1. THE GIANT HISSING COCKROACH
The things that make most humans shudder with distaste are insects, of many varieties, and the bigger they are, the more we instinctively fear them. Yet for all the species and types that we know about, something in the order of a million different creatures, biologists are certain that anything up to ten million more are yet to be discovered, a statistic that will get some people itching.
Though the number of nasty species of insects is actually relatively small, in percentage terms, there are some monsters among them that look as fearsome as they possibly could, without necessarily being harmful. Some, indeed, are in fact extremely palatable for some creatures, and bred as food for reptiles, like the South American Dubia cockroach.
Of course, the cockroach is the one creature that makes the skin really crawl, for any person affected by them, and with species varieties named ‘Devil’s Apprentice’ or ‘Death Head’, it is small wonder, yet less than one percent of these species affect humans at all. The most distressing, possibly, is the aptly named Giant Hissing cockroach, in terms of the size it can reach, but these wingless, odourless, non-biting creatures are actually kept as pets by some people, and pose no threat to humans at all.
2. THE GIANT WETA
Though not the least bit harmful to any human, the Giant Weta truly is a bug that will make you step back, should you meet one. At four inches long, and heavy, for an insect, this gentle giant of the insect world does not bite, or jump, preferring to use its fearsome appearance to ward off danger. Native to Australia, South America and south Africa, the Maori people call the Weta , the ‘god of ugly things’, a name it certainly lives up to.
3. THE TITAN BEETLE
Another creature that really does look far more terrifying than it actually is the Titan Beetle, of the Amazon rain forest. The largest specimen ever measured was an amazing nine inches in length, but these massive monsters, once again, are not dangerous to humans, as threatening as they may appear to be, should you ever happen upon one. The strong mandibles could give a sharp nip, but it would be unusual for that to happen.
4. THE JERUSALEM CRICKET/ POTATO BUG
The creature that many Americans especially seem wary of is the Jerusalem Cricket, better known as the Potato bug. Found along the Pacific coasts of both Mexico and the USA, this hated creature has a reputation it hardly deserves. This insect feeds on dead organic matter, both plant and insect, and has strong mandibles. That could inflict a painful bite. Wrongly presumed to be poisonous, they cannot, as rumored, rub hind legs together to create sounds, though a terrible stench can be manufactured by them, as a defense mechanism.
5. THE St, HELENA GIANT EARWIG
Yet another creature that every person on earth automatically shies away from is the Earwig, prompted by the fear that another myth might be true, and the insect might be attracted tio their ear-canal! Not that this example could get into anything but the largest animal ear, but the St Helena Giant Earwig, over three inches in length, has never been seen alive since 1967, and is believed to be extinct. Still, how might you feel if one of these was crawling up your arm?
6. THE BLACK FOAM GRASSHOPPER
Not perhaps appearing to be too threatening, the South African Foam Grasshoppers have a self-protection mechanism that involves thier jetting out a stream of stinking foam, in the direction of any danger, when they feel threatened, and some varieties, like the Milkweed Grasshopper, even send out toxic foam, made so by their diet. The area affected by these nasty emissions cab as much as a meter in diameter, and woulkd make for a very unpleasant experience.
The foam grasshopper (Dictyophorus spumans) can be found in southern Africa and their trademark is protecting themselves by secreting a stinking foam when threatened. Ken Preston-Mafham writes in the “Encyclopedia of Land Invertebrate Behaviour” (MIT Press, 1993) about a personal observation of the charming little critter: “[It] produces… such a nauseating stench that it surrounds the grasshopper in a protective chemical umbrella extending up to 1 m all around it.” Lovely.
7. THE CARNIVOROUS GIANT CENTIPIDE
One creature that we never quite know whether to love or hate is the Centipede, but the chances are that this particular variety will fall into the latter category. The largest terrestrial invertebrate on earth, as long as twelve inches, this frighteningly huge creature is carnivorous, feeding not only on Tarantula spiders, but also on birds, mice, bats and frogs, with potent venom, that is toxic even to humans, for whom painful bites from this carnivorous monster can cause swelling, and fever, though never fatal
Of course, one could hardly compile such a list without including the Goliath bird-eating spider, considered very aggressive and able to make hissing noises, to frighten off intruders, as well as rearing up on hind legs, in threat positions. Two fangs have poison glands , and though not very toxic to humans, the venom can cause nausea, sweating and severe discomfort. These monsters are often twelve inches across, and certainly not approachable by humans.
These are gust some of the amazing monrters of the insect world, often given reputations they don not deserve, and inspiring fear that is mostly unjustified, but these fears go back to the earliest stages of evolution, when survival depended upon them, so this hard wiring, in the human brain, is never likely to let us stop being afraid, and perhaps that is just as well.
8.THE GOLIATH BIRD-EATING SPIDER
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