- The Mantid (most commonly known as Praying Mantis) belongs to the insect order Mantodea.
- They are ambush predators adapted to catching and eating insects and other small prey.
- While hunting, their specialized front legs hold a “praying” position. When prey comes along, a mantid's front legs shoot out to catch it, and long spines on its legs help hold prey in place.
- They have a “neck” (an elongated thorax) that allows them to turn their head 180 degrees.
- Mantids are camouflaged to blend in with plants. This helps them while they hunt and hides them from predators.
- Mantids often exhibit sexual cannibalism, where the female consumes the male while mating. The exact reason for this behavior is still being studied.
- Females lay hundreds of eggs in a small case. Mantid nymphs hatch looking like miniature versions of their parents.
Butterflies and Moths
- Butterflies and moths belong to the insect order Lepidoptera,
which means “scaled wings.”
- They are well camouflaged or use bright warning colors
to advertise their bad taste to predators.
- Their antennae are able to smell food and find potential
- Moth antennae are more feathered and sensitive than butterfly
antennae because most moths are nocturnal. A Giant Silk Moth
can smell a female’s pheromones (chemical signals) from a distance
of seven miles!
- The Giant Swallowtail has a wingspan of six inches and
is the largest butterfly in North Carolina.
Honeybees: The Hymenopterans
insect order Hymenoptera includes bees, wasps, and ants.
These insects are considered “social insects” because they
live together in large colonies that are controlled by at
least one queen.
- One queen of a beehive is fed a royal jelly and can produce
up to 2,000 eggs per day.
- For the larvae of bees, their future job as a drone (male)
or a worker (female) is determined by the quality of food
they eat in the larval stage.
- Honeybees were introduced to North and South America to
help with crop pollination. Although they help the farmer,
these honeybees have crowded out many native bee species.
- Honeybees communicate with smell as well as with an intricate
dance that shows the direction and location of food.
Spiders, Ticks, and Scorpions: The Arachnids
- Arachnids are not insects because they don’t have wings
or antennae and have eight legs instead of six.
- The mouthparts of spiders, ticks, and scorpions include
fangs or pincers called “chelicerae.”
- Out of the 1,500 species of North Carolina spiders, only
two are harmful to humans: the black widow and the brown
- There are two kinds of spiders, web builders who trap flying
insects and wandering spiders who hunt crawling insects.
- The silk produced by web-building spiders is stronger than
a steel wire of the same size.
Beetles: The Coleopterans
of every four animal species on Earth is a beetle.
- Beetles are so numerous and successful because of the hard
shell, called the elytra, that protects their hind wings
- The elytra traps moisture and air around the wings allowing
beetles to live in dry deserts and underwater. Beetles have
been found almost everywhere on earth, from rainforests to
- Ladybugs often appear as the sweet, polka dotted “bug”
on stationary cards and fabric, but these predatory beetles
don’t mess around. The children of one female ladybug can
eat 200,000 aphids in one growing season.
Cockroaches: The Blattarians
have existed on Earth for over 350 million years, which is
long before the dinosaurs arrived!
- Out of the 3,500 species of cockroaches worldwide, only
50 are considered to be pests to humans.
- In North Carolina, there are 10-12 native species of cockroaches
that are considered beneficial insects because they digest
rotting wood and provide food for many animals.
- The other five species of pesky cockroaches found in North
Carolina have been introduced accidentally from Africa and
- The cockroach diet contains a long list of foods that includes
paper, sugar, leaves, leather, and other insects. Not only
do they eat almost anything, but some species, such as the
American Cockroach, can survive without food for up to three
months as long as it has water.
Meristomatids and Crustaceans
- Horseshoe crabs are called meristomatids. They are not
crustaceans but are instead distant relatives to spiders,
ticks, and mites.
- Horseshoe crabs are called “living fossils” because they
have changed little since they appeared 350 million years
- There are 30,000 species of crustaceans. They are an important
part of the economy and a vital link in ecosystems worldwide.
- Pillbugs, also called Roly Polys, are not insects. They
are land-dwelling crustaceans.