The Survival Strategies of Bugs

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that human beings are survivors. In many ways we’re just like bugs — we endure even in the face of danger and uncertainty, and find a way to carry on living. 

Though humans do relatively well in the modern age, there is no shortage of survival strategies we can learn from bugs. As strange as that sounds, insects truly can teach us about adapting to our environment, avoiding danger, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones. Some of these strategies are un-bee-lievably fascinating, so be sure to read until the end. 

Why Do Bugs Need Survival Strategies?

Sure, bugs don’t need to survive in exactly the same way humans do. They aren’t concerned with job security, financial stability, global pandemics, and the incredibly complex world of human relationships. 

But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own issues. A bug’s life is not always easy, and they need a sturdy survival strategy to face life-threatening challenges like:

  • Intense weather conditions like rainstorms, heat waves, and snowstorms 
  • Peckish predators such as birds, frogs, spiders, bats, opossum, and other insectivores
  • Managing migration and finding a suitable location to live 
  • Difficulty finding a stable food supply or water during summer months and droughts
  • Being stepped, squashed, swatted, or sprayed with pesticide

Here’s How A Few Different Insect Species Ride It Out

While all bugs are survivalists by design, some have better (or more interesting) strategies than others. Let’s put the surprising survival strategies of three common insects under the microscope.  

The Survival Strategies of Ladybugs

When you think of a ladybug you might not necessarily think of an expert at surviving — but you’d be wrong. While indeed cute, ladybugs are also tough and enterprising. 

Simply put, ladybugs are built to survive. They have a tough exterior shell called an elytra that keeps them safe from predators, and their bright coloration and bold spots serve as additional deterrents. 

When they’re ready to reproduce, ladybugs search for the perfect spot to lay their eggs and ensure population survival. “Perfect” typically means a sturdy leaf covered in pests like aphids, mealybugs, or scale bugs, meaning that their larvae are born adjacent to a buffet just waiting to be eaten. 

Another incredible survival strategy that the ladybug has in its arsenal is that, despite their beautiful appearance, they taste disgusting. The ladybug’s leg joint secretes an oily, yellow substance that scientists think has a highly unappetizing taste to hungry predators.    

The Survival Strategies of Stink Bugs 

As the name suggests, a stink bug’s most effective survival strategy is simply causing a stink. When these insects are threatened or disturbed, they emit a strong and unpleasant odor from their scent glands. 

This foul smell not only wards off predators (including us!) but also warns other stink bugs in the area that a potential threat is around. Stench aside, the stink bug’s appearance also ensures its survival. 

Most stink bugs are brown, green, or gray –perfect colors for easy camouflage. Other stink bug species can be bright red, cheery yellow, stark white, and even shocking blue, which acts as a visual warning to would-be predators: stay away! 

Despite its sickening smell, the stink bug has quite a few predators including assassin bugs, parasitic flies, birds, bats, spiders, and even other stink bugs (the predatory kind). As a result, stink bugs often head indoors to survive. 

Stink bugs most commonly find their way into our homes through cracks and crevices in foundations. Once in, they release a different kind of scent. Unlike its defensive odor, this one is undetectable to the human nose and acts as a location pin to other stink bugs looking for a safe place.    

The Survival Strategies of Ants 

Ants are found everywhere, and as food for all kinds of animals from snails to coyotes, they have some big problems.

There are more than 12,000 identified ant species, and each has its survival strategy. For example, desert ants use risk aversion to memorize dangerous routes not to be traveled again. South American fire ants build living rafts to avoid drowning in rainforest floods.    

When defending itself against other ants, Pheidole Obtusospinosa is known to create blockades to nest entrances, modify its nest architecture when faced with threats, and engage in direct combat. Crematogaster Striatula — or the African ant — releases airborne toxins to paralyze termites and protect their nests against predators.

So, What Can We Learn From Bugs? 

Ladybugs teach us to stay close to food. (Not hard to do, since we’re going into the holidays!) Stink bugs spread the word when they find a safe, comfortable place to stay — we should look out for our friends, too. Ants stick together during trying times and lean on each other to survive.

Food, friends, and togetherness. Sounds like a great start to the holiday season.


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Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.

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