The wild world of insects
‘Nature will bear the closest inspection; she inspires us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.’ Thoreau, Journal, 22 October, 1839.
Blue-eyed Lacewing larvae hunt under logs or debris, unlike some species (the Green) not particularly effective at controlling aphids and can consume 60 in an hour. There are more than 600 species in Australia.
Insects are an incredibly successful group. One in every two multicellular organisms (animals and plants) on Earth is an insect. A collaboration of more than 100 scientists from 16 countries is undertaking the 1000 Insect Transcriptome Evolution project, which examined the evolution of insects from crustaceans, emerging onto land around 500 million years ago.
This is the time when the earliest terrestrial plants evolved. And when plants developed height, about 400 million years ago, insects developed wings. The closest modern relatives of the first winged insects are dragonflies and mayflies. Lacewings evolved around 275 million years ago, and flies, wasps and beetles more than 200 million years ago.
The success of insects is due to their:
- ability to fly
- metamorphosis (reduces competition for resources intra-species).
- reproduce quickly
- from simple anatomical blueprints diversify
- small size, and
- protective cuticle.
As a result they are found everywhere and adapt quickly to new environments and opportunities with a wide range of reproduction strategies.
Potter wasps are solitary, and feed on flower nectar, but they make mud nests for their eggs and stock them with caterpillars and such like. When the egg hatches, the wasp larvae has a living larder.