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Bugs with Motherly Instincts

Happy Mother’s Day! Every kind of animal has a mother, from baboons to lions, from birds to fish, from lizards to insects. But some mothers are more nurturing than others. Out of all the mothers in the world, none are more important to us or deserve higher praise than our own mothers and mother figures. Their countless hours of work, sleepless nights, thankless labor, hugs and kisses, and endless love make human mothers the crowned queens of motherhood.

Without a doubt, our mothers and mother figures are the best of them all. But did you know that some insects and arachnids are surprisingly good at mothering their young? It can be surprising when you look into their nasty faces and their many legs, but they can be amazingly attentive, all things considered.

This list is just a few of the insects and arachnids that are dedicated to their offspring. Just for fun, we’ve also added a few insects that are terrible mothers.

Good Mothers of the Bug World

Spiders

Even though these arachnids are creepy, they’re also pretty good mothers. Web-spinning spiders wrap their eggs in a silk sac and place them in a safe corner of the web. If the eggs are threatened in any way, the spider curls around them and strikes at anything that gets too close. Some spider species will pick up the eggs and abandon her web to find a safer place for her next generation.

The wolf spider is the only spider in the world that carries her eggs everywhere she goes. Because she doesn’t spin a web or dig a tunnel, she spins a protective sac around the eggs and attaches them to her spinnerets. Eventually, the hundreds of eggs hatch, and the baby spiders climb on her back. The extra weight slows her down, so she often goes hungry and is in constant danger until her babies are old enough to live on their own.

Scorpions

Did you know that baby scorpions are born live? Unlike most arachnids and insects, baby scorpions don’t hatch from an egg at all but emerge from their mother directly into the open air. The babies are too soft to walk, let alone hunt, and they are extremely susceptible to predators. The babies stay on the mother’s back for a few weeks until their exoskeletons harden and they’re strong enough to face the world.

Earwigs

That’s right, of all the bugs in the world, the earwig makes a pretty good mother! The female makes an elaborate nest for her eggs, which uses a ton of her time and energy. She stands guard over them until they hatch and carefully attends them when they are born.

If her nest is threatened by the weather or predators, the mother earwig picks up her eggs and moves. She abandons the nest and all the hard work she put into it, just to make sure her eggs are safe. When she’s found a safer location, she puts all her time and energy into a new nest, all for the protection of her brood.

Wasps and Bees

Social insects like wasps and honeybees use a community approach to raising their babies. After the cold winter, most of the hive has survived by grouping together and vibrating to generate heat. Once the hive is comfortable and able to find flower nectar and make honey again, the queen resumes her egg-laying duties. Each member of the hive divides the duties amongst themselves. Some guard the nest, others gather nectar and make honey, and others maintain the hive and make repairs.

Social wasps are similar. Out of all the wasps from the year before, only the queen survives the winter. She emerges from her winter hiding place and starts to start a new nest on her own. She spends all her time looking for a good location with plenty of food nearby, feeding herself, and building the new nest. Once the nest is built, she lays her eggs and searches for food.

Wasp larvae only eat meaty foods like grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other bugs, so the queen alternates between hunting, feeding herself, fixing and expanding the nest, and feeding the larvae. As more eggs develop into adults, the queen’s daughters gradually take over the duties until the queen does nothing but lay eggs.

Motherhood amongst social insects like wasps and bees lends a whole new perspective to the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Ants and Termites

Just like wasps and bees, ants and termites are also social. Each colony member divides the labor so that the queen (or queens) can focus on laying eggs. Every individual’s job is centered around raising and keeping the next generation alive.

Some species of ants or termites are aggressive toward intruders or rival colonies. However, if the nursery is ever in danger during an attack, the fight is immediately called off and the ants or termites evacuate the eggs and larvae.

All social insects, from ants to termites, wasps, or bees, are like one many-legged, multi-eyed animal with one job: Feed and care for the next generation.

German Cockroach

As disgusting as these critters are, German cockroaches are surprisingly good at motherhood. Females lay 30-40 eggs in a case called an ootheca, which she carries everywhere she goes even though it’s about half as long as she is. Even though the ootheca slows her down and makes her awkward, she diligently looks for a hiding spot with plenty of food and water nearby. She sets the casing there carefully, which glues itself to the spot and pops open when the eggs hatch.

German cockroaches are social, so the adults teach each other and the next generation of roaches where to find food, areas to avoid, and the best hiding spots. No wonder German cockroach populations grow so quickly!

Terrible Insect Mothers

Some mothers are better than others. Just for fun, we’ve added this list of insects that don’t put much effort into their motherhood.

Flies

Without much capacity to think in the first place, it’s not surprising that flies put so little energy into parenthood. The mother fly lands on a food source to lay her eggs and promptly flies away. Depending on the species, flies might lay their eggs in the gunk stuck in drain pipes, in the manure out in the fields, or in dog poop.

Bed bugs

Female bed bugs barely even realize they are giving birth. She gives no thought at all to where the eggs should be placed. She might lay her eggs in the open where predators can find them or they can be destroyed. Since bed bugs spend most of their time hiding, most bed bug eggs end up in a safe hiding place by mistake.

Bed bugs have no concept of parental responsibility. They don’t do anything to give their offspring any life advantages — not on purpose, anyway. The baby bugs are forced to figure out life on their own.

Cockroaches

Fleas

These little pests put even less effort into motherhood than flies or bed bugs. While feeding, the female fleas produce their eggs at random. The eggs end up stuck in the host’s fur or hair, or they end up on the ground. Larvae are forced to fend for themselves. As far as the fleas are concerned, their own larvae are practically another species.

Thank you mothers

Without our mothers to care for us, none of us would have survived long. None of us would be the people we are today without our mothers and mother figures. Whether she is your biological mother or a special individual who has played an important motherly role in your life, all mothers deserve our appreciation. Thank you to all mothers for everything you have done and continue to do for each of us.

If you have these pests around your house and you’re ready to take action, Fox has your back. Rest easy knowing that our family and pet friendly, environmentally safe products are working for you. Call today to discuss our Home Protection Plan with our Service Coordinators. When you call Fox, you’re joining a family that cares.

Because No Bugs is Simply Better.

Posted on May 6, 2020.

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