It’s true that most people do not put the words “beautiful” and “insect” together unless they’re thinking of butterflies. But there are beautiful insects out there that are not butterflies. As with butterflies, these beautiful bugs have not evolved their colorful looks for humans to admire, but to camouflage themselves, to warn predators that they taste bad, or to attract mates. Read on to learn more about 10 of the world’s most beautiful insects.
#10. Velvet Ant
That the velvet ant can deliver a hellacious sting does not make it any less beautiful to behold. Also, they’re not ants at all but wingless wasps. The fact that they can sting makes them female, as a sting is a modified ovipositor. These colorful, beautiful bugs are covered with plush fur that gives them their name, and the fur is often red, gold, black, silver, or orange and prettily patterned. Males have wings, and they sometimes pick the females up and take them away to mate. Velvet ants are found in the United States.
Read this to learn more about wasps.
By themselves, fireflies are not bad-looking insects. The common eastern firefly of eastern North America has a rose-colored thorax with a black spot, and its elytra are black and edged with yellow. What makes fireflies beautiful insects is the light they produce on warm spring and summer evenings. This light can be green, yellow, or even a faint red or blue. It is the result of a chemical reaction and produces no heat. Even firefly larvae glow. As a matter of fact, the larvae of all insects in the Lampyridae family glow even if the adults do not.
Fireflies are predators, and there’s a genus of fireflies, Photuris, whose females produce light to attract unrelated fireflies. When the male comes close, the Photuris female kills and eats him.
#8. Broad-Winged Katydid
This insect joins the list of beautiful bugs because of its color which is the fresh, bright green of a new leaf. Indeed, the shape and color of this katydid’s body causes it to all but disappear as it rests on a leaf, and its favorite habitats are meadows and in the vegetation that grows alongside roads and railroad tracks. As a member of the Microcentrum genus, it has a compressed body and an angle to its wings that makes its shape especially pleasing. Like their distant relative the grasshopper, the katydid has long back legs that allow it to leap several times the length of its own body, but it can also fly. The broad-winged katydid is mostly found in the southern United States.
Ladybugs or ladybird beetles are not only pretty but cute, with their round bodies and the black polka dots that cover their elytra, which are often cheerful red, orange, or yellow. Another thing that makes a ladybug a welcome sight, especially to gardeners, is that many species are voracious predators of “bad bugs” such as aphids, mites, scale insects, and others that infest garden plants. Both larvae and adults eat these pests, and they can sometimes be seen eating them in tandem. If their regular prey is scarce, they’ll eat other ladybugs, including their eggs and larvae. They’ll also eat the eggs of moths and butterflies, but the ladybug’s usefulness in getting rid of pests makes up for this.
If you want to know more about ladybugs, read this.
As ladybugs are efficient terrestrial predators, dragonflies are predators of the air. They can be easily identified by their long, spindle-like abdomens, huge eyes, and their agility while in flight, powered by huge transparent wings that they hold out horizontally when they’re at rest. Dragonflies are also among the prettiest insects. Among the most beautiful are:
- Twelve-spotted skimmer. This dragonfly gets its name from the 12 spots on its wings. There are three on each forewing and three on each hindwing. Its beauty is due to its body, which appears to be made of polished gold. This dragonfly is found in North America.
- Scarlet Dwarf. The body of this small, exotic Asian dragonfly is a rich scarlet. The color is found on its thorax, its abdomen, and even its eyes. The wings have an orange flush close to where they attach to the body.
- Sapphire Flutterer. This is also a small dragonfly that’s found in South Asia and Australia. Its long abdomen is cobalt blue, and its wings are glimmering purple.
- Crimson Glider. This beautiful insect from Asia has a Day-Glo magenta abdomen and the veins in its wings are scarlet. Males can be told from females because their heads are reddish-brown. The female’s head is brown and there are black and brown stripes on the thorax.
- Phantom Flutterer. Depending on the light, this dragonfly found in Africa can be iridescent shades of blue, violet red, or purple, or sometimes all those colors at the same time. The hindwings have a large patch of glittering purple where they join the body.
Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies except they fold their wings when they rest. They’re also smaller and thinner. One of the most beautiful is the large red damselfly found in Europe and North Africa. The abdomen of the male is scarlet and ringed with black and bronze. There are three color types of females, and they can be black or red with yellow bands on the abdomen.
#5. Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Since no list of the prettiest insects would be complete without butterflies and moths, the butterfly on this list is the mourning cloak. Found in North America and Eurasia, this gorgeous butterfly looks like no other. The top of its wings is a velvety dark maroon. The edges are ragged and edged with what looks like gold leaf. There are iridescent blue spots between the maroon and the gold. The underside of the wings is filled with striations of gray, and the golden edges of the wings are visible. Males and females are alike.
The mourning cloak is one of the longest-lived of the butterflies and can live as long as a year. One reason for this is that they hibernate in the winter, which gives them an advantage. Sometimes mourning cloaks emerge from hibernation even before all the snow has melted. They don’t so much take nectar from flowers as they drink the sap, the liquid from rotting fruit, and honeydew from aphids.
To learn more about butterflies, read this.
#4. Rosy Maple Moth
The rosy maple moth is a silk moth, a family that contains some of the most beautiful moths. It gets its name because its caterpillar mostly feeds on several species of maple trees, sometimes defoliating them in the process. Ironically, the adult doesn’t eat.
The tiniest silk moth, the rosy maple only has a wingspan of 1.25 to 1.75 inches, with the females being a little larger than the males. Their wings are notably pink and yellow, and they have pink or rosy-colored legs and antennae. Their furry bodies are also yellow, and the male’s antennae are fuzzier than the female’s.
Go here to read more about moths.
#3. Picasso Bug
This exotic bug, whose scientific name is Sphaerocoris annulus, looks like a child picked up some paints and carefully painted all kinds of abstract designs on its back. Found in subSaharan Africa, the Picasso bug grows to only 1/3 of an inch long. Its ground color is green but it has eleven spots edged with red and black and a wavy band of red-bordered in yellow and black near the head. These colors warn predators that the insect is toxic, but if that doesn’t work, the bug emits an off-putting smell.
#2. Orchid Mantis
The astonishing orchid mantis is one of a group of mantids that mimic flowers. In this case, it mimics the sugar pink Phalaenopsis orchids found in the tropical rainforests of southeast Asia. It is nearly impossible to see this colorful insect when it rests among the petals of this orchid. Four of its six legs look like the orchid’s petals, which leaves the other two to grab prey, which range from butterflies to moths to flies, bees, and beetles. The rest of the body is the pale green of the orchid’s stems, though the mantis is able to change color. These beautiful insects will also eat each other. As with many other mantids, the female is much bigger than the male
For more information about mantises, go here.
#1. Chrysina aurigans
One of the jewel scarabs, this exotic little beetle is not only the world’s prettiest insect but is arguably its most beautiful animal. The reason is simple. It looks like a drop of molten gold. Even though it has an exoskeleton made of chitin like the lowliest cockroach, the light plays upon it in ways that give it its shimmering look. Chrysina aurigans is native to the rainforests of Costa Rica. Other golden beetles in its genus are C. resplendens and C. limbata. There’s even a sister beetle that looks like a little nugget of polished silver. This beetle’s name is C. chrysargyrea.