Insects are the most successful animals on Earth, flourishing in every habitat from swampy marshlands to dry deserts. Of 1.5 million animal species, more than 1 million are insects, and there are probably millions more still to be discovered.
1. Insects are arthropods, a huge and varied group that also contains spiders, scorpions, crustaceans, and centipedes. Insects have six jointed legs, a three part body structure protected by an outer exoskeleton, and two sensitive antennae.
2. Many insects, like fleas and lice, are so tiny they can barely be seen with the naked eye. The most minuscule of these is microscopic. The male fairyfly measures just 0.004 in (0.1 mm) in length—a quarter of the size of a period.
3. Dragonflies are the flying aces of the insect world. They can reach speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h), and use their excellent vision to pluck insect prey right out of the air.
4. Most adult insects live for only days or weeks, but termite queens egg-laying females can reign for half a century, laying up to 26,000 eggs every day.
5. Beetles make up a third of all insects—in fact, one in every four animals on Earth is a beetle. This stag beetle is one of around 400,000 species. It uses its antlerlike mandibles to fight over females in the mating season.
6. Caterpillars are butterflies and moths in the larval stage of their lifecycle. Munching massive amounts of leaves is their main purpose—some species can eat over 27,000 times their own body weight in just a few weeks.
7. This wasp's distinctive yellow-and-black coloring warns other insects that it is dangerous. Wasps also come in a host of different colors, including brown, metallic blue, and bright red.
8. Monarch butterflies are mass migrators. Every year giant flocks of them travel from Canada to Mexico for the winter an incredible 2,800 mile (4,500-km) trip.
9. A swarm of cicadas can produce sounds up to 100 decibels or above almost as loud as a rock concert. They don't use their mouths to sing, but make these noises by contracting muscles on their abdomen.
10. The giant weta is the largest insect. The biggest one ever discovered weighed in at 21/2 oz (71 g) as heavy as three mice. An endangered species, it is found
only in New Zealand.
11. You might think that the most dangerous insects are those with deadly venom, but humans should be more worried about the desert locust. When desert locusts feed they can destroy large areas of food crops, causing famine in the local area.
12. Biologists have estimated that there could be up to 10 quadrillion ants on the planet that's 1.4 million ants to every human. Ants in a colony behave like a single organism or "superorganism," working together to accomplish joint goals.