Most invertebrate keepers have noticed that individuals of the same species often behave quite differently under the same circumstances. For example, one Giant Bird-Eating Spider might feed in broad daylight and be content to remain in the open, while another refuses to eat unless provided with a deep burrow and complete darkness – I can recall countless similar observations. Does this mean that these “simple” creatures have personalities? According to a recent study, the answer may be “yes”…
How Does One Test Insect Personalities?
An article published in the September, 2010 issue of The Proceedings of the Royal Society (B), reveals that individual insects exhibit distinct personality traits, and that these traits remain consistent in different situations.
Working with Field Crickets and Short and Long-Winged Firebugs collected in Hungary, the researchers presented the insects with opportunities to hide, explore and confront others. They recorded variables such as how long it took an individual to leave a shelter, how much time it spent exploring novel objects and how it reacted to others of its kind. Each insect was tested several times in each situation, to assure that the behavior it exhibited was typical.
Shy, Bold and Aggressive Insects
Individual insects varied from one another in their reactions, and the traits they exhibited were consistent over a wide range of situations. For example, if a certain individual explored new objects immediately and for a long time, it also exhibited similarly bold behavior when offered a shelter or when placed with other insects. A bold Field Cricket (indicated by quick abandonment of its shelter) was also aggressive towards other crickets, less concerned about predators, and very active. Similarly, shy individuals remained secretive or passive in all situations.
This study seems to support what invertebrate fans have long-believed, and shows that we must observe our animals carefully, and adjust their habitats accordingly…what works for one Emperor Scorpion or Praying Mantis may spell doom for another.
Please Note: Despite these most interesting findings, I caution you against putting any faith in the “tameness” or “good nature” of your invertebrate or reptile pets. They do not in any sense become trustworthy in the manner of dogs, and must always be handled with care…I have seen many people severely injured by “tame” spiders, snakes (the term “dog tame” as applied to snakes is very misleading) and lizards, often without warning and after years of calm behavior.
More amazing insect news – female crickets somehow “teach” their unborn young how to avoid spiders; details here.
Firebug referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Aka