Olympians of the Insect World

USA Olympic Rings

By: Matthew Campbell

Have you been keeping an eye on Sochi? In case you haven’t, as of this morning (2/20/14), U.S.A has 7 gold, 5 silver, and 11 bronze medals.

In the spirit of the 2014 Olympics, we at Modern thought it’d be fun to take a look at some gold winners of the insect world. Among the millions of species of insects, the following five have proven to be Olympians in their own way.

The Highest Jumper

According to the Guinness Book of World Records (2013), the highest recorded jump by a person was 7 feet 11.66 inches and was done by Javier Sotomayor in 1989. Think of the tallest person you have ever met. Javier could have jumped over him or her.

The insect who wins the gold in gravity defiance can jump 100 times its body length – the froghopper. If we blew a froghopper up to human size, it would be able to  jump over the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington.

The Fastest Crawler

It’s always nice to see an American win a gold, but how do you feel about cockroaches? When it comes to a land race, American Cockroaches will be victorious as they can run up to 3.4 mph. That may not sound very fast since it’s the average walking speed of a person, but when you consider their size, that’s the equivalent of a human running about 215mph.

Sprinting close to 30mph, Usain Bolt is considered the fastest human who ever walked (or ran on) this planet. I won’t ask you to imagine a cockroach his size.

Pest Quote

The Fastest Flyer

Since people are physically incapable of flying, I will compare our next insect champion to the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, one of the fastest jets ever built. It has a top speed of about 2,000 mph, meaning it can circle the planet in about 11 hours. The Blackbird is about 107 feet long. In one minute, at top speed, it can fly 1,630 times its length (174,410 feet or 30 miles).

The flying speed demon of the insect world makes the Blackbird look like a turtle. At only 4 inches long, and at full throttle, the dragonfly can fly up to 35 mph. That’s 9,240  times its body length! If we shrank Lockheed’s Blackbird to the size of a dragonfly, there would be no competition. The dragonfly would zoom past its competitor.

The Strongest Insect

Do you think you can pull an object that weighs as much as the Space Shuttle (about 165,000 lbs)? Reverend Kevin Fast of Canada and current record holder for the most weight pulled by a man almost did. On “Live with Regis and Kelly,” he pulled a 126,200 pound fire truck 100 feet. Impressive.

The male dung beetle is known to pull over 1,000 times its body weight. To give you an idea of how much that is, Kevin Fast pulled about 740 times his body weight with the 63 ton fire truck. If the dung beetle was the size of the Reverend, not only would that be frightening, but it could pull the 82.5 ton Space Shuttle with ease.

Pest Sting Quote

The Most Painful Sting

Did you know that insect stings have a scale to measure painfulness? It’s called the Schmidt Pain Index (SPI), and it’s named after the brave scientist who allowed insects to sting him.

Sting painfulness on the SPI is measured from 1 (bearable) to 4 (extremely painful). To give an idea of the painfulness along the scale, fire ants weigh in at 1.2; a bald-faced hornet’s sting measures at 2.0 while the paper wasp sits at a whopping 3.0. But these stings are nothing compared to that of our gold medalist. The bullet ant tops the chart with an SPI of 4.0! Schmidt’s own testimonial of the sting compared it to “someone turning a screw into the flesh or ripping out muscles and tendons.” I’m happy we don’t have any bullet ants in these parts.

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