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Insects and other Arthropods

Insects are tremendously diverse, and come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their feeding habits are also very diverse, which make them interesting for people. They eat anything from wood to blood, which is only one of the amazing diversities of these creatures.

For example, there are some who parasitically feed off of other insects; there are some that experience beautiful transformations from a worm-like larvae into a beautiful and breathtaking butterfly; they can be solitary or group oriented; they could be aquatic, terrestrial or both; they could migrate to one place to reproduce and die, and their sons and daughters will migrate back; some eat their partner after mating or even before that; they display colorful patterns on their bodies or mimic the background…the list is long and you won’t stop of being amazed. Even more amazing is the fact that we have not discovered all the insects in the world, and we are far from knowing the fascinating stories of those who we have found.

Costa Rica has an amazing diversity of insects and the Biodiversity National Institute (INBio) keeps record of them (and other organisms). The most diverse groups of insects in the world and also in Costa Rica are the beetles (Coleoptera order), the flies (Diptera order), the wasps, bees and ants (Hymenoptera), the butterflies (Lepidoptera order) and the true bugs (Hemiptera order). To claim to describe all of them would not only be false, but also impossible (there are entire books talking only about the bumblebees), so here, Costa Rica Dictionary has made note of some of the most remarkable species or groups to explain them in some detail.

There are amazing, sometimes creepy, tender and unbelievable stories about insects found in Costa Rica.

Self-induced bleeding or Reflex- bleeding

This phenomenon occurs in various beetles. Several insects produce toxins or obtain them from the plants they feed on. These toxins are useful when attacked by a predator, because probably they won’t be eaten.  Some of these beetles have an aposematic coloration, which means that their bright colors warn about their toxicity. Besides this coloration, they have the ability to release drops of their blood (correctly called hemolymph) when handled. Beetles in the Lycidae (net-winged beetles), Erotylidae, Meloidae (blister beetles) and Coccinelidae (leaf beetles) families have this interesting reflex.

Walking debris? Ah no, it’s just a larva…

The larvae of some beetles cover themselves with small fragments of leaves, of their own molt, and almost every small piece of soil they can attach to their own body. By doing that, they become mimetic and if they remain quiet is really hard to tell where they are (and for their predators too). Species of the Cassidini group of the leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae) regularly have this strategy.

Discovering your inner insect - read about some insects that have some close association with humans

Leishmaniasis vector

The Lutzomyia flies (a kind of sand fly of Phlebotominae, Psychodidae) larvae lives on the ground but adults feed on blood. While moving from one to another mammal to obtain the blood, they could transfer the Leishmania parasites, a unicellular organism (specifically, a Protozoa) that feeds on tissues and reproduces very fast. There are three kinds of leishmaniasis depending on the tissue that is eaten, but in Costa Rica the cutaneous leishmaniasis (when the parasite eats the skin) is the most common. The feeding action of these protozoa causes an ulcer where the fly bit. The adults of the fly are more active during dawn and dusk, so avoid walking in the forest during those hours is a good way to evade them. Wearing long sleeves and pants while in the forest is also a very sensate preventive measure, not only because of these flies but for a whole list of reasons (spines, fungus, sunburns, ticks, mites, chiggers, and mosquitoes, to mention a few).

Malaria, dengue and yellow fever vectors

The causes of all these three human virus diseases are mosquitoes (Culicidae family). The viruses have used the mosquitoes to travel from one host to another because the females of several species in this family feed on blood to obtain the proteins necessary for the eggs.

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