First things, first: Insects are older than dinosaurs and were the first land "animals." Bees, a specific type of insect, showed up later. Insects are everywhere, but you may have noticed you see a lot more of them here in our coastal area!
Our climate in the southeast is primarily hot and humid. This typical Alabama weather is ideal for most insects. The weather is perfect for feeding and breeding without much cold to control the insect population.
Want to learn more about the bugs you might see in your backyard or crawling/flying/burrowing around coastal Alabama? Read our fun facts and 'Bug Bios' below then get outside and test your bug identification with friends and family!
Fun Insect Facts:
All insects are bugs but not all bugs are insects.
There are 1.4 billion bugs per person on the planet.
There are over 1 million named species of insects.
Insects contribute $57 billion to the U.S. economy and that’s not including pollination contributions.
They are an indicator species for climate change.
Insects do not have red blood like humans and other vertebrates because their blood does not contain red blood cells.
Insects do not have lungs. Instead, they breath through pores in their exoskeleton!
There are many types of insects you're probably already familiar with! Check out these Bug Bio's to learn more about these common coastal Alabama insects.
Beetles belong to the insect order Coleoptera. This is the largest order of insects. They account for 28% of all species in the animal kingdom. Beetles differ from all other winged insects because they have a protective cover over their wings which are folded underneath.
Butterflies are in the order Lepidoptera and their fossils date to the Paleocene, about 56 million years ago. Some, like the Monarch Butterfly (the state insect of Alabama) have amazing migrations where one generation makes their way south in the fall and then multiple generations complete the trek back in the spring. When tagging a butterfly, scientists take a small sticker and place it on the middle, underside of their wing, which has scales that refract light into the colorful pattern. If you pick one up, the scales look like powder on your fingers,. Also, they use their feet to taste!
Members of the order Odonata, dragonflies have powerful eyes and are extremely good fliers. They have weights at the end of each wing and they are able to move each one independently or in tandem. Dragonfly larva are aggressive and will eat anything. They’ll even go after baby newts.
Mosquitoes belong to the order Diptera. Alabama contains about 60 different species on mosquitoes, and even though they all look similar to the human eye, at a closer look, the different species vary greatly. Some even have patterns such as stripes and spots on their bodies! Mosquitoes are known nuisances and blood-suckers, and some carry diseases that they can pass to humans and other animals. Mosquitoes often lay eggs on or near the water, because the eggs require water to hatch. Some eggs can survive months or even years without water, but they won't hatch without it.
Wasp and Bees:
Both are in the order Hymenoptera. Bees have hairy bodies and long, flat legs so they can hold as much pollen as possible during transportation. Wasps feed on insects, spiders, caterpillars, etc. so they have sleeker, more streamlined bodies. Bees nests are built from wax, while wasp use their saliva and chewed up fibers to make a papery looking nest. Mud Daubers make unique nests of mud tubes by clawing mud with their jaw, rolling it into a ball, and carrying it to a spot with their front legs. They use saliva to shape it into a tube. Most bees and wasps fly away after stinging, however, a honeybee has barbs in their stinger that will stick in your flesh, as she tries to fly away the stinger won’t budge and she ends up tearing it from her body. The stinger is attached to her digestive system so she eventually dies from trauma.
Crickets and Grasshoppers:
Both are classified in the order Orthoptera! Grasshoppers have longer antennas, they rub their hind legs against their forewing to make noise and they hear from their organs on their abdomen. Crickets use both forewings to make the chirping noise and their ‘ears’ are located on their front legs. Some say you can estimate the temperature by listening to cricket chirps, count the number you hear in 14 seconds and add 40 and that’s the temp. Below 55 degrees they will not sing.
Walking Sticks and Mantids:
Similar, but different! Members of the order Phasmatodea (walking sticks) and Mantodea (Mantis). They can regenerate a limb through shedding. Unmated females can produce fertile eggs which are born all females. There’s even a species of Mantis that scientists have not discovered any males yet. Though not venomous they can vomit, causing their predator to have a bad taste in their mouth. They can also bleed through their joints, it smells terrible and will deter predators. They may even spray a chemical, similar to tear gas.