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The world's 20 most incredible insects


1st Jan 2015 Animals & Pets

The world's 20 most incredible insects

Despite their tiny size, it's crazy how clever and inventive insects can be. From amazing camouflage skills to gravity-defying jumping abilities, here's our take on the 20 most incredible insects found on Earth.

Most painful stings


It's thought that the most painful sting in the world belongs to the bullet ant, whose sting has been compared to being shot. The effects of the ant's sting last 24 hours. The tarantula hawk also delivers an agonising sting but, mercifully, this lasts only a few minutes.


Spindle ermine moth 


The caterpillar of the ermine moth will form huge communal webs that help protect them from predators. These eerie spectacles will cover entire trees, often stripping them entirely of leaves.


Swarming grasshoppers


Swarm behaviour is usually associated with locusts, but in 2014, New Mexico saw a huge swarm of grasshoppers so dense it even showed up on radar! These swarms are thought to occur when mild, dry winters mean many more eggs survive than in typical years.


Cicadas: the noisiest horde


These noisy bugs don't appear very often, but they tend to appear in droves when they do. On the US east coast they live underground for years at a time, surfacing every 13 - 17 years to live for a short period above ground. Their mating behaviour is extremely noisy, so their appearance is often very unwelcome!


Two amazing jumpers


The insect world has produced some amazing jumpers including the froghopper, which accelerates with a force 400 times greater than gravity, and the grasshopper, which jumps using muscles possessing 10 times the power of the strongest human muscle. 


Four masters of disguise

The astonishing Myrmarachne plataleoides is a spider that disguises itself as a pair of ants to fool predators. Other insects that have mastered camouflage include the dead leaf butterfly that looks like a dried-up brown leaf, the stick insect that looks like a part of whatever plant it feeds on, and its cousin Phyllium giganteum, which has a body shaped and coloured exactly like a leaf.


The astonishing cockroach


They may turn stomachs but cockroaches are amazing creatures. There are over 4,000 species of roach in the world and they can survive without food for up to six weeks. They can also survive without their heads for several weeks before eventually dying of dehydration. 


Five amazing spiders


Only discovered in 2001, the world's largest spider is the cave dwelling giant huntsman spider, which can have a leg-span of up to 30 centimetres. The camel spider is the fastest in the world and can run after prey at speeds up to 12 mph. Then there's the bird dung crab spider, which looks like bird droppings, the diving bell spider, the world's only completely aquatic spider, and the trapdoor spider, which can ambush prey from below ground.


The three biggest killers


It's likely that the humble mosquito could kill up to 750,000 people per year by transmitting diseases such as malaria. Other major killers of people are the tsetse fly, which transmits sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa, and the assassin bug, which can transmit Chagas disease.