There are 10 quintillion (that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 – or 10 million trillion) insects alive on Earth at any one time – that averages out at about 66 trillion lb of insect! (Spray at the ready!)
1. During the Paleozoic era (250-540 million years ago) the Earth teemed with giant insects – millipedes as long as your leg, dragonflies with the wingspan of a hawk and mozzies you definitely wouldn’t want nibbling on your nether regions… Back then, the Earth’s atmosphere contained more oxygen than it does today, resulting in these giant, nightmare-inducing prehistoric bugs.
2. Grub’s up? Bugs’ bodies are protein-rich, so insect eating (entomophagy) may well gain ground in the future as our planet’s population soars and, potentially, our food resources struggle to keep pace. Mind you, it’s pretty safe to say that we all already eat insects on a regular basis – mostly unknowingly, of course! For example, flour is permitted to contain a certain amount of insect ‘bits’ – and, over in the US, every kilo of flour produced can legally contain up to 500 insect fragments.
3. We all know that the ladybird is the gardener’s best friend when it comes to pest control – but did you know these spotty bugs can guzzle 5,000 aphids in one lifetime?
4. There are currently 900,000 known insect species fluttering or crawling on Earth. Ants are, by far, the most prolific – having colonized every landmass on the planet. Grouped together, the world’s ant population would weigh more than the world’s human population. The most successful species of ant are those that are most aggressive and are able to form colonies of billions – which enables them to take on large enemies. The Argentine ant is one such example. This ruthless bug has formed colonies that stretch up to 3,700 miles in length!
5. The deadliest insect is the mosquito. It’s responsible for more deaths than any other insect, and causes millions of cases of malaria every year.
6. The oldest known insect fossil is the Devonian Rhyniognatha hirsti – which dates from a mind-boggling 396 to 407 million years ago. That’s 165 million years before the first dinosaurs trod the Earth, and a humbling 391 million years before our very first human ancestors began to walk on two legs.
7. The Australian tiger beetle is the world’s fastest insect, able to run at 6mph when in pursuit of its prey. (Let’s be honest, faster than most of us.)
8. Bees are essential to human survival. They pollinate 70 of the main 100 crops that feed 90 per cent of the world – not to mention the plants and trees that other animals depend on for their food. Without our buzzy friends, we’d not only lose the crops they pollinate but any animals that are dependant on such plants – including cows and sheep. The world and its ever-booming population would be a very hungry place!
9. And finally… Spare a teeny-tiny moment for the teeny-tiny fairy fly – the world’s smallest insect, averaging at only 0.5mm to 1mm long. The Emperor Dragonfly is the largest, with a wingspan of 12cm.