Recently, I worked with a total of 240 middle school students on assessing freshwater environments. We collected bugs and learned about how bugs can be used as water quality indicators, etc. I got to talk to the girl interested in taxonomy (her most recent kick was owls), let the students pass around jars of caddis cases, and had fun watching the students react to this video on dragonfly larva. Who knew that beautiful dragonflies were hungry, vicious killers?
I got many questions: What’s your favorite bug? Are those it’s eyes? What is that!? But the one question that stumped me was from the boy that asked: What do you think is the ugliest bug? So I’ve thought about it and perused through my insect field guide to North America for ideas and here’s my top five. I tried to steer towards ugly and not scary. There’s a difference. I hope you’ll be surprised. Don’t expect any spiders (I elected to spend a full week on learning about spiders in Maine and I think jumping spiders are adorable.) Plus don’t expect any sort of maggoty larva (I started my first bug taxonomy on Diptera, so I am fairly immune).
Rated from not-so-ugliest to ugliest-of-them-all:
(image via Flickr user: Brian Gratwicke )
Borderline scary. I’ve never been a fan.
They are characterized by the pincers at the end of their abdomens and flat, slender bodies. There are also have short forewings.
Origin: Greek words “derma” for skin and “pteron” for wing.
Also, they redeem themselves a little in my mind by the fact that they are good mothers:
(image via Flickr user: Tim Haye )
So I’d never heard of these guys, until I can across it in my guidebook. Those long necks just make it look like it’s gonna tip over. And look at these butt ugly eyes:
(image via Flickr user: Kurt Komoda )
Related to Megaloptera (hellgramites), snakeflies are predatory, mostly live west of the Rockies in N America, and the larva can run backward!! Ok, that’s kinda cool.
Origin: Greek words “raphio” for needle and “ptera” for wings.
image via Flickr user: José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez
(image via Flickr user: Graham Wise )
Ok. Sorry. You probably didn’t want to see that.
2. Giant Centipedes
(image via Flickr user: mlhradio )
1. Mole Cricket
(image via Flickr user: Andreas Kay )
But really. Crickets are creepy! I used the golden book insect guide as a child and the mole cricket drawing always freaked me out. And now as an adult, with access to photos of actual mole crickets, I confirm with my child brain. Mole crickets are ugly. It’s those pointy forearms, the dopey face, and blimpy body. No thanks.
So what do you think? Do you have an extremely ugly bug not on my list? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it!