So how do invertebrates actually help to run our world? Pollinating insects such as bees, moths, butterflies, ants, flower beetles and hoverflies all help in the process of pollination and are responsible for a third of the food we eat. Within nature there is always a natural balance to be found and insects play their part in maintaining this balance in the African bush.
Many insects are hard to find because Nature has given them forms and colours which make them invisible against flowers, thorns, twigs, leaves, barks, rocks, earth and water. The voiceless, wingless stick insect, swaying trace-like from side to side like a chameleon, is difficult to spot among green shoots and dead twigs. A most amazing example of triple camouflage, when shape, colour and movement come into full play. The leaf-mimic, long-horned grasshopper looks exactly like the leaf upon which it feed. This is the disguise Nature gives some of its children to protect them against their enemies: the birds, shrews, moles, hedgehogs and many others which eat them. If there were no insect-eaters, the world would be overrun by insects.
Insects eat each other too. The dragonfly catches insects in flight. The fierce praying mantis waits motionless like a leafy twig, its front legs held as if in prayer, until its victim comes pretty close and then eats it piece by piece while still alive.
Dung beetles are totally absorbing to watch and great entertainment as they go about their business in typical upside-down mode. The shiny dynamo pushes its larder over stones, sticks, through clefts and puddles until eventually it reaches cover. If they don’t get the ball safely away to their burrow other dung beetles will fight them for it rather than bothering to make their own. What an amazing insect this little tough-skinned earth moving machine is.
The tok-tokkie beetle is distinguishable by the rhythmic tap of the belly-beating tok-tokkie. There are different types of beetle and each kind uses a distinct and very discernible come-hither mating call, male to female, consistently using the lowest extremity of the abdomen to effect vibration.
What is Nature is more beautiful than the butterfly? Scales on the wings overlap like tiles on a roof, creating a wonderful colour pattern, different for every kind of butterfly.
The honey bee is perhaps the most useful insect we know. The bee colony is one of the wonders of Nature. It is perfectly organised, each individual bee has a special task of its own. The queen bee is responsible for breeding and is the most important member of her community. The male drones mate with her but do little else. The females are the workers, feeding the queen and the grubs that have just come out of the eggs; repairing and cleaning the hive and collecting nectar to make honey to feed the nest. They spread pollen among the flowers and crops around us to make them bear fruit.
There is always something happening in the insect world!
Children can learn more about the honey bee by downloading “Buzz Bee, the amazing Honey bee” on iTunes or Amazon and our Afrycanimals app.