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10 Formidable Predatory Insects

TyB . . . Comments

Warning: ugly bugs We are used to seeing insects as prey animals; everyone eats them, from birds and spiders, to humans. But there are predators among insects as well, and some of them are among Nature’s most perfect killers. I give you ten of the most formidable predatory insects… and be grateful that they don’t come in large sizes!


Robber fly

Robberfly Prey

We are all familiar with the house fly, which feeds on decaying organic matter (among other disgusting things), and is pretty much harmless to other insects. However, there are around 120,000 species of flies in the world (many are yet to be discovered) and some of them are accomplished predators. Robber flies are among these; they have extremely sharp eyesight and can fly at high speed, catching other insects in mid air. They have stabbing mouthparts (proboscis) which inject a powerful neurotoxic venom and digestive juices into the victim, liquifying its innards, which the fly sucks afterwards.

Due to this formidable weapon and the robber fly’s devastating attack speed, not even wasps, bees or spiders in their webs are safe from these aerial killers. Robber fly venom is usually harmless to humans, but if captured they can give an extremely painful bite.


Water scorpion


Despite their fearsome appearance and alarming name, water scorpions are actually insects, belonging to the true bug (Hemiptera) group, and completely harmless to humans. However, they are the scourge of small aquatic animals, which they capture with their strong, modified forelegs. Water scorpions are sort of the insect equivalent of a crocodile; they are slow moving ambush predators that snatch any small animal that comes close; mostly, they feed on other aquatic insects such as mosquito larvae and diving beetles, but they have been known to dine on small fish and frogs once in a while.

Although they have wings, their flight muscles are poorly developed and they fly rarely, usually when the ponds or lakes where they live start to dry up and they must find a new residence. As for the long, tail-like projection at the end of their abdomen, it is actually a breathing tube; the water scorpion uses it to collect oxygen from the surface, and can subsequently remain underwater for up to half an hour before it has to breathe again.


Arachnocampa luminosa


Arachnocampa is a kind of gnat from New Zealand; as an adult, its only goal in life is to mate, and it doesn’t feed at all. However, its larvae are accomplished predators with a most unusual hunting method, which gives the animal its name (Arachnocampa means “spider worm”). They usually live in the ceiling of dark, secluded caves, away from wind currents and sunlight. The larvae spin a nest of silk (produced by themselves) and hang several silk threads from the cave ceiling, around the nest.

Each one of these threads is covered on sticky droplets of mucus, sometimes loaded with venom. The Arachnocampa larva can glow like a firefly, which attracts flying insects such as moths to the sticky threads and to a horrible end. Once the unfortunate insect is caught, the larva tones down its glow, pulls the silk thread up and starts feeding voraciously on the entangled prey, whether it is alive or dead.


Tiger Beetle


Everyone knows that the fastest land predator is the cheetah, which can reach speeds of 115 kms (71 mph) per hour. Compared to this, a Tiger Beetle is a slowpoke; it can only run at a speed of 8 kms (5 mph) per hour. But if we take its size into account, it is actually the fastest animal in the world! If we could run as fast as the tiger beetle, proportionally to our size, we could reach speeds of almost 500 kms (311 mph) per hour! This speed is so extreme that a running Tiger Beetle must stop constantly to locate prey, since its eyes are unable to process visual information at such high speed.

Tiger Beetles feed on whatever small animal they can subdue; they hunt mostly on land, but are also skilled flyers and have been known to catch other insects in the air too. Their sharp mandibles can easily sever the limbs and body parts of other insects, sometimes bigger than the Tiger Beetle itself. There are many species of Tiger Beetle and they are among the most abundant insect predators, being extremely useful to humans as they help control pests. The larvae of these beetles are also fearsome predators, but instead of chasing their prey, they prefer to wait in ambush, hidden underground, and capture any passing insect with their enormous jaws.




Adult antlions look rather like damselflies, and although some species hunt smaller flying insects, most of them prefer to feed on pollen and nectar. Antlion larvae, on the other hand, are deadly insect predators, and just like Arachnocampa, they have developed a most amazing trick to capture prey. They live in sandy places, where they dig a funnel-shaped pit, cleverly designed so that no insect can climb its steep walls. The antlion then buries itself in the bottom of the pit. Whenever an unfortunate insect (usually an ant) steps on the edge of the pit, the sand collapses and the victim falls to the bottom, and into the antlion larva’s deadly jaws.

Sometimes, an ant will escape the larva and attempt to climb the walls of the pit; in this case, the antlion has another trick up its sleeve; it throws jets of sand to the ant, so that it slips back into the pit’s bottom. Once the antlion larva has secured its prey, it sucks its body fluid with the tooth-like projections of its jaws, and then throws the dry carcass out of the pit.


Assassin bug


Assassin bugs are among Nature’s most ingenious killers. There are plenty of species, and most of them are harmless to man (although some have excruciatingly painful bites). Often, a species of assassin bug will specialize in a certain kind of prey; for example, some of them feed only on spiders, others prefer ants, etc. They are armed with needle-like mouthparts, which they use to inject lethal saliva into their prey; this saliva liquifies the victim’s innards. (Like many other insects, assassin bugs are unable to feed on solid matter). However, most assassin bugs aren’t fast flyers or runners, so they use trickery to hunt. Some of them cover their bodies with bark, dust, or even dead insects to disguise their appearance and scent, and sneak up on unsuspecting prey.

Spider-hunting assassin bugs often mimic the vibrations produced by insects entangled in a spider web; the spider attacks, thinking that it has caught a tasty meal, only to be killed and devoured itself. Perhaps the most amazing assassin bug is a certain species that feeds on ants. It produces a sugary substance through its abdomen, which serves as bait for the sweet-loving ants. But the sugary substance is also loaded with a powerful tranquilizer; soon, the ant collapses, paralyzed, and the assassin bug can suck its innards without any resistance.



Dragonfly 1447186C

The Dragonfly is the ultimate aerial killer of the insect world; its design is so perfect, that it has remained almost unchanged for the last 300 million years. It is among the fastest flying insects, reaching almost 90 kms (56 miles) per hour (which is even more amazing if we consider its small size and apparent fragility). It can dive-bomb, hover like a helicopter, and even fly backwards, and its enormous eyes, which cover almost all of its head, give it near-360 degree vision, so that no insect escapes its attention.

Dragonflies feed on any flying insects they can catch, and also on spiders, which they capture from their webs. Although they usually hunt and devour prey at high speed in the air, they can also snatch spiders and insects from exposed surfaces. Dragonfly larvae are also formidable predators; they are aquatic, and use their protractile, sharp mouthparts to stab other small animals to death, including small fish, frogs and other dragonfly larvae.


Siafu ant

Siafu Ant

Also known as the driver, safari or army ant, this African species if the only insect known to attack and devour humans, although this happens only very rarely. Siafu ants have very large, sharp jaws and venomous stings, which they use to subdue small animals such as lizards, worms and other insects. However, there have been reports of cows, goats and other domestic animals that were tied to trees or poles by their owners, and, unable to get out of the way, were killed by the Siafu ants. Wild animals avoid ant armies on the move, and some naturalists have claimed that even lions and elephants flee away from them.

There have been reports of attacks on people who couldn’t run away on time, such as unattended babies, sleeping or injured people and at least one drunken man. Also, one tourist that was reported as missing in Tanzania was later found to have been killed by Siafu ants. It is said that these larger victims may not die of envenomation after being stung, but rather of asphyxia, since the attacking ants will go into any body orifice and crawl into the lungs.


Praying mantis

Praying Mantis

Possibly the best known predatory insect. There are many species of praying mantis, or mantids, around the world, but they are all perfect ambush hunters, armed with long, modified forelegs armed with sharp hooks to capture prey. These forelegs are usually called the “raptorial legs”.
These insects usually stand still, camouflaged, until a smaller insect or animal gets close; then they capture with a lightning fast movement, and start feeding whether the victim is alive or dead.

They are extremely voracious and any kind of prey is good to them; they have been known to capture and devour spiders (including the deadly black widow spider), lizards, small snakes and even birds. They are also infamously prone to cannibalism; females often bite off the head of the male during sex, and feed on the rest of him afterwards. Baby mantids are also known to feed on their siblings when food is scarce. Mantids are skilled flyers but they usually only fly at night, to avoid birds and other larger predators.


Japanese hornet

Japanese Giant Hornet

Known as “tiger hornets” in some parts of Asia, these large wasps are relentless hunters that kill any insect they can capture, including other predators such as the praying mantis. They are armed with an incredibly potent venom, and inject great amounts of it; like other hornets, they can sting repeatedly. This venom is strong enough to cause serious illness, and even death, to humans; indeed, they are the most dangerous wild animal in Japan, killing around 40 people per year (more than venomous snakes and bears combined). But the Japanese hornet uses its sting as a defensive weapon only; to kill prey, it uses its sharp jaws to decapitate the victim, and cut its body in small pieces. It then carries the carcass back to the nest, where it chews the dead insect into a soft paste to feed the larvae. The larvae then produce a sugary fluid which is the adult hornet’s main food.

To give you an idea of the destructive power of Japanese hornets, let us only say that a few of them can completely devastate a honey bee colony in a couple of hours, decapitating every single bee in the nest (up to 30,000) one by one. When all the bees are dead, the hornets feed on the honey and then carry the bee larvae, and parts of the adult bee bodies, back to their own nest to feed their larvae. This is the horrible end met by European honeybees (introduced to Japan to increase honey production) when confronted with the “tiger hornet”. But Japanese honey bees are different; they evolved along with the hornet, and have developed an incredible trick to kill the hornet scouts as soon as they find their hive.

Up to 500 bees form a tight ball that engulfs the scout hornet(s) and start vibrating their wing muscles until their body temperature increases up to 47°C. Honey bees can survive this temperature, but hornets cannot; they are basically fried alive by the bees. With the scouts dead, the hornet colony never finds out about the location of the honey bee nest. Even the most formidable predatory insect has to meet its match one day…

  • cqsteve

    And that's why those 1950's movies about giant bugs were awesome! Bring back updated ones, with todays CGI, I reckon they'd rock. Another good list TyB.

  • Kimani

    Most creepy, skin crawly, Best list ever.

    "decapitating every single bee in the nest (up to 30,000) one by one"
    The Japanese hornet is bad ass, talk about dedication to your work.

  • Alex T.

    Praying mantis=ninja of bugs
    'nuff said

    • jonny

      They've always been related to the art of Kung Fu.

  • WillMcIntyre39

    I used to hunt bugs as a kid… The 90’s were awesome.

    • NathanB


  • lalabhaiya

    amazing amazing list. i didnt know mantis and dragonfly were suck skilled predators. i used to catch quite a lot of them when i was a kid. and thankfully most of these are not harmful to humans… imagine if they were a little bigger, these insects… imagine the horror!

    • Elemarth

      Hasn't there been a horror movie about a giant praying mantis? The 50s-60s horror movies definitely liked man-eating bugs.

      • TEX

        "The Deadly Mantis" 1957

    • @#$%!!

      Dragonflies were HUGE millions of years ago.

  • Kimani

    I've been bitten by siafu ants, just one is unbearable pain. I cant imagine how a swarm would feel like……………i don't want to talk about this any more.

    • lalabhaiya

      where were you and what were you doing that one of them bit you?

      • Kimani

        I've encountered them many times while just exploring the bush as a kid, where i lived there were plenty of them around.

    • Matt

      Not only that but the go into your lungs? I just got a chill.

  • Ardjet

    Listverse needs more lists of this kind.

    At least that is the reason why I bookmarked this site years ago.

  • undaunted warrior 1

    Many years ago while driving a Praying mantis ended up lodged in my windscreen wipers, on arrival at home I noticed that it was still alive, I took it indoors an put it on our indoor palm we had near a window.
    The next day it was still there, but I noticed that it was completely blind. I started catching small grass hoppers etc. and feeding him with a pair of tweezers, we used to spray the leaves of the palm with water through a fine spray to make sure he had enough liquid.
    That was a very rewarding experience for me.

    Thanks TyB excellent list from you as always.

  • Kama

    That was a nice list, thanks for the read!

  • Armadillotron

    Since when did Dragonflies eat Spiders? I`ve seen your common Garden Spider wrapping a Dragonfly up in silk in SECONDS and then it pulling the poor thing up into the corner of it`s web to eat it. And you ever sat on a Red Ant nest? Oh my God..

  • moi

    i love the mantis. where i work i found a HUGE one right in the middle of the road, STARING at me with its green beady eyes. I walked to the right, ITS HEAD FOLLOWED ME. It looked like it was deciding whether or not to eat me, lol. It wasn't scared at all. Then again, it was huge twice the size of a normal one. FInally I walked around it, giving it wide berth, and when I looked back, it's head was twisted 360 DEGREES AROUND with it's body still facing the other way. I was agog. The fact the female eats the male is fun too, black widow-ish. Sure wish females were bigger than males like every other animal on the planet.

    • Jim

      Lord knows human females are becoming bigger than human males, lately. Would it hurt for a dame to do some exercises to lose her gunt…sheeeeezus……

  • hybrid

    As Indiana Jones would say it

    Siafu=Big Damn Ants

    What would happen if Siafu and Japanese Hornets had a giant war???
    That would be awesome

    • hybrid

      Oh and they could hire the praying mantis or the assasin bugs as hitmen


  • antlyon

    Antlion ftw

  • danny k

    The female praying mantis is the closest thing to a female human in real life. Ha

    • lalabhaiya

      ha ha. this comment is sure to get the ire from the female listverse readers. whatever anyone says, i think its damn funny. :D

    • Kimani

      Seeing as you are still alive I'm guessing you are yet to encounter any of these female humans.

      • Armadillotron

        When Praying mantis are having sex, she bites the boys HEAD off, and they continue to mate. then, she grabs hold off him, in her claws, and she eats the rest off him.. Oh God, it`s disgusting. In real life, though it wasn`t a woman, a german guy invited someone to get eaten, over the internet and he ATE him. And the guy who was eaten WANTED to get eaten. Isn`t that sick, too?

        • oliveralbq

          youre talking about armin meiwes (the "rotenburg cannibal"), and the manslaughter of bernd juergen brandes? — good lord — that was truly disgusting.

          this has nothing to do with this topic, but that was ultra-bizarre. meiwes ate him over the course of 11 months i think. — and brandes was going to partake, but he bled out before he could eat himself.
          :/ :/ :/

  • Gladiator

    If you go onto You Tube, and type in Dragonfly vs Spider, it`s obvious who the Baddest is. Spiders OWN Dragonflies.

  • becd85

    Great list. The Japanese Hornet is definitely a deserving number one. 40 deaths a year! Wow! I also wouldn't want to come across a Siafu Ant in anytime soon either!

    • camo

      I agree, although one Siafu ant is not likely to cause you much grief… thousands of the little buggers, however, sounds like a living hell.

      I shall try to blot them from my mind the next time I find myself tethered to a tree.

  • oculus18

    The japanese honeybees are even more bad ass for having developed the "fry the scout hornet's ass" group formation. :D

  • Mark

    Is it me or does the Siafu Ant, look like the Ants out of the film "THEM!" about giant Ants?

  • Will Trame

    danny k….good point….ha ha

    Ever see the 2005 remake of Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island”? Although cheesy and found wanting, the initial encounter strongly suggests that one should never get into a staring contest with a mantis.

    Too bad the scene with the giant mosquitoes was deleted.

  • lisally

    Good list!

    As a major apiophobe, that Japanese hornet is total nightmare fuel!

    A little issue with the description of the dragonfly having "a design so perfect." Why not describe it as "so well adapted" instead, as they arouse through evolution and were not actually "designed." Just being a nitpicky biologist :p

  • Calum

    Wow insects are brutal. The Japanese honey bee sounds fascinating.

  • camo

    Super cool list TyB… insects rule. The robber fly and tiger beetle are fearsome looking critters… and I was getting worried that you were going to neglect wasps until I read number 1… although I thought it was going to be the Tarantula Hawk; a gargantuan tarantula hunting wasp with the second most painful (known) (bite or) sting in the natural world. Google it if you dare…!

    Surely there are enough worthy omissions to warrant a sequel…? Keep up the good work mate.

    • TEX

      Funny – I was just searching for cicada killers and up came sphecid wasps which includes the tarantula hawk. According to the description they are about the same size (scary big). I came nose to nose with one (literally) in Big Bend Nat’l Park a few years back, scared the hell out of me.
      We had one out in the shrubs at work last year – a saw this big mound of dirt, saw a hole the size of my finger and out popped this 2 inch long wasp, started flying at me, sounded like a little helicopter, I screamed like a little bitch (EEEEK!!!) and ran as fast as I could. They’re that big because they paralyze cicadas and fly them back to their burrow to feed the kiddies.

      • camo

        Sweet… "sounded like a little helicopter"… hilarious!

        I just checked out your fearsome winged friend… man those things are brutal… no wonder you squealed like a bitch and made for the hills…! Did a quick spot of googling to find out if we have those fuckers in Australia… thankfully not… there are more than enough evil creatures here already.

        On my googling escapade I stumbled across this fact though: robber flies live here and have wingspans of up to 8 cm… holy nightmare-inducing insect batman..!

  • Anthonymous

    I agree with you jfrater, we must be grateful that they don’t come in large sizes. Come on, #10 is the most scary for me, imagine going to work while a big fly will going to rob you out.
    thats fucked up ~~

  • mom424

    An excellent list TyB. And there is no lack of further material eh? Nature is amazing.

    I found the bees' defense strategy to be the coolest thing mentioned – hmmm sounds like a great idea for your next endeavor. Again great job!

  • oouchan

    Definitely got the creepy bug feeling after reading this list. That Japanese Hornet sure is HUGE! If that thing was flying around near me, I'd probably start crying. Also I had no idea that the dragonfly (which I think is cute) was such a killer.
    Awesome list as always, TyB.

  • Yay! I hate bugs, but awesome list! I find the Tiger Beetle to be very fascinating.

  • Chris

    "reaching almost 90 kms"

    That's pretty fast. 90 Kilometres per second.

  • rain

    How bout mosquitoes? They hunt on human blood! And some of us don't even know that mosquitoes are already biting us!

    • Arsnl

      They dont bite, they suck! Draculaaaa!

  • Randy

    Go to japanesebugfights . com

    • Jonny

      I just bookmarked that site. Thanks awesome insect fights. poor things.

  • Mackenzie

    AFAIK the picture you used for the saifu ant is actually a picture of the Australian bulldog ant, another formidable insect hunters

  • TEX

    300 million years ago dragonflies had the wingspan of a large bird – over 30 inches
    Imagine one of those flying at your face. During this same period, the Carboniferous, many insect species got BIG, like a 5 foot millipede.

  • Lifeschool

    Wow, excellent list TyB! I thought it may have been boring but it certainly wasn’t. Look at the size of that Hornet! I learned plenty today, and I like the style of your writing.

    “there are around 120,000 species of flies in the world (many are yet to be discovered)” – THWACK! Oops.

    “the sand collapses and the victim falls to the bottom, and into the antlion larva’s deadly jaws.” – The ones on Tatooine are are even worse!

    “Siafu ant” – I kept reading this as SNAFU ant – anyone ever see Mail Call with R. Lee Ermey?

    “Japanese hornet” – Green Hornets are more deadly; they can roundhouse a guys head off!

    Great list.

    • timothyjames

      haha, I was going to point out the Star Wars similarity with the antlion, too. You would think that the pile of dry ant carcasses all around the opening of the den would be an obvious enough deterrent for any more ants interested in sniffing around.

  • MommaDuck23

    Ok, so the Tiger Hornets from Japan aren't just large they are MASSIVE!!! To those of us who are allergic to bee, wasps, and hornets this one is a true nightmare.

  • MommaDuck23

    Awesome and informative list…by the way :)

  • jonny

    Always like the Praying Mantis since I was little I was never scared at it and I thought it was a beautiful creature even though there's tales about it causing fever when bitten. There were so many of them here back then, I can look at a shrub and never fail to see a small one hiding in the leaves.

  • Great list! We don't think of crickets as predators so much, since we use them as fish bait, and as food for pet frogs and tarantulas and such. But they prey on anything they can overpower. One of the biggest, the weta, is a top predator in its little ecosystem.

    • Arsnl

      Crickets as fish bait? That was totally new to me. From where i come we used earthworms. Are they any good these crickets cuz with earthworms you would just wait and wait and when you’d get nothing you’d just come up with stories about huge fish.
      I bet your time of fishing is different

      • deeeziner

        Proper baiting is dependent on the fish that you are seeking. What would those fish naturally eat? Or are they a curious enough species that they nip at anything in their domain?

        Also most fish do have a sense of smell so handling the worms may sometimes turn them off as bait. (residual handsoap, colognes, deodorants, gasoline, unpalatble foods, etc. are all residues we carry on our skin that can revolt a fish's tastebuds.)

      • TEX

        My grandfather used to talk of using crickets – I just couldn’t imagine where to secure the hook.
        Around here using earthworms just starts a game of bait the hook and watch the sunfish steal the bait, but it’s the only way to go when taking kids fishing, just be sure to let the ones you catch go, kids can get a little sensitive if you harm the cute little things – found that out the hard way.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    This list is so unbelievably fucking cool!

  • vanowensbody

    Great list. Well researched and well written.

  • Woyzeck

    So hot.

  • itsallabout

    woah the dragonfly sounds like a total badass. Also, why is that person holding the japanese hornet on his hand if it is deadly/harmful to humans???

    • deeeziner

      I would imagine it's human deadliness may be based on allergic tolerance to the venom. Like beestings.

      • TyB

        If you're allergic, you're screwed, but even if you're not, the Japanese hornet can still kill you or send you to the hospital. Fortunately, they are not particularly aggressive; they will only attack people if they sense their nest is being threatened.

  • sam

    There was this ant that crawled up my leg while I was reading this…scariest ant ever

    • TEX

      i hear orange juice helps counteract the effects of dropping acid

  • deeeziner

    I love mantises. Now that it is monsoon in my neighborhood we get nightly visits from the mantis on our window screens and in the living room. My daughter likes to keep one perched on her shoulder when they come into the house and she can catch it. (They are small, maybe only an inch or two long.)

    Back in California there was a small pet shop that specialized in reptiles and other exotic pets. Often they had interesting insects, including some mantis that were evolved to mimic orchids. Although tiny, about an inch or so, they were the perfect "orchid". All pink and frilly petaled, it is easy to see their success as a predator.

    Here in the desert we also have another insect predator. It is a type of wasp that hunts tarantulas. The whole goal of the wasp is to capture a tarantula, sting it with a paralytic venom and drag it into a pre-dug burrow so it can lay it's eggs on the paralyzed spider. The still living, but unmoving tarantula then becomes the food for the hatched larvae. Brutal. The wasp is rather large, with translucent ruby red wings and a black body that is so shiny it reflects back all the colors of the rainbow.

    • AE

      I must say I was surprised to not see at least such bug that laid eggs inside it’s prey.

      • TyB

        Those bugs are not technically predators, but "parasitoids", and they are so diverse that they deserve a list of their own. ;)

      • Dr. Matt Zarzeczny

        Hello! Just as a quick note, please remember that "it's" means "it is". In both of the above posts, you mean "its". Take care!

  • Maggot

    Thank goodness you included a warning of “ugly bugs”, because when I read the list title, I was expecting to see nothing but cute little pretty and sexy bugs. Man, would I have been in for a major disappointment. Hooray for warnings!

    • Arsnl

      Although that robber fly is more fugly than ugly. Some kind of degree of warning you be nice. Like WARNING: ugly bugs. Code orange. I repeat. Code orange.

  • bucketheadrocks

    All the little critters in the world. They don't know they're ugly.

    • Arsnl

      Is that what momma bucketheadrocks told baby bucketheadrocks? Dont worry we know you are special. Physical appearence doesnt matter…much.

    • claw

      Oh, Stinky Whizzleteats. It's "The little critters of nature." But I still LOVE LOVE LOVE the R&S reference! :)
      "That's very funny, a fly marrying a bumblebee…"

      • bucketheadrocks

        "I told you I'd shoot! But you didn't believe me! Why didn't you believe me?!"

  • AlwaysVigilant

    Way awesome list. None of em really botherd me except the japanese wasp. I just battled with an American wasp yesterday and it took 3 hard swats from a swatter to kill it. How many would be required for this monster?

  • limemime
  • Magnumto

    Wow, six of these are native to South Texas. Thank God we don't have those giant hornets and siafu ants.

    A couple of comments: first, I didn't know antlions were not adults – interesting factoid. Second, aren't some assassin bugs the vector for Chaga's disease? And finally, just as a sort of FYI, it's "common knowledge"among many Hispanics down here that if a cow eats a praying mantis, the cow will die, so they routinely kill praying mantises. I've tried to talk them out of this, but what does a gringo know?

    Anyway, great list, TyB!

    • TEX

      I once worked in a large manufacturing plant. One night an owl flew in through one of the docks and perched in the supports right in the middle of the plant. The next day there wasn't any way to catch it, and we had a few Hispanic girls working in that area (legally). Every time the owl lit they would stop and start cackling like they were afraid – one guy told me they thought it was a disembodied spirit.
      Oh – and then there were moths, they reacted to a moth like we might react to a wasp, they’d duck and dodge so a moth wouldn’t touch them – same thing, disembodied spirit.

      • Magnumto

        Thanks for the info, Tex. Some of those cultural beliefs are very interesting, and I can only imagine the kinds of things we gringos take for granted that the Mexicans down here think are just goofy!

    • amnyc

      Antlions are the adults of the species. The young (larvae) are called doodlebugs and they are popular among fishermen as good bait.

      • Magnumto

        Thanks, amnyc. According to TyB, though, the antlion is a larva that turns into some kind of flying insect that looks like a damselfly. I'll have to look it up, since bugs are a great interest of mine. And reptiles/amphibians. And just about any other kind of wildlife. And plants. ;-)

  • -wtk

    This is the most badass list that Listverse has ran in months.

  • Yet another fantastic list from TyB!
    I was watching "The Speed of Life" last night, and thought of you, TyB. It was so much like a gigantic listverse TyB lesson that I couldn't help it!.
    When I was a child, we always had a lot of Dragonflies around, and Praying Mantises, too, but as the area became more built up they disappeared.
    Now I live in an area where there are all sorts of weird bugs and spiders, small unusual animals, along with the larger usual animals. Almost every week I find something I've never seen before and think, "I bet TyB would know what this is."
    So, you see, you have become a part of my life outside of LV through your informative lists.
    Thanks, TyB.

    • bucketheadrocks

      I could'nt help but notice, you reference your childhood very often?
      The only thing I remember from my childhood is being turned upside down and getting my head thrown in a toilet.

      • This may seem strange to you in that case, but I have vivid sequential memories of my life from at least the age of 18 months (except for one year between 9 1/2 and 10 1/2), and many spotty memories from much earlier. I have definite memories of infancy.
        These are visual memories, seen from my perspective.
        I also have visual memory of other things. When I was in school, and taking a test, I could bring up a page of from the text book…or, if one of my kids called me and needed something, I could visualize the item, everything around it, and pinpoint the exact location.
        It is weird. I have a brainfull of perfectly useless information.
        OTOH, it is amusing on occasion.

        • oliveralbq

          tyler kicks ass.
          im astounded nearly every time.

          and seggie —- look — i thought i was remembering some flight later in my toddlerhood, but i was talking with my mom a few months back, and my weird sister brought up a story that i had told her about flying. now, my sis is five years younger than i am, and i obviously was just being a 13 year old douche, but i antognized courtney with a story about how we flew from d.c. into oakland when my dad was up for a job in palo alto. i remember shaking (the plane shaking, that is) and i remember other people being panicky. this story essentially just pissed sis off, but at the time it scared the piss out of her. incidently, this was before the *next* time i was in the bay area 15 yes later. again — somehow this cameup, anlong with other stories from that trip (our hotle caught fire, and mom get bitten by a brown recluse i think –or maybe a more twerpy spider, but she has a i inch strange scar on her arm).
          —–where am i going with this?
          yeah —– i was 19 months old —- i 'distinctly remember it

          i sorta called bullshit oin her (well, i just suggested that she was going bats) but she says i we didnt go to the bay area for another 15 years.

          she was stunned courtney told her that story.
          i was more amazed that she even remembered it.
          but when i put one and one together, i realised
          how strange this was —

          and of course, if someone is gonna come out with a similiar story, it makes perfect sense that it's you

          • And if anyone else here can tell a similar story, I would expect it from none other than you.
            I, too, have had memories from early childhood, babyhood, given the nod of accuracy by adults present at the time or, later, by finding photos or written accounts.
            I find the memories far less strange than the complete lack of memories for one entire year of my childhood. That is scary.

  • lisally

    Actually, evolution is a fact. A scientific theory is different from the common usage of the word.

    But yes, adaptation is fact, but design is certainly not. I teach biology at a university, and I try to clear up terminology as much as possible. The word "design" would not be appropriate for a lineage whose adaptations arose through natural processes; this includes the dragonflies/damselflies, and any group of organisms.

    • Nic_S

      Although design is not the proper terminology, it still delivers the message of that sentence which is that the dragonfly has not needed to change much of its functions and when you get down to it 'adapted' and 'designed' would come across as the same process when worded like it was above. And I'm not sure how it could be interpreted differently.

  • Kreachure

    Wait, antlions are real?!

    Save me, Gordon Freeman!!! XD

    • TEX

      Kreachure, you know all you need is the pheromone pod thingies – then their like your loyal puppies.

      • bucketheadrocks

        I enjoyed throwing them in front of a turret.

    • bucketheadrocks

      Get the Crowbar!

  • Scotjock81

    Fantastic list glad I don’t have to deal with any of these critters.
    In scotland we have the midgie as anyone who has experienced the midgie will tell you whilst not deadly in any way, they do seem to be a particularly Scottish menace, I myself am luck as they don’t bite me but my brother gets literally eaten alive, a recent study showed they attack a certain type of person my only defense is smoking, on a recent camping trip my brother was eaten to bits by this peril I remember vividly him slapping himself all night in the tent and generally being really irritated shining a torch in our tent showed thousands of the little buggers swarming round him, I can only put that down to me being a smoker as we are twins. But who knows

  • bassbait

    There is one predatory insect that rules over all:

    The Tick!

    • Maggot

      Well, you are either talking about the parasite, or the superhero. Neither of which is a predator. Nor are they insects. Other than that, great comment.

    • I hate ticks! Whenever I would take my dog over to my brother's house, in the Hollywood Hills, and take both his dog and mine for hikes along the trails (snake stick in hand for warding off rattlers), I would have to go over both dogs for the presence of ticks…and would always find 3 or 4 on each dog (border collies, lots of fur, took a while to search each dog).
      I found one great way to rid the animals of ticks without having to use tweezers and make sure I got the head and all of that messiness. I would light a match, then blow it out, immediately apply the hot match head to the bulbous part of the tick. The tick would be eager to detach from the dog! It would also have a very sore butt.

      • bucketheadrocks

        Your weirdness fascinates me :)

        • ha ha ha ha!
          That is so *not* weird! That, my friend, is called practicality!

          • TEX


          • AHHA! I knew I couldn't be the only one to employ this fantastic trick!
            It not only works every time, and quickly, but gives you the satisfaction of knowing you have given severe discomfort to the tick in the brief amount of time left to it. ;-D

  • bender
    check out these japanese hornets going to town on a bee colony.

  • Scratch

    That praying mantis, appearing so devout when it really just wants to bite the heads off of other insects.

  • Because the posture of the insect is reminiscent of one at prayer.
    Hence, "Praying Mantis".

  • timothyjames

    great list TyB! The japanese hornet looks like it would be too big to support its own weight.

  • Zazzlebar

    "Here at Japanese Hornet Inc. , we take pride in our work and guarantee 100% COMPLETE decapitations; each on different from the other." – Excerpt from some note I found next to a dead body.

  • Spuat

    I'd hate to see these bugs on my arm.


    This list is awesome… The last paragraph about the Japanese Hornet blows my mind though.

  • ArghZombie

    At least Praying Mantis’s finish off the male quickly. Human females take decades to suck the life out of their victim :-)

  • That is justice!

  • joeyjojojr.

    The site is sucking balls… What ever happened to the great innovative lists of a few years ago? Come on Jamie, this used to be my everyday stop for awesome lists. This junk is just melting in mediocrity now!

  • amnyc

    Awesome list! Re: the assassin bug (#5): the most badass-looking one would have to be the wheel bug- it has a wheel-shaped plate of spikes on its back.

    And distantly related (but similar-looking) to the water scorpion (#9) is the toe-biter. While the toe-biters deliver a nasty bite, according to many villagers in Southeast Asia, they're pretty tasty too.,2933,332172,00.htm

  • thisguy


  • Magnumto

    Thanks, TyB. I have another experience with South Texas creatures. When I was a kid, my sisters and I had impetigo (sp?), a skin condition where you get sores that won't heal. We had sores on our lower legs, and our parents tried everything to get them to heal, but they never would. We were pretty poor when I was growing up, we lived in WAY rural South Texas, and going to a skin doctor, or any other doctor, was out of the question except in matters of life or death. Anyway, an old Mexican friend of my father's told him to kill a roadrunner and put the blood from the roadrunner on our sores. He did, and our sores healed. I can still remember killing that roadrunner even though I wasn't even in grade school yet. I would like to stress that, these days, I never kill anything except genuine pests like mosquitoes and flies; even spiders and scorpions are safe from me, much to my wife's chagrin. And I would never, ever, ever kill another roadrunner.

    Thought you might find this interesting. Some of those "old wives tales" work even though we don't understand why yet.

  • Nariya

    The Star Wars Praying Mantis OWNS!

  • Vera Lynn


  • Nic_S

    We sort of have a North American equivalent to the Japanese Hornet. Out here, we call them Cicada Killers, but I'd say they're way more solitary predators.

  • mistersniffley

    So cool! I loved the hornet getting pwnt.

  • mailedbypostman

    Assassin bugs are awesome.

  • kennypo65

    Another great nature list by TyB. This morning there was a mantis on the railing of my back porch eating a grasshopper. I left it to its breakfast.

  • ianz09

    Epic list. Thank God shrink ray technology is nonexistent.

  • eloise

    All the people mentioning how fortunate we are the bugs are not bigger, a interesting fact to note, most of the skills they have don't "scale". We all know how strong ants are, but if a ant was human size, it wouldn't be strong enough to lift it's head.

  • Mimz

    Number eight is accompanied by a really beautiful picture, as well as interesting information.

    Great list! I have always thought of Dragonflies and Praying Mantids to be docile and very contrary to anything predatory.

  • h.v. eman

    i used to see antlions in my hometown in philippines..just now did i knew their name..we called it "kurukya" in our native tongue..these insects amazes me so much that i used to keep it as my pet before,praying mantis always scares me..

  • Snake

    Female mantides only bite the males head off if they are sexuslly actice in captivity. In nature they mate like any other bug.

  • Mabel

    The ant lion! It's like the Sarlacc!

    Seriously, I think those things are cool.

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