Don't miss the sample chapters below!
R. D. Akre, G. S. Paulson, & E. P. Catts
A fascinating account of more
insect "firsts." Velcro, bungee jumping, air conditioning, and
chemical warfare are a few of the firsts covered in this book authored
professional entomologists. Illustrations include humorous
anthropomorphized insects as well as photos and micrographs. It
written for a general audience but is of special interest to teachers
TABLE OF CONTENTS
3. Tunnel Builders
7. Warning Coloration
10. Communication by Sound
11. Air Conditioning
12. Food Storage
13. Domestic Animals
19. Sewing or Lashing
20. Scuba Diving
21. Chemical Defense
25. Radar Jamming Device
27. Social Behavior/Societies
29. Dominance Hierarchies
30. Insect Control
31. Gift Giving
32. Construction Materials
34. Brain Washers
35. Pipe Liners
37. Reinforced Tubing
40. Full of It!
42. Puffed Up or Inflation of the Body
43. Drug Use
44. Following Signs
45. Problems With Insects
51. Blinking Neon Sign
54. Original Big or Swelled Heads
55. Natural Polyesters
57. Tool Use
58. Opposable Thumb
60. Bungee Jumpers
63. Baskets and Pots
65. Preservation Without Freezing
66. Head Screwed on Straight?
70. Fishing Net
72. Break Sound Barrier
74. Arms Race
76. Sexual Bias
77. Red Light District
78. Kinky Sex
79. Sexual Bondage
80. Switch Sex.
Orders of Insects
The original ideas on "insects did it first" started with Dr. Roger Akre's first class in general entomology at Washington State University in 1964. Each time some advanced human technology, such as radar or sonar, became the topic of the day Roger realized that "people aren't really all that original - insects did it first." Soon he started writing down all the ideas that occurred to him on this topic, even in the middle of lectures, be it general entomology, insect behavior, or insect morphology.
Dr. Akre also started to make color slides of insects with the idea that perhaps he could someday make "first's" a special topic in his general entomology class. He was aided in his endeavors by several colleagues with artistic talents, Paul Catts and Robert Harwood, both entomologists at Washington State University, and by Dr. William B. Garnett, from the University of Cincinnati. All produced cartoons of the topics for slide lectures. The topics grew and interest was expressed by a great number of people, especially those who give insect talks to young scientists from the age of 3 to 30. They wanted copies of the slides and references to the material to create their own talks.
The thought of publishing "First" as a book occurred to Roger in 1986. By this time, students, colleagues, and friends were well acquainted with his interests in this area, and one, Greg Paulson, even located a book in 1987 that was similar in topic to the contents of this book. Lucy Berman and Roy Combs published "Wonderbaarlijke Nature" in Europe in 1971. In 1972 an English translation of this book, entitled "Nature Thought of It First," was printed by Grosset and Dunlop. Their book covers all animals, while ours concentrates solely on insects, treating them in much greater detail. Still another book, with nearly identical ideas and even a close title, "Nature Invented It First," was authored by R. E. Hutchins (1980).
"Insects Did It First" is
organized into 81 chapters; each concerns a different achievement in
insects have precedence over other animals, including humans.
chapter includes references to books and scientific papers in which the
achievement or behavior is described. In most instances, several
different insects are used as examples to illustrate the variety and
the "first." Each chapter is illustrated with a cartoon and, in
many cases, a photograph. When appropriate, the order and family
insect are included in the text. Family names can be easily
they always end in -idea. A complete list of the insect orders
found on page 138. Several topics in this book deal with sexual
topics that some people might find sensitive, especially in regard to
grade school children. With this in mind we placed those chapters
end of the book so they can easily be excluded if this is deemed
We take paper for granted. It is used in a vast number of ways- newspapers, magazines, books, packaging, boxes, and even tableware. Modern paper is made by machines and is incredibly uniform in thickness and smoothness, essentially without blemish. However, paper making was once a laborious process as plant fibers of various types were wetted and spread out to dry.
Nevertheless, hundreds of
years before mankind's first efforts, the world's first paper makers
collecting weathered fibers from plants that were chewed and mixed with
to make paper for nests. These paper makers were the yellow
(Edwards 1980, McGovern et al. 1988, Spradbery 1973), umbrella or paper
hornets, and the social wasps of the Central and South American
tropics, the polybiines
(Akre 1982)(all Hymenoptera: Vespidae). The fiber they gather is
into a hard paper, called carton, used for constructing cells for their
and the envelope which encloses the nest. The nest envelopes
often are of
interesting color patterns depending on the source of the original
fibers. Some wasps even incorporate bits of sand into their paper
strength and hardness.
The envelope covering most nests is an excellent insulator. It is laid down in layers with air spaces between. Wasps make maximum use of dead air spaces in their nest construction to help regulate the internal temperature of the nest. In addition, some species of yellow jackets build these paper nests in a cavity below the surface of the soil which also tends to protect the nest and brood from fluctuations in temperature.
insects, and humans fly. Obviously the first into the air were
insects, and in many ways they are still the best and most versatile
fliers. The basic mechanism of flight is based on a click
suddenly transmits nearly all the stored muscle energy of the thorax to
down or power stroke of the wings (see Chapter 53) (Chapman 1982,
1975, Ross et al. 1982). Variations in flying abilities include
that have the ability to hover in one place such as dragonflies
flies (Diptera: Oestridae), bee flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae), and hover
(also known as flower flies) (Diptera: Syrphidae). These insects
a unique flip mechanism that causes the wing to sweep obliquely up and
through a small angle (Weis-Fogh 1975). Certain damselflies
Panama are known locally as helicopter bugs because the movement of the
stigma (pigmented spot on the forewings) as the insect hovers in flight
reminiscent of the colored rotors of helicopters. These
in front of spider webs while stealing prey from the web.
Most of what people learn is seen, not heard. However, sound is obviously important to us as we have spoken languages and appreciate an array of sounds as music. Insects also make music and make extensive use of sound for communication (Kerkut & Gilbert 1985, Wigglesworth 1972). Some have extremely elaborate instruments for the production of these sounds (Snodgrass 1923).
Some termites and ants beat their heads against the walls of their nests to signal alarm, while certain aphids stomp their feet or bang their abdomens on the substrate to signal alarm to other aphids (Bowers et al. 1972). Perhaps the most sophisticated and highly developed use of sound is by bees, including stingless bees and honey bees. Honey bees, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), emit pulse trains of sound, produced by wing vibration, during their waggle dance that convey information to nestmates about the distance to a food source (Esch 1967, Gould & Gould 1988, Winston 1987). Species of Melipona (Hymenoptera: Meliponidae), a stingless bee, also use a "morse code" of sound to indicate distance to the food source to their hivemates (Esch 1967). Other sounds made by honey bees include the warning buzz of disturbed workers and the piping of the queen that calms disturbed workers. Other queen-produced sounds are tooting (sometimes called piping) and quacking. Tooting is the sound made by a virgin queen soon after she emerges as an adult, and quacking is the sound made by new queens that are forcefully retained inside their cells by the workers. Eventually, they are released to challenge all other queens (Wenner 1964).
The most complex song known
is produced by Uhler's katydid (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae)(Walker &
1972), but even the lowly fruit flies (Diptera: Drosophilidae) produce
love and courtship (Bennet-Clark & Ewing 1970).
Humans have domesticated a few species of animals to use as beasts of burden or as food. The more common domestic animals are cows, horses, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats. However insects kept "domesticated animals" much earlier than we did. One such association is between certain ants and the larvae of lycaenid butterflies (blues) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). The caterpillars possess special glands, called Hinton's glands, that produce an ant attracting chemical. They also have a honey or Newcomer's gland that produces a substance the ants like to eat (Kistner 1982). In return, the caterpillars are protected from insect predators by the ants.
A more familiar situation is
by ants tending aphids (Homoptera: Aphididae) and other Homoptera
1971). This relationship is called mutualism because both the
the aphids gain mutual benefit from the association. Mutualistic
relationships exist between many genera and species of ants. Not
ants carry aphids to their host plants and protect them (Wilson 1971),
least one ant species responds aggressively to an alarm pheromone (see
23) released by the aphids. When the aphids are disturbed the
attack any insects or other intruders in the immediate area (Kistner
Ants, as well as some other kinds of insects, collect a sugary substance called honeydew that is excreted by a number of other sap-feeding insects in the order Homoptera including scales (Coccidae), pine/spruce aphids (Chermidae), psyllids (Psyllidae), treehoppers (Membracidae), leafhoppers (Jassidae), froghoppers (Cercopidae), and planthoppers (Fulgoridae) (Wilson 1971). In one species, Trabutina mannipara (Ehrenberg) (Coccidae), the material is so abundant at times that it is collected by both ants and humans for food. This is believed to be the manna mentioned in the Bible.