October is definitely one of my favorite months of the year. Aside from fall leaves and cooler weather, I especially love Halloween and all the fun things that come with it: Halloween movies, the decorations, “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” on the radio, carving pumpkins… however, this is the worst time of year to be an arthropod. Spiders, flies, clutter cats and more are treated even worse than usual as seasonal movies and decorations prey on people’s fears and misconceptions.
Well, if you’re looking to get spooked you’ll have to check out a different blog, because today “The ArthroBlogger” is fighting back against insect stereotypes. We’re going to show the world that insects, far from being creepy monsters, are actually beautiful and sometimes even adorable animals who deserve a bit more love and respect. So, without further ado, these are (in my opinion) the top ten cutest insects:
10. Velvet Ants
These flightless wasps (not actually ants) are so cute that it’s a crime we can’t cuddle them. Unfortunately, if you were to try and give these little wasps a gentle pat on the head, they’d probably turn around at repay you with a remarkably painful sting. Fortunately, male velvet ants wasps can’t sting, but they actually have wings and would probably fly away before you got the chance to pet them. Why, velvet wasps? Why won’t you let us love you?!
9. Giraffe Weevils
This little guy looks like a cherry come to life! The only thing cuter than its vibrant carapace and comically long neck is the fact that this little beetle is not even an inch in length. It’s like a baby cherry come to life! And they’re sweet like cherries, too: father giraffe weevils roll leaves into swaddles for their mates to lay each of their eggs in. You can’t tell me that’s not cute.
8. Lantern Bugs
Look at this dude. I don’t know whether to admire his colors or laugh at his epic nose. It’s actually more accurate to call that a snout, because the lantern bug uses it to drink sap. Unfortunately, lantern bugs don’t actually glow like fireflies, but I still think that boopable snoot makes them pretty adorable.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about whirligig beetles on this blog, but to refresh your memory: they wear bubble scuba tanks, they smell like apples, and they like to spin around in circles really fast. In other words, they’re the highlight of any trip to the lake.
5. Leafhopper Nymphs
Look at this smol bean! It’s like if a sand fiddler and a cicada had a baby! Leafhopper adults are also quite cute, but this… this is hard to top.
The whole genus of bumblebees (Bombus) takes this spot. It’s too hard to pick just one species – they’re all so stinkin’ cute! For one, they’re obviously quite fluffy, which is never not cute. They’re also important pollinators that tote pollen around in little pollen baskets (pollen baskets!) on their legs. Plus, they’re super friendly: a bumblebee landed on my Peanuts t-shirt the day I wrote this post, and we had a nice little heart-to-heart moment as the bee tried to figure out if Woodstock was a flower and I resisted the urge to pet it.
That face just exudes pure bliss. Dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera) may be some of the coolest insects out there, but the damselfly (suborder Zygoptera) is definitely one of the cutest. With their wide-set eyes and bright, beautiful colors, the damselfly stands out from the crowd and can’t help but make bystanders say “aww!” as it flits by.
2. Luna Moths
I don’t call ’em pie fairies for nothing – these key lime cuties are one of my favorite lepidopterans for several reasons, including their gorgeous wings and the fact that we’re both North Carolina natives. And, as of about a month ago, I finally saw one in person! I was pretty beside myself to say the least.
1. Woolly Worms
Where to begin with woolly worms? These caterpillars are so amazing they’ve got a whole festival named after them: the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, NC! It’s a super fun two-day event that happens every October (October 16 and 17 this year), where you can peruse handmade art, gorge yourself on fried Oreos, and race woolly worms up a string against fellow festival-goers for a cash prize! Whether you win or lose, you’re free to release your worms, pass them on to someone else, or bring them home with you as a pet – which is how I got my own woolly worms, Willy and Cocoa (don’t judge the names, I was ten)! I ended up releasing them in my backyard eventually, but they were perfectly content eating apple slices and hanging out in my room for a couple months following the festival. So, because I was able to see their adorable antics up close for an extended period of time, I can scientifically deduce that woolly worms are the cutest insects of all. They’re Halloween colored, they curl into little balls, they’re fuzzy… I could go on and on, these guys are the best.
So, rather than spending your time grossing yourself out with crude plastic insects this October (I’m not even going to address the anatomically inaccurate skeleton-spider abominations at Target), maybe take a weekend trip to Banner Elk and try your hand racing woolly worms! Arthropods aside, nothing beats the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fall.