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Five questions about insects – Quick Quiz answers

We asked you five quick trivia questions about insects. Here are the answers:

  1. Which insect did the Ancient Egyptians liken to their morning sun god, Khepri? Do you know why?
    The scarab beetle (Scarabaeus sacer). Its habit of repeatedly rolling balls of cattle dung across the ground to a hideyhole underground reminded the Egyptians of the repeated movement of the sun across the sky. The emergence of young beetles from these balls was linked to the rebirth of the sun every morning.
  2. What is the name of the bee product which is used in varnishing stringed instruments?
    Propolis. A very different substance from beeswax, propolis is a resinous mixture collected from various plant-based sources and can vary widely in colour: it’s usually dark brown, but can be green, red, black or even white. Bees use it to plug unwanted small gaps in their hive, to strengthen the hive’s structure and even to mummify animals that die in the hive and are too big to remove.
  3. Are locusts edible?
    Yes and no. Most of the time they’re edible and actually quite tasty (they’ve been compared with green wheat, which is no great surprise considering their diet). They have the distinction of being the only insects that Jews and Muslims are permitted to eat as a famine food. So it’s ironic that when they might be needed most as famine food – when they’re swarming and eating thousands of tons of crops a day – they generate a toxin that makes them inedible.
  4. What is frass?
    Usually, it’s solid insect excrement, although the name’s also given to the waste that wood-boring insects like carpenter wasps discard when they’re digging out tunnels. It’s full of amoebae and bacteria, and its high chitin content induces plants to secrete the enzyme chitinase to break it down – which helps promote the formation of compost.
  5. What are pulgas vestidas, and which country are they associated with?
    Literally, “clothed fleas”: fleas that have been dressed in tiny costumes and put in a little display frame or case. It’s a Mexican tradition that was very popular in the early 1900s but has now apparently died out. Popular motifs were of brides and grooms, musicians, and dancers.

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If you’d like to know more about our six-legged chums, you can find plenty more amazing facts like this in our book The Facts Lab Book of Insects, available through the Amazon Kindle Store.

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