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Bugs that are Great Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day! Lots of species have mothers, and some are more caring than others. With countless hours, sleepless nights, the work that often feels thankless, the hugs and kisses, and endless effort, human mothers are the most dedicated of them all. Of all mothers in the animal kingdom, no species merits higher praise than our mothers and our mother figures.

Nothing can compare to human mothers, but did you know that some insects go the extra mile for their babies? It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you look into the face of a nasty-looking insect, but many of these many-legged critters have some interesting motherly instincts.

Here are just a few of the insects, bugs, and arachnids that are pretty dedicated to their offspring. Plus, just for fun, we’ve also added a few examples of insects that are terrible mothers.

Good Mothers in the Bug World

Spiders

These arachnids are often highly invested in their spider offspring. Many web-spinning spiders wrap their eggs in a protective sac of silk, which they hang in a secure corner of their web. If a rival spider or a powerful insect threatens the eggs, the spider huddles around her eggs to defend them. If needed, she’ll cut the sac down and leave her web to find a safer place.

The wolf spider is the only spider in the world that carries her eggs around with her wherever she goes. She doesn’t keep them in a web or place them in a burrow. She wraps the eggs in a silk sac that she attaches to her spinnerets. When the spiderlings hatch, she piles them on her back and carries them everywhere until they are old enough to live on their own. With hundreds of babies on her back, the wolf spider is slower and less able to hunt and run down prey, so she often goes hungry until the babies leave.

Scorpions

These arachnids also carry their babies on their back, just like wolf spiders. Unlike spiders and many insects, scorpion babies are born live, not hatched from an egg. During their first 2-4 weeks of life, baby scorpions have a soft shell, making them vulnerable to attack and unable to hunt on their own. So the mother keeps them with her until they’re able to survive on their own.

Earwigs

As nasty as earwigs are, it’s surprising to learn that earwig females actually take very good care of their offspring. The earwig mother creates an elaborate nest for her eggs, which takes up a huge amount of her energy and time. She guards her eggs constantly until they are ready to hatch. If the nest is threatened, the mother gathers her eggs and willingly leaves all her hard work behind to make a safer nest elsewhere.

Wasps and Bees

Honeybee hives take excellent care of their young. Usually, the vast majority of the colony survives the winter and starts spring cleaning and gathering food. Once the colony is comfortable, the queen resumes her egg-laying duties. All the duties of each member of the colony are centered around the well-being of the next generation.

Social wasps have a slightly different approach to rearing their young, though it is very similar to the honeybee approach. The only member of a wasp hive that survives the winter is the queen. As the weather warms in the spring, the queens emerge from their warm winter hiding places and start working on a new nest. She builds a small nest that she can manage on her own. She finds good hunting grounds near her nest and lays eggs in her new hive as soon as she can. At first, the queen does everything herself — gathering food for developing wasp larvae, making additions and repairs to the nest, and defending the nest from intruders. Over time, her hard work pays off, and her daughters eventually take over all the duties of the nest until the queen can spend all her time laying eggs.

Wasp and bee colony life gives a new perspective to the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Ants and Termites

These species are very similar to wasps and honeybees when it comes to raising the next generation. While the queen (or queens) spends her days laying eggs, the remainder of the colony takes care of everything else. Some guard the nest, some care for the eggs and newly hatched young, others search for food, and others expand the nest.

Some ants and termites can be aggressive and attack neighboring colonies. However, if the nursery is threatened at any time, the entire colony sounds a full retreat and transports the babies to a safe place.

All social insects, from ants and termites to wasps and honeybees, are like one giant organism with only one goal: feed and care for the young.

German Cockroaches

When this type of cockroach finds its way into a home, the population grows extremely fast because of the roach mothers. Female German cockroaches carry their 30-40 eggs in a protective sac called an ootheca, which is attached to her abdomen. When she finds a place with plenty of water and food nearby, she sticks the sac in a safe, dark place until the new roaches hatch. German roaches are social, which means they help each other find food and avoid danger. So when the new roaches hatch, the adults teach them places to avoid and areas to find food.

Terrible Mothers of the Insect World

Flies

Flies don’t have much going on in their heads anyway, so it’s no surprise that they don’t invest much into motherhood. The only effort they put into rearing their young is to lay their eggs on a food source. Flies might lay their eggs in a dumpster, manure, or dog poop.

Bed Bugs

Most female bed bugs barely even know that they are even carrying eggs. Eggs might be laid in the middle of nowhere, out in the open where predators could find them. Bed bugs usually spend their time hidden in mattress seams or in tight corners, so eggs usually end up there. But the females have zero concept of protecting their eggs or giving them any sort of advantage in life. The eggs hatch and are expected to figure everything out on their own.

Cockroaches

Few cockroach species are as caring as German roach females. Although all roaches have a protective ootheca case, not many species carry it around with them. The most effort most cockroaches put into their offspring is to set the case in a hidden spot. Usually, the babies are left to figure out life by themselves.

Fleas

Fleas put as much effort into rearing their offspring as flies or bed bugs do. Females produce eggs randomly, usually while feeding, and that’s the last effort they give. The eggs either get stuck in the host’s hair or fur, or they drop off into the grass or carpet. Once hatched, flea babies have to rely on instinct to survive.

Thank you Mothers

When it comes to human mothers, though, no one is more vital to the survival of the human race. Today is a special opportunity for you to show your appreciation to your mother, whether she is your biological mother or a special person who acted as your mother figure throughout your life. Thank you mothers, for everything you do and all the things you do for each of us.

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Posted on May 4, 2020.

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