CHICAGO, July 29, 2014 − To say the least, the weather lately has been odd. Torrents of rain, serious rain. High winds. “Derecho” storms, something we’ve never, ever heard of before, unless, perhaps, some of us are meteorologists. Now, such things seem commonplace.
As for temperatures, what’s to believe? In Chicago, in July, it is 62 degrees right now. July. 62 degrees. That’s weird.
Mother Earth is going through menopause. And she is not happy. Evidence: bugs that fly, creep and crawl and have been here since before the dinosaurs−and will still be around long after we are gone−are getting bigger.
Or so it seems.
According to Smithsonian Institutions:
At any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive.
In the United States, the number of described species is approximately 91,000. The undescribed species of insects in the United States, however, is estimated at some 73,000. The largest numbers of described species in the U.S. fall into four insect Orders: Coleoptera (beetles) at 23,700, Diptera (flies) at 19,600, Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps) at 17,500, and Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) at 11,500.
These bigger bugs might have everything to do with our overall destruction of habitats. The waterways, rain forests and other places where giant insects hide are bringing these bugs to our attention.
So maybe we want to stop destroying the rain forests.
It may also be that our mobile population that is unknowingly packing, crating and carting bugs in luggage and shipping containers. And once they move, those bugs do adapt.
Bec Crew introduced the world’s largest aquatic insect, a new species of Megaloptera that boasts a 21-centimeter wingspan. Or 8.25 inches.
A little perspective? Your personal checks are about 7″ wide.
Megaloptera belongs to the same order of insects as winged alderflies, fish flies, dobsonflies, all of which are relatively small insects. Along with their giant and quite beautiful wing spans, they boast huge mandibles and mouthparts. But those are used for attracting and holding on to their mating partners.
These insects start out as larvae and live most of their lives in the water. They prefer clean water, but can be found in rivers, swamps, ponds and lakes. Once they are adults, able to fly around and scare people, they are done eating. Once they leave the water, their lifespan is in fact quite short.
While Megaloptera may make the Guiness Book of World Records as largest aquatic bug, its not the biggest bug around. New Zealand’s Poor Knights Island Giant Weta has that distinct honor.
Then we have the Giant Desert Spiders soldiers encountered in the deserts of Afghanistan. These creatures are fierce, and pretty awesome. They are also not spiders and not venomous.
But their bites, like any insect, needs to be treated seriously as they can cause staph infections, including the deadly MRSA, a current scourge of hospitals.
But if you want a really giant spider, that would be the Huntsman. Again, not all spiders are venomous, but their bites can be deadly and they do hurt.
Or perhaps you’d prefer the Golden Orb.
If you have some time to kill, watch this History Channel video.
Scary bugs are indeed scary. But according to Scientific American, what we really need to fear is the smallest orgnaism known to man: Bacteria.
There’s no question that bacteria is the killer app of nature. In fact, a number of biologists have suggested that we actually live in the Age of Bacteria.
If you want to pursue the subject further, read more about the largest living bio-mass on earth at The Stephen Jay Gould archives.