Nothing captures the essence of a beautiful monster quite like the eyed-flower mantid. Pretty as a petal, as the name suggests, they resemble flowers and use this to lure nectar-feeding insects. Let's not forget the fact that the female often makes a meal of her mate.
To clarify, the sexual cannibalism may not always be the case. Luckily for male mantises, not every mating encounter ends in death. There is truth to the black widow syndrome, however. Several theories exist as to why females tend to cannibalize males including a possible marked increase in fertility. Females have even been observed beheading their males prior to, or even during mating - and the poor headless buggers are still able to get the job done.
The coloration of the eyed-flower mantid makes for great camouflage with flowers enabling the perfect ambush. The wingless nymphs display lateral spines on their curled up abdomens while the eye-spots on the forewings of adults confuse and frighten off predators. The perfect combination of freaky and beautiful.
Like these slick ambush predators there are many badass insects that are just as ferocious, if not more - relative to size, than some of nature's most awe-inspiring beasts.
The Assasin bug is a lethal weapon who lives up to its ominous name. A noxious saliva injected into its prey turns its victims insides into mush before slurping it up its straw-like proboscis like a fresh smoothie. This creepy critter is also known to bite humans when aggravated.
Spider-hunting wasps have a nesting method fit for a horror movie. These miniature beasts use their venom to paralyze their eight-legged victims for capture before dragging them off to their nests. Eggs are laid in the helpless host and once hatched, the larvae eat their way out of the paralyzed-but-still-alive spider.
We cannot talk about the fearsome without due acknowledgment of the army ants – arguably of nature’s most aggressive predators. When these guys are on a mission, everything in their path is destroyed. Freakishly large mandibles, strength in numbers and impeccable teamwork make the army ant colony a powerful force of destruction.
Army ants are not the only members of the family on a warpath. Slave-making ants such as Polyergus lucidus invade the colonies of other ants, capture their broods and enslave them into their own colonies. Picture a colony of victorious ants marching back to their nest carrying stolen larvae in their mandibles.
Saving the deadliest for last, as far as human mortality is concerned, the malaria mosquito ranks as the number one killer. Anopheles (which ironically means useless), is the genus responsible for more human fatalities than any other species, making this miniscule monster the deadliest creature on earth.
Before we get vengeful, let’s take a moment to commend these magnificent creatures and award them the respect they deserve. Aside from being impressively formidable, the importance of insects for life on earth cannot be overstated. Without them ecosystems would collapse and life as we know it would cease to exist. Remember, most insects are harmless – to us anyway.
TRIVIA: The word bug (like in the title of this post), is commonly used to refer to insects and other small invertebrates, but the bug is in fact a type of insect in its own right characterized by piercing-sucking mouth parts. Types of bugs include pill bugs, milkweed bugs and ladybirds. So all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs.