite is not harmful to humans and luckily, they prefer to remain outdoors.
A crab spider - they are capable of completely changing colors when needed and grasp their prey in their two long, strong front legs, administering a poisonous bite. Their bite is not harmful to humans and luckily, they prefer to remain outdoors. | Source

Crab Spiders Don't Spin a Web

Unlike most spiders, crab spiders don't spin a web for catching prey, but instead they use camouflage. Some of them resemble bird droppings, while others look like fruits, leaves, grass, or flowers, allowing them to prey upon its favorite food - honeybees, butterflies and flies.

The spider attacks when prey approaches, administering a poisonous bite. Their venom is potent enough to render large insects immobile, but not medically threatening to humans.

Note: The crab spider is so named because of its ability to walk sideways and backwards, just like a crab.

© 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Casey White profile image
      Author

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 2 months ago from United States

      Great story. Thanks for reading mine and keep photographing! Another great picture is out there waiting for you.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 months ago from Norfolk

      I recall finding a very large praying mantis rolled up inside a garage door in South Africa. As the door came down he plopped to the ground. In an instant, he changed from grey to bright yellow with his wings in complete disarray. He made a large angry hissing sound which surprised me as I had never heard one make a noise before! I love photographing bugs but sadly this is one image which I never got the opportunity to take.