Tag Archives: bugs

Insects May Hold Key To Understanding Amazon Rainforest Biodiversity

To the biologists who study the ecology of The Amazon, it is no secret that the region is home to a tremendous variety and volume of plants and trees in incredible proportions. According to some estimates, The Amazon has over 2 million square miles of tropical rainforest which is home to an estimated 390 billion individual trees comprised of at least 16,000 known species. In every 2.47 acres of Amazonia, there are 1500 plant species, 750 tree species, and 900 tons of living plants, and roughly a third of the world’s oxygen is produced there. When combined with the astounding variety of insects, mammals, and other life forms this makes The Amazon Rainforest the most bio-diverse region on the planet. What has puzzled researchers and scientists about this is exactly what causes all of this diversity. Although there have been many theories on the subject, a new idea is emerging to explain why this particular region of the world is home to so many more types of trees in such a dense area than anywhere else. Surprisingly this new theory centers on insects as a major contributor to this diversity.

Throughout the Amazon, there is a silent battle being waged between a hoard of insects and their major food source- plants and trees. Insects are known to consume the leaves, stems, and seeds of all varieties of plants. To avoid destruction, plants have evolved an array of defenses, some of which can get elaborate. Plants with leaves that appear simply a little fuzzy to the human eye are more like little barbed hooks to the insects that feed on them, tearing at the underbellies of caterpillars. Some plants have even developed little pots of nectar that draw in a select group of ants to prey on other insects on the plant.

One of the most common defenses that plants and trees in the rainforest use against insects is to produce their own natural pesticide residues through their leaves. Since the weather is warm in the tropics year round most insect species can reproduce faster than in temperate climates, so they have more generations in a faster time. Since the bugs regenerate faster, they can actually develop resistance to some of the pesticides of the plants. This leads to a sort of arms race between the plants and insects.

Scientists now believe that as the plants evolve new pesticide defenses, they may also be attracting different pollinating insects that the plants need to reproduce. The ants are constantly shifting the focus of their feeding on different plants as the plant’s pesticide and their resistance to it changes rapidly. As this happens, the insects that are pollinating the plants also change. Some pollinators may only select one specific group of trees due to slight differences in that tree’s chemicals. Those same pollinators may avoid another group of trees that are nearby even if the two groups of trees are of same species. This isolates the gene pools of plants that are of the same species in a way that is unique, and this isolation may allow plants and trees of The Amazon to evolve into new species faster than elsewhere. At least that is the theory. Whatever the case, it is interesting to discover the different ways that jungle life interacts, and the important role that tiny insects play in it all.

Other Recommended Articles About The Amazon Rainforest:

Image Gallery: New Species of the Amazon

Brazilian Beauty: The Threatened Atlantic Forest

8 of the World’s Most Endangered Places

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Cave Crickets: What They Are and What You Can Do About Them

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Camel crickets, or “cave crickets” as they are commonly known, are a type of pest insect that begin to move indoors during the winter months to get out of the cold. As their name suggests, in nature these crickets live in caves. For this reason, cave crickets seek out cool, damp environments. When they enter a house, they will usually be found in the basement, crawl spaces, garages, sheds, or lower levels. Many people find these crickets to be particularly creepy in their appearance, perhaps due to their erratic behavior and disturbing tendency to jump closer when threatened instead of scurrying away.

Cave Cricket Detailed Description:

  • Cave crickets have a distinct appearance different from that of other crickets. They are wingless, have brown and black patterns, and are dark in color. They have a “hunched over” appearance with a slightly rounded body and long antennae.
  • Although their bodies are usually no longer than an inch and a half in length, with their long limbs they can appear as long as 4 inches. That’s roughly the length of a computer mouse.
  • Since they are naturally adapted to live in harsh environments, cave crickets can go for long periods of time without eating, and are can eat things that are normally considered inedible. When no other food is available they have been known to eat fabric, paper, or even their own legs.
  • It is rare for crickets to reproduce inside of a house, although their natural resilience means that once they gain entrance they can linger for a long time.
  • Although they may appear menacing, cave crickets do not bite, they are not poisonous, and do they not typically cause any kind of property damage,
  • Cave crickets are nocturnal, although they may be active during the day if disturbed

What You Can Do About Them

  • Cave crickets rarely breed inside a home, which means that a good prevention strategy is to exclude them from the house though methods similar to those described in this article about stink bug prevention. This means sealing up any cracks that could allow the crickets to enter a house, maintaining a buffer zone around the house that is free of debris or thick mulch, installing screens around basement windows, etc.
  • Cave crickets thrive off of moisture. One solution is to eliminate moisture from crawl spaces, garages, basements, or other affected areas whenever possible.
  • Unlike stink bugs, cave crickets respond well to conventional extermination methods. Treating the outside foundation and/or setting glue board traps in the right places is a guaranteed method of getting rid of the crickets for good.
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By gunthercox (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons