Rarely do insects receive recognition for - well, anything! But today, we shine the spotlight on five incredible arthropods.
From pulling over a thousand times their body weight to surviving compression of nine hundred times their body mass, these Herculean insects perform extraordinary feats of strength!
The Bull-Headed Dung Beetle
At 11mm long, the bull-headed dung beetle may not look like much of a strongman, but appearances can be deceiving. This shiny black or red-brown beetle is so strong that it goes down in the record books as the strongest animal on Earth by body-weight-to-lift ratio!
This beetle can pull up to 1141 times its own body weight! The largest bull-headed dung beetle ever recorded weighed in at 1.2 grams – yes, that means it could pull a little over 3 lbs. To put that ratio into perspective, if a 180lb man possessed the same strength, he could pull 102.69 US Tons – the equivalent of fifteen African elephants!
Also known as Onthophagus taurus, the bull-headed dung beetle is found in Europe, Australia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Transcaucasia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Asia Minor, Central Asia, and the United States.
The Tarantula Hawk
The tarantula hawk is not a hawk but a type of spider wasp. Unlike the bull-headed dung beetle, this creepy critter looks the part! This wasp is known for paralyzing tarantulas with a 12mm long stinger, dragging them back to their nest, and using them to incubate eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the tarantula hawk offspring eat the spider alive from the inside out. Talk about terrifying.
Growing up to 2 ½ inches long, the tarantula hawk is the largest species in the wasp family. But, despite weighing just 0.67 ounces (the equivalent of four Hershey Kisses,) this lightweight wasp drags a 3-ounce spider to her nest for her offspring to survive. The equivalent of a 130lb woman dragging a very large grizzly bear home!
Also known by the scientific name Pepsini, the tarantula hawk wasp lives on every continent except Europe and Antarctica.
The Praying Mantis
The slender praying mantis does not look too muscular, but regardless, this brilliant green arthropod is breaking records. Most well-known for female cannibalism of the male during or after mating, the praying mantis is also known for having incredible grip strength.
Measuring just under three inches long and weighing the same as a single Hershey Kiss (.16 ounces), the praying mantis can grip with a force of 2.25 lbs. – that is 224 times her own body weight! That number is the equivalent of arm wrestling a 160lb man who can push with the force of three African elephants!
Also known as Mantodea, the praying mantis is found worldwide but is native to the temperate rainforests of Africa, South America, the United States, and Southeast Asia.
The Honey Bee
The everyday honeybee is a fascinating insect that we rely on to pollinate an incredible 35% of crops and 75% of the world’s flowering plants. But pollination is not the only thing this member of the Apidae family can do!
The honeybee weighs just 0.11 grams – the same as a single green pea – and measures just half an inch long. Despite its size, this arthropod has wings strong enough to fly at 15mph for at least 6 miles while carrying 35% of its bodyweight in pollen. That is the equivalent of a 150lb woman carrying a fully grown husky for six miles without stopping to rest.
Also known as Apis mellifera, the honeybee lives on every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica.
You may have heard that a cockroach can survive a nuclear apocalypse because they are radiation resistant (this is only partly true, they have 15 times the rad resistance of humans), capable of living without food for a month, and able to live without its head for a week, but that is not the only incredible thing about this arthropod.
The average cockroach measures up to 2 inches long and weighs 0.12g. Despite being small, this critter can withstand pressure of up to 900 times its body weight – the equivalent of a small squirrel! That ratio is like a 180lb man who is able to withstand the weight of the entire space shuttle Endeavour pressing down on him.
Also known as Periplaneta americana, the American cockroach is, funnily enough, native to the Middle East and Africa. It was not until sometime in the 18th century that this insect found its way to the United States by hitching a ride on African slave ships, and they have thrived here ever since.