- Insects: Six legs, three body parts and one pair antennae.
- Arachnids: Eight legs, two body parts, no antennae.
- Millipedes: Many segments, one pair antennae, two short pairs of legs per apparent segment, harmless scavengers.
- Centipedes: Many segments, one pair antennae, one pair of long legs per segment, venomous predator
- Crustaceans: 10 to 14 legs, two pair antennae, mainly aquatic (lobsters, crabs, shrimp, etc.). Terrestrial species include Rollie-polies and Sowbugs.
Masses of Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches
Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, as the name states, come from Madagascar (a large island east of Africa) and they hiss. Insects breathe through pores in the side of the abdomen called “spiracles”. When the Hissing Cockroach is disturbed, it forcefully expels air out of these spiracles, creating a very audible hissing sound. Cockroaches, believe it or not, actually have an important function in nature. They are scavengers, feeding on all kinds of decaying matter. Scavengers help “clean up” the environment. There are over 4,000 species (different kinds) of cockroaches. Most live outdoors and are beneficial to the environment. Very few species ever go into homes and become pests. Those that do reside with humans have given all cockroaches a “bad name”.
Vinnie – Vinegaroon or Whipscorpion
Vinegaroons, (sometimes spelled Vinegarone), also known as Whipscorpions are a very interesting and harmless arachnid belonging to the order Uropygi. They have no venom and do not sting or bite. Whipscorpions are so named because of a long whip-like tail which is used as a sensory device. The name “Vinegaroon” comes from the fact that their primary defense against an attack from predators is a vinegar scented spray of acetic acid that they shoot from a pair of glands located under their tail.
Being an Arachnid, they have 8 legs, the first pair of legs are very long and flexible and are used as feelers (Arachnids do not have antennae). The last three pairs of legs are used for walking. Vinegaroons have enlarged, powerful pincer-like pedipalps (“pinchers”) that they use to catch and crush small insects which they eat. They could possibly “pinch” a human finger with these, but in my many years’ experience with these animals, I’ve never seen this happen.
There are about 130 species of Uropigids worldwide, but we have only one species of Whipscorpion found in the United States. That one happens to be the largest species of them all, the Mastigoproctus giganteus which can measure up to six inches from the tip of the tail to the pedipalps.
Stinker – Darkling Beetle
Darkling Beetles, sometimes also called “Stink Beetles ” or “Stink Bugs”, are a common beetle in the same family as the “mealworm”. They are frequently seen in a well-known pose: head down, rear end pointing up. When seen in this position, the knowledgeable person will “let him be” for fear of retaliation. . .a whiff of something foul. They can emit a pretty “icky-smelling”, but harmless substance for self defense. Darkling Beetles are harmless scavengers.
Zigfried – Centipede
Centipedes prefer moist places such as under rocks, fallen leaves, rotting logs, etc. The word “centipede” means “hundred feet”. They don’t really have a hundred legs, centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, and, as you can see, have many segments. The first pair of legs on a centipede wrap towards the front of the head to form poison claws. Centipedes are venomous, and a large centipede could inflict a pretty painful, though not fatal, bite. The last pair of legs on a centipede are very long and can sometimes “pinch”. These longer legs also serve as a means of defense to confuse a predator. Can you guess which end is the head?
Millie and Vanillie – Millipedes
Millipedes are harmless scavengers commonly found in cool, moist places such as under rocks, fallen leaves, rotten logs, etc. The word “millipede” literally means “thousand feet”. They don’t really have a thousand legs, but they do have a lot! Their cylindrical bodies are made up of 25 to 100 somites (segments), most of which having two pairs of legs on each (with the exception of the first four somites which have one pair). Different kinds of millipedes have a different amount of legs, some kinds of millipedes have only 3 or so pairs of legs when they hatch and add more as they grow. Millipedes have some interesting means of self-defense: they coil into a spiral when threatened and can secrete a noxious, foul-smelling substance (hydrogen cyanide) through their pores. Not all millipedes get as large as these, they are Giant Millipedes from Africa.
Napoleon (pictured) and Nero – Emperor Scorpions
Emperor Scorpions come from Africa and are among the largest scorpions in the world. All scorpions are venomous, but the venom of the Emperor Scorpion is very mild and not harmful to humans. They have very large pincers (“claws”) which are capable of giving a pretty painful pinch, though!
Sting – Desert Hairy Scorpion
The Desert Hairy Scorpion is found in the Sonoran Desert. They have a painful sting, but the venom is not fatal to humans.
Rosie – Chilean Rosehair Tarantula
As the name implies, the Rosehair Tarantula comes from Chile. They are fairly docile and rarely bite. Should they bite, though, their venom is not fatal to humans. It is only strong enough to kill small insects (their primary diet).
Penelope – Bird-eating Tarantula
The Bird-eating Tarantulas come mainly from South America. Penelope is know as a “Lesser Black” Bird-eater which originates in Columbia and Peru. No, I don’t feed her birds! She gets fed crickets, mealworms (the super large size) and other invertebrates.
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly and Passion Flower
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars only feed on the leaves (and sometimes flowers) of the passion vine and will eat nothing else. This is called being “host specific”. Other examples are the anise swallowtail butterfly catterpillar which only feeds on fennel and other parsley family leaves and the cabbage white which only feeds on leaves of the mustard and cabbage family.