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Insects, Spiders, Other Invertebrates Have Distinct Personalities – New Research

FirebugMost 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. Read More »

Something New for Insect-keepers – Sunburst and Green Diving Beetles – Part 1

Sunburst Diving BeetleI cannot imagine why aquatic insects have not attracted more interest from invertebrate enthusiasts.  Thousands of species, many of which are large and active by day, may be kept in relatively simple aquariums.  Aquatic insect exhibits that I have established in zoos and museums are invariably very popular with visitors.  From Dragonfly Larvae that flick out extendable “lips” to snare prey to Giant Water Bugs that can tackle small turtles, these other-worldly beings are fascinating to observe, and most are simple to collect.  Today I’d like to cover the natural history of 2 species that are sometimes available in the pet trade, the Sunburst or Marbled Diving Beetle (Thermonectes marmoratus) and Green Diving Beetle (Thermonectes sp.). I’ll discuss their captive care in Part 2. Read More »

Beyond Tarantulas – The Amazing Diversity of Insects in the Pet Trade

Tarantulas and scorpions have long been invertebrate pet staples, with over 150 species being captive bred in large numbers.  However, insect keeping, always popular in Japan but much less so elsewhere, is now coming into its own in the USA.  I recently found that over 50 stick and leaf insect, 30 mantid, 25 cockroach and 25 beetle species, along with numerous grasshoppers, katydids, butterflies and moths, are now regularly bred in captivity.

Velvet Ants, Tarantula Wasps, Giant Water Bugs and innumerable others are also kept in smaller numbers, and are growing in popularity.  An aquatic insect exhibit I recently designed for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, featuring the usually ignored Water Scorpions and Whirligig, diving and water scavenger beetles, is a big hit with visitors.

Grand Possibilities

The potential diversity of insects that may be kept in captivity is limitless, and many exhibit their entire life cycles and full range ofHercules Beetle behaviors in a relatively limited space and time span.  Those who keep insects are offered the real possibility of discovering new information.

Conservation Value

Much of what has been learned by those keeping insects in private and public collections has conservation value.  Captive breeding and reintroduction programs for endangered species ranging from Sphinx Moths in Arizona to Burying Beetles in Rhode Island have yielded promising results.

Other Invertebrates

An astonishing array of other terrestrial invertebrates are also being kept and bred in captivity, including Banana Slugs, trapdoor, orb-weaver, wolf and crab spiders, centipedes, millipedes, Vinegaroons and Sun Scorpions, to name just a few.  

Further Reading

Japan’s Tama Zoo boasts 2 giant insect houses…be forewarned, insect aficionados who visit will emerge in shock, as did I!

Phasmids (walking sticks and walking leaves) have long been popular as captives in Europe. Photos of many of the nearly 3,000 described species, along with natural history notes, are posted here.

Founded in 1892, and with roots dating to 1872, the NY Entomological Society is an invaluable resource for insect enthusiasts. To learn more about this well-respected group and its publications, please visit their website.



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