From dogs and cats to bears and whales, the animal kingdom is full of dutiful parents – and it doesn’t stop at our four-legged friends and creatures of the deep. Insects with their own biological imperative will go to perilous lengths to ensure the next generation has a future. Check out our top six insect parents.
6. Lace Bug
Don’t let their delicate demeanor and exterior fool you. Lace bug mothers protect their young even at the expense of their own life. When her eggs and nymphs are threatened by an enemy, with no weapons or self-defense mechanisms of her own, the lace bug will attempt to divert interlopers by fanning her wings repeatedly to drive them away and climbing on their backs. While her nymphs escape, she will defend them to her dying breath.
5. Giant Water Bug
In a unique case of role reversal, this insect father bears the brunt of carrying for his offspring. While females in most insect species are the caregivers, the male giant water bug shepherds in his new flock literally on his back. After mating, the female water bug will lay her eggs, sometimes up to 150, on the back of the male for him to care for until they hatch, which can take roughly three weeks. Talk about backbreaking work!
4. Burying Beetle
A healthy diet is essential to the growth of the young, and that’s especially true with insects. The burying beetle takes this to the extreme, however, by feeding their young dead mice and birds. Adult beetles scour the landscape for various dead animals and roll the decaying meat into tiny balls that they can bury next to their larvae to munch on after hatching. Scientists found that this signature diet leads to bigger and healthier beetles.
3. Praying Mantis
It’s never nice when you see parents fight, but in the case of the praying mantis, it’s all for the good of the children. In this case, would-be children. Praying mantises practice sexual cannibalism in which they will kill and eat their male counterparts after copulation. Scientists discovered that mantises that eat their mates produce even more offspring as the nutrients from the male are then passed on to the young. Even with its final act, praying mantises are doing what’s best for their children.
Known to be solitary insects, what earwigs lack in social interactions they more than make up for in parental skills. From the time they lay their eggs, female earwigs are ever-present providing warmth from the elements, cleaning to get rid of various fungi and even eating eggs that have gone bad to give sustenance to the babies when they hatch. Female earwigs will go so far as to help their young break through their shells when they hatch, and if anything should happen to her while caring for them, the babies will eat her for nourishment. Quite the sacrifice!
1. Wolf Spider
Lastly, while most spiders are content abandoning their progeny in egg sacs to fend for themselves once they hatch, the wolf spider isn’t a hands-off parent. In fact, they are quite clingy and are fine with carrying their egg sacs wherever they go – even while hunting. Once her brood is born, they stick close to home often clinging to the mother wolf spider’s back until they’re able to make it on their own. Already a formidable predator, they will go to any length to protect their young.
“Child Care among the Insects” Scientific American
“The 8 Best Mothers In The Animal Kingdom” Neatorama