It can be easy to only think of insects as annoying nuisances that gross us out. But insects make up almost 1,000,000 species in the world, and have some of the most interesting and complex stories in science. Even if you’re not a budding entomologist you will enjoy these stories about bees, fireflies and dragonflies.
Why bees are disappearing
Marla Spivak became interested in bees on whim after a trip to the library when she was 18. She says, “I had never thought about insects living in complex societies. It was like the best of science fiction come true.” There are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world, but they’ve been on the decline since World War II as a result of our changing agricultural system. More mono-crops and herbicides in conjunction with fewer cover crops have created food deserts that make it difficult for bees to thrive. Spivak suggests planting native, bee friendly flowers in your yard and not using pesticides in your garden to help keep bees survive in your neighborhood.
The loves and lives of fireflies
It’s likely that you spent warm summer nights watching and catching fireflies as a child, but you might not have known that there were more than 2,000 species of fireflies around the world and that some of them do not even light up. Biologists believe that in the beginning the light fireflies give off was meant to tell predators they were toxic and should not be eaten, and eventually it transformed into a mating technique. Male fireflies fly around while female fireflies stay to the ground. When the female sees a male she is attracted to, she flashes her light at him to draw him closer. If she likes him he will come down to her and mate for an entire evening. Studies show that female fireflies are more attracted to males that give off longer flashes of light… go figure.
Dragonflies that fly across oceans
We usually only think of dragonflies as insects we see flying on land, but they actually rely on freshwater to breed. Marine biologist Charles Anderson noticed thousands and thousands of dragonflies appearing near his diving site in the Maldives year after year. When he asked around no one could tell him about them. He found out that they were Globe Skimmers, but since there is no freshwater there. He also discovered that they were arriving in the Maldives against the wind, which didn’t make sense. Through more research he discovered that they were relying on the monsoon season for their breeding and migration in a story that gets increasingly more complex as he goes on.