Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How do you spell bug?

... h-e-m-i-p-t-e-r-a, h-e-t-e-r-o-p-t-e-r-a. Insects in this order of the class insecta are commonly know as bugs. So you see, a bug is an insect, but an insect is not necessarily a bug.

In college, my husband had a friend who was studying entomology. At a party, his wife was telling me about their wonderful honeymoon in the tropics. She got to lay on the beach and watch their stuff while he went into the woods to catch bugs. I love entomologists. What other profession attracts people who are so smart and so reverent towards some of Mother Nature's most grotesque creations?

Tonight's topic in my Master Gardener program was Entomology. We were enlightened by another passionate and engaging speaker who has again changed the way I see the world. I took copious notes and intended to pass some information along to you, but I don't think I would be able to explain these facts in as interesting a way as an entomologist could directly.

I will just pass along an interesting tidbit and pose one question to you - as we students pondered in class today. You've heard that the female praying mantis will bite off the head of the male praying mantis, right? WHY do you think this is? I mean, evolutionarily-thinking, biologically-thinking, why? I would love to hear your guesses and I will reveal the answer in the body of this post on Friday.

Photo courtesy of Adamantios, Wikipedia

In the meantime, check out this website created by the speaker I heard tonight - Michael Raupp. Bug of the Week highlights a bug you'll encounter somewhere in your part of the world. Each week there are photos, often times videos, and stories about the insect. There is also a very complete archive to search through.

Now, off to think pleasant thoughts before bed...

Edited to add: fortunately, there have been no insect nightmares. Apparently there are several theories as to why the female praying mantis will cannibalize the male. What often happens is that the female will bite off and eat the male's head DURING sex. In Mike Raupp's lab, one female went straight in for the kill, biting the male right in half through the middle. Another male had several successful conquests and kept his head. I'm not sure anyone really knows the real answer to my question posted earlier this week, but here's the theory I learned Tuesday night: After sex, the praying mantis turns her attention to laying eggs, requiring great amounts of protein. The largest source of protein? The head. You'd think that anything with brains would learn to stay away from something that will probably bite your head off during sex. Well, if you had a little brain in your head, a little brain in your mid-section, and a little brain in your sex appendage, you'd keep going back for more (I guess I could insert a Tiger Woods joke here, but the man's apologized - perhaps I'll leave him alone for now).


  1. Huh, its not any easy question Wendy. I heard about mantis biting off the head of male praying mantis immediately after "doing it". The action symbolized the fact that some exiting moments are best kept as secret and carry it through to the graveyard. ~bangchik

  2. Hi, Wendy ~ I have no idea the answer to that question.
    Maybe, because she can....she just wants to be left alone. :0
    Sounds like you are enjoying your class.

  3. Oh I don't know. But it will be something new for me. Is there a video?...

  4. Difficult question but the link Bug of the week is interesting link and very informative as well.

  5. Probably she is bored and decided to have a snack and hey.. there is one right infront of me?

    I have heard about the mommy spider letting her offsprings suck her dry literally and the famous black widow spider eating her mate..

    So I guess it's in their nature to do so?

  6. That sounds like it was a fun lecture! Learning to embrace bugs and consider their contribution to the cycle of life is immensely humanizing. Cheers!

  7. Hi Wendy~~ I'm thinking that with the idea of keeping the species alive, the female kills the male because if not, the male will find the eggs and eat them. Just a wild guess.

    It takes quite a strong disposition to study bugs. My hats are off to all of those intrepid souls who not only do so but make it entertaining.

    Did the entomologist discuss the good bug/bad bug thing? I think Integrated Pest Management is so interesting. It's all such a delicate balance.

  8. So Wendy, I'm thinking the subject of the meeting was of immense interest to you, especially with your fondness of 'bugs'...heehee!

    The female praying mantis never evolved from nature's instinct of cannibalism...? Or she just doesn't want to 'deal' with his whiny ass later in the marriage...!

  9. They bite their heads off after sex b/c they're hungry and they need an after dinner mint.

  10. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face. My grown son is into reptiles and amphibians, but also loves insects. He'll turn my compost pile to find garter snakes, insects, or other little critters. When he was 12, he went right outside to the woods around my parents' when they lived in Arkansas. My mom was concerned because he didn't have bug spray on. We checked his back when he got in, and he had quite a few spots. They turned out to be chicken pox. Your honeymoon story brought back that memory. He got pretty sick, and we had to take him to a doctor, as he ended up with bronchitis.

    As far as the males having sex even though their heads may be bitten off. I'm thinking maybe they didn't know that would happen, as once it does, they won't live to remember that.


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