Just For Fun

A Great Catch

If there were a dating site for bugs, what would it look like?

By Joyce Yu, ’07 BA, ’15 MA

July 21, 2020 •

We’ve all looked past the occasional red flag in our quest for love. Imagine what that might look like in the insect world. 

Meet the most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Bugs 101, a free massive open online course offered by the U of A Faculty of Science. The faculty’s E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum houses more than a million insect specimens. Many were donated to help advance our understanding of the huge role these small creatures play in our world.

And if you want to take the relationship to the next level, sign up for the Bugs 101 MOOC. It’s free.

About the Ironclad Beetle:
  • Toughest insect in the world
  • Shell so hard that entomologists need to drill a hole to get a pin through
  • Has been worn as living jewelry with gems and chains glued to its body
  • Plays dead when disturbed
  • Shell fused together to prevent weak spots, which means it cannot fly
About the Chrysina beyeri beetle, aka Beyer’s Scarab:
  • Common in Egyptian mythology and appeared on many protective amulets 
  • Adult beetles don’t eat pollen or nectar but “accidentally” pollinate flowers by sleeping in them  
  • Only defences are a hard shell and a body color that camouflages among the leaves of host plants
  • Has two pairs of wings: the front pair is modified into a hard protective shell, called elytra
  • You can tell a beetle from similar-looking insects, like cockroaches, from the split down the middle of their shell 
About the Madagascan Sunset Moth:
  • Its colour is made in two ways: pigment, which fades with sunlight, and structural colour, which is created by the nanostructure of the material and will never fade 
  • Looks and acts more like a butterfly than a moth: colourful, flies in the daytime, not very hairy, has large wings it holds vertically at its back when at rest 
  • Bright warning colouration to warn predators of its toxicity
  • Collected in the wild but also raised commercially
About the cicada:
  • Its babies burrow underground, attaching to tree roots and feeding on sap
  • Emerges in the summer and sings loudly to attract a mate
  • Some kinds of cicadas emerge in synchronicity every 17 years
  • Has no defence other than ability to swarm and overwhelm predators
About the stick grasshopper:
  • Also known as a “jumping stick”
  • Looks like a stick insect but is actually a grasshopper with enlarged hind legs for jumping
  • Has a long face, with eyes at the top of its head and mouth at the bottom
  • Unlike other grasshoppers, does not have wings and is flightless
  • Relies on camouflage in foliage for protection, and wings would get in the way
About the giant water bug:
  • Largest insect (by weight) in North America
  • So big it regularly catches fish
  • Bites with its proboscis to inject digestive enzymes
  • Earns its “toe-biter” nickname by biting people wading in ponds and lakes
  • Female lays eggs on the back of the male, who then takes care of the eggs and protects from predators

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