Our world is filled with pretty, cute, and elegant mammals and birds that are universally loved and adored. This list is going to have none of those. The top 10 for this issue is pulling it’s contenders straight from the underworld of creepy-crawly creatures that look like aliens from another planet. This is the top 10 weirdest bugs in no particular order because they’re all awesome!
#1:The Gooty Sapphire Ornamental Tarantula: I just couldn’t resist adding a spider or two onto this list. I know, I know, a lot of people HATE spiders but there’s is absolutely no denying that an electric blue tarantula isn’t one of the coolest things you’ve ever laid eyes upon! Hailing from a very small range in central southern India, this species of tarantula has been highly sought after in the hobby even with their common availability. The genus these spiders belong to. Poecilotheria, are fairly large, arboreal tarantulas that are all native to India and Sri Lanka. Sapphire Ornamentals and their relatives all possess a potent, but non-lethal, venom and typically have a not so friendly disposition to match. Unfortunately, these beautiful spiders are listed as critically endangered due to habitat destruction in their tiny 39 square mile range.
#2: Vinegaroons- The funny thing about a lot of bugs is they look A LOT worse than they actually are. Vinegaroons and their relatives are a prime example! These bizarre bugs are in the Whip Scorpion family and look like the thing of nightmares. Believe it or not, these bugs are virtually harmless! Their main line of defense is the ability to spray an mildly irritating acid from the tail that smells similar to vinegar, hence their name. Their native range is spread from Florida, West to Texas and Mexico. Their diet consists of crickets, roaches, and other soft insects.
#3: Giant Tailless Whip Scorpions– Taking the Freddy Krueger-esque nightmare creature to the next level are Giant Tailless Whip Scorpions. These bugs are particularly interesting because they’re prehistoric. There’s a lot of species in this group that range in tropical areas all over the globe. They use their long front pedipalps to grab their prey similar to a praying mantis except instead of being vertically oriented, they’re horizontal. These Whip Scorpions eat pretty much anything they can over-power, mostly being insects but on occasion small vertebrates. And just like vinegaroons, they’re harmless.
#4: Peacock Spiders– At some point we’ve all seen the little jumping spiders on our porch or in our house. Peacock Spiders are in the same family as those but they take it up a notch! There are several species of Peacock Spider but it’s the males that put on the show. They get their name because their mating behavior is incredibly similar to Peacocks. The males fan their abdomens to try and impress females as courtship and either the female will be receptive or she’ll just try to turn him into a meal (typical of female spiders.) The whole Maratus genus is native to Australia.
#5: Flower Mantises– From the East Asian tropics come Flower Mantids. These mantises look completely different from the ones we have here in the Lowcountry. Absolute masters of camouflage, these bugs are virtually invisible when waiting in ambush around Orchid flowers. Some species even have the ability to change color in coordination with their background in order to catch their prey of other insects.
#6: Camel Spiders– With all the turmoil and news coming from the Middle-East, you’ve likely heard of Camel Spiders. They’re an odd, desert dwelling, arachnid that’s actually more closely related to scorpions than spiders but are nonetheless bizarre. Camel Spiders are the objects of a lot of myths. They’re non-venomous contrary to popular belief and can’t do much more than pinch you with their powerful chelicerae that they use to eat other insects and small animals. Their size is often exaggerated as well with the biggest species reaching lengths of 6 inches.
#7: Antlions– Antlions are kind of odd to put on this list. It’s not really the adults that are weird because the adults look similar to dragonflies. If you’ve ever noticed the small little funnel shapes in the loose sand here in the area, those are Antlion larvae. The funnels in the sand serve as an excellent trap for their prey where an ant or other small insect walks into the funnel and can’t get out. At the bottom of the funnel, just under the sands surface, the Antlion larvae use their large pincers to grab the prey and pull it under to enjoy as a tasty meal! Because the larvae are so small they’re completely harmless to humans and are usually so small that when you dig them up they’re almost hard to spot!
#8: Giraffe Weevils– Certainly one of the oddest bugs you’ll probably ever see, the Giraffe Weevil is native to Madagascar. It should come as no surprise that their named giraffe weevils because of their strangely long neck that assists them in fighting and nest building. They feed on a specific tree in their range but there’s not much information on the species since their discovery back in 2008.
#9: Brahmin Moth Caterpillars-It’s hard to believe that something so sinister-looking can be completely harmless! Looking like it jumped straight out of a Tim Burton movie, Brahmin Moth caterpillars are native to Bhutan. Aside from their looks, there’s really nothing terribly exciting about the species. They feed on a few plant species until they pupate into adults that are a brownish color with some intricate patterning.
#10: Scorpionflies– Another prehistoric insect on the list, Scorpionflies look like some sort of mad experiment gone wrong when someone decided scorpions should have wings. But much like the other aliens on this list, Scorpionflies are harmless. These strange bugs are purveyors of dead organisms for which they feed on and are actually used by forensic entomology since they’re typically the first bugs to arrive at a cadaver.
This list could go on forever with the endless number of species of insects our planet has to offer. The species mentioned were just some that I found the most interesting whether they’re found in our backyard or across the globe. Mother nature doesn’t disappoint when it comes to all the cool species of animals that we share this home with, bugs are certainly up there in oddity.
By Justin Smith