Some people might wish that insects were more sedentary. The truth is, many of these little guys are pretty active, are faster than expected and even jump! Click beetles, grasshoppers and fleas can hop out of harm's way or to a new host, but the list of jumping insects doesn't stop there. Here are some of the most common.
The Click Beetle's Buggy Backbend
A click beetle is agile enough to jump without using its legs. When it's upside down, it's too unbalanced to roll over onto short, little legs. Instead, the bug arches its back, bending the middle of its body upward so that its front and back ends touch the ground – like a backbend. Then it suddenly straightens out, making a loud click sound and spinning into the air to land right-side up. A click beetle about half an inch long can catapult through the air about a foot.
Grasshoppers' Great Leaps
The grasshopper is clearly named for its most remarkable skill. Its back legs have strong, oversized muscles for launching into impressive leaps. Technically, the insect's muscle-bound femurs can straighten with sufficient force to shove their tibiae against the ground hard enough to propel themselves upward and forward. The grasshopper prepares for the move like an Olympic contender, swaying slightly back and forth while it gauges the jump and gears up. Leaving predators behind or landing perfectly on a new perch is a breeze for these bugs.
You'll see fleas jump when the refuge of a dog's fur gets too crowded, or when something unpleasant happens, like the dog running through a sprinkler. Fleas jump in the same manner as grasshoppers. They have modified back legs specially designed for thrusting. If they're scared, threatened or merely want the quickest route to a fresh meal, they leap. Fleas sense vibrations from potential hosts, and that tells them where to jump. They can propel themselves 200 times the length of their tiny bodies. If you could do that, you'd be able to leap 70-foot-tall buildings in a single bound.
Other Jumping Insects
The list of jumping insects is practically endless: crickets, katydids, froghoppers (or spittlebugs), brownbanded cockroaches, flea beetles, praying mantises, locusts, springtails, leafhoppers, bedbugs and more.
Some believe that walking sticks can jump, but what they really do is fall from their perches when threatened, then use their wings as a parachute to float to safety.
Although they're not technically insects, but arachnids, about 5,000 species of Salticidae spiders are accomplished acrobats that certainly do jump. They sometimes spin threads of silk as they sail through the air to catch prey. The thread acts as a lifeline in case they need to scramble back up. Pretty clever, salties.
About the Author
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .
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