Insects and other invertebrates

Insects and other invertebrates

Invertebrates play a vital role within the many ecosystems and food chains, yet they are frequently feared or misunderstood! These creatures are often fascinating and live remarkable lives. We have decided to comprise some interesting facts about insects and other invertebrates on this page, to celebrate these important little animals!

Ant Facts

  • There are over 12,000 species of ant
  • Ants are the longest living insect- the queen of some species can live for up to 30 years!
  • A single ant can carry up to 50 times its own body weight.
  • The trap jaw ant can close its jaw at a speed of 140mph
  • The largest ants nest ever found was over 3,700 miles wide
  • Studies have shown that ants are capable of learning from each other, with the leading tutor ant even being sensitive to the progress of learner ant and slowing things down as necessary.
  • Each ant colony has its own distinctive smell- this helps the ants to recognise intruders.
  • The ant is considered to be highly intelligent and its brain contains 250,000 brain cells.
  • Ants have been known to capture individuals from other colonies and enslave them, making them do work for their colony.
  • Ants have been around for between 110-130 million years – they were around when dinosaurs walked the earth! They evolved from wasp-like ancestors.

Bee Facts

Bees are known for being important pollinators, yet they are sadly declining at an alarming rate due to the increased use of pesticides and habitat loss. You can help play your part by planting bee-friendly plants such as lavender, abelia and phacelia. Below are some facts about bees:

  • Around a third of our food is pollination dependant – and bees pollinate 70 types of crop!
  • Bees can fly at a speed of up to 25km per hour and their wings beat up to 200 times per second.
  • The queen bee can lay up to 2500 eggs per day during busy summer months.
  • Bees have an incredible sense of smell which they use to communicate with other members of the colony and to recognise different types of flowers when looking for food.
  • Despite being known for their ability to sting, bees are relatively docile animals who will only sting if threatened – most are quite happy to go about their business avoiding humans!
  • Honey bees will usually die after stinging a mammal (including humans). This is because the sting is barbed and gets lodged in the skin. When the bee tries to get away, the abdomen ruptures- causing it to die. However, honey bees can sting an insect predator repeatedly if necessary.
  • It takes 22,700 honey bees to make enough honey to fill one jar.

Wasps

Despite having a reputation for ruining summer picnics, wasps are just as important as the much more favoured bees! As well as being valuable pollinators, they are also predators- serving to control a number of pests which would normally destroy crops- in fact, nearly every pest insect on earth is preyed upon by a type of wasp.

Below are some facts about wasps:

  • There are over 30,000 identified species of wasp – most of which do not sting.
  • Only female wasps have a sting, which is modified from their egg-laying structure called the ovipositor.
  • Most wasps live for just a few months or up to a year, with the exception of the queen, who lives for several years.
  • The fig tree depends on fig-wasps for pollination, and fig-wasps depend on the fig tree for food. Without fig-wasps, there would be no figs- over 1274 species of birds and mammals eat figs.

Stag Beetles

Stag beetles are sadly becoming endangered in the UK due to loss of habitat – you can help the stag beetle by leaving a small log pile in your garden, made up of logs from broadleaved trees.

  • Adult stag beetles can grow up to 8cm long.
  • The larval stage of a stag beetle can last up to 6 years!
  • The stag beetle will only survive a few months as an adult, emerging around May and dying at around August. It’s during this time that they lay their eggs.
  • Stag beetle larvae can be up to 11cm long!

Other Invertebrates

Invertebrates are classed as any species without a spinal column. These include animals such as arthropods  (including insects and arachnids) as well as molluscs (such as snails and squid) and annelids (such as earth worms).

Spiders

  • There are approximately over 38,000 species of spider.
  • Spiders are vital to a healthy eco-system. They help pollinate plants and reduce numbers of pests. They are also a food source for many species of birds, small mammals and fish
  • The silk of a spiders web is 5 times stronger than steel of the same thickness!
  • The male nursery web spider will often present a female spider with a gift such as a fly wrapped in silk, to distract the female for long enough to mate with them. However, in the absence of a fly, some will attempt to dupe the females by wrapping up empty insect husks in silk!