Insects and other mini-beasts play a vital role in keeping our ecosystems healthy. Among other things, they break down organic matter and enrich our soil, and provide food for larger animals in the food chain.
Bees – and other pollinating insects – are essential in pollinating all sorts of plants, including many of our food crops.
But while they play a vital part in our ecosystem, their numbers have declined drastically in the last 60 years.
Test your knowledge
There's a world of fascinating insects to discover, such as these 10 amazing insects and arachnids, kindly reproduced from Steve Backshall's "Deadly Factbook 2: Minibeasts, Spiders and Insects". Let's see how much you know about these amazing creatures...
1. The Hercules beetle is very strong. But how much can it lift?
- 50 times its own weight
- 550 times its own weight
- 850 times its own weight
Answer: 850 times its own weight! That’s like a human lifting 10 elephants.
2. The Raft spider can swim underwater for up to half an hour. How does it do it?
- Traps air between its body hairs
- Breathes by absorbing oxygen from water through its legs
- Spins a diving bell of web to carry air underwater
Answer: It traps air in its body hairs – but all of these are real underwater-spider techniques (the water spider spins a diving bell and the sea spider gets oxygen from water through its legs).
3. Honeybees put in a huge amount of effort to collect nectar. How many trips does it take to fill an average (450g) jar with honey?
- 5 million
- 10 million
- 15 million
Answer: 10 million. They may fly under a mile on each trip, but they make *a lot* of journeys. A big bee colony of around 60,000 bees can travel the equivalent of the distance from earth to the moon every day.
4. The biggest spider webs in the world are built by the Darwin’s Bark spider. But how huge are their sticky traps?
- Up to 3 metres
- Up to 25 metres
- Up to 40 metres
Answer: Up to 25 metres – pretty good going for a spider just over 2cm long at most.
5. The Bowhead Whale is the longest-lived mammal on Earth. What is the longest-lived insect?
- Antarctic Midges
- Queen Termites
- Boxelder Bugs
Answer: Queen Termites live for at least 50 years – maybe as long as 100. Antarctic midges are pretty special though – they spend over a year "frozen" in ice to survive through winter, and spend only the last 7-10 days of life wandering the land.
6. Leopards and Cheetahs are super speedy. But some insects are pretty nippy too. Which insect is the fastest at running (not flying)?
- Australian Tiger Beetle
- American Cockroach
- Chinese Stick Insect
Answer: It’s the tiger beetle – they can reach speeds of 9 kilometres an hour when chasing prey. Weirdly, American cockroaches run on their two hind legs. And Chinese stick insects might not be fast, but they are the longest known insect, at more than 60cm.
7. Hummingbirds beat their wings pretty quickly. But what kind of insect leaves them for dust, at over 1,000 beats per second?
Answer: It is the adorably named "no-see-um" midge, which totals over 60 thousand wing beats per minute. The Swallowtail butterfly has the slowest insect wing beat, at just 300 beats per minute. That’s still a speedy 5 flaps every second.
8. Lots of us are scared of spiders. But how many kinds of UK spider are dangerous to humans?
Answer: Zero. You’ll be glad to hear that although there are 650 types of spider native to the UK, not one of them is deadly, or even dangerous, to humans. They are great fly-catchers though.
9. Ladybirds are great for gardens as they eat the aphids that munch on our plants. But how many does the average ladybird eat in its lifetime?
Answer: Ladybirds are great aphid catchers, but they’re only small. They get through about 5,000 aphids each on average – not bad for a bug that only lives for 1-3 years.
10. Crickets "chirp" by rubbing their wings together. What extra information can the frequency of their chirping tell you?
- If it is mating season/li>
- How close the nearest wasp or ants nest is
- The temperature
Answer: The temperature – Dolbear’s law says that if you count the number of "chirps" you hear in 14 seconds and add 40, this gives the temperature in Fahrenheit.
How many did you get right?
Congratulations. You are the Hercules beetle, the strongest of all insect quizzers.
Looks like you're the Australian tiger beetle. You might not cover as much as the big beasts, but you hold your own.
Less than 5
You are the humble honeybee. It might take you a few more journeys to get all 10. Not to worry, like the honeybee, you can help all insects thrive with that hive mentality.