Grandma’s house never had enough toys. We had some weird marble rolling game, a “candy land” game that other grandkids had taken too literally, and Mr. potato head. I had loads of fun putting limbs, appendages, and parts in the wrong places. Mr. Potato head looked goofy no matter what I did, but it was even funnier after hours of trying to move that marble. Diving into my ongoing arthropod studies, one insect’s features brought me back to my youthful potato head days. So, take a guess, which insect is Mr. Potato head?
If you guessed:
- Potato Bug – you are wrong. That was too obvious and not applicable enough. Also, they are just hideous, Mr. Potato head is goofy, but still cute.
- Roly-Poly – you are wrong…and probably from Idaho where they mislabel this arthropod as the potato bug. The potato bug described above is the Jerusalem cricket. The roly-poly isn’t even an insect. Also, just the relationship to the name is too easy.
- Daddy Long Legs – you are much warmer than the previous two. Although this critter is not an insect (it is an arachnid though most of the species labeled as daddy long legs are not spiders), it does have the ability to keep on being itself after an appendage has been pulled off.
- Praying Mantis – While they have the eyes to match ol’ potato head, you are still wrong. We need more than one connection.
- Ants – nailed it!
If I had to personify an ant, I would put those long dangly things (antennae) coming out of the side of the head as the ears. People stretch their ears to similar shapes and let’s face it, the older we get, the longer our ears seam to get.
Breaking this down, those things look more like arms. It looks like when I put the arms from Mr. Potato Head (MPH) into the earholes, he looked more like an ant. To throw things off, even more, ants don’t even use those appendages for hearing. The antennae are smellers (along with the maxillae) and feelers.
Yes, ant’s eyes are big and buggy like MPH. Fortunately for our level of confusion, their eyes are for seeing. That being said, did you realize they have more than one eye? They are more like when we stole the eyes off of Mrs. Potato Head and added them to MPH. Ants have two compound eyes and then 3 simple eyes (ocelli) which detect light and shadow.
We already covered where the smelling sniffers are on ants, but we also use our noses for breathing. Ants have this part all messed up as well. Their breathing apparatus consists of holes on their sides where air passes into the trachea. MPH doesn’t actually breathe, but he fits the ant description either by leaving the side holes open or sticking the nose into his side.
Where Are The Ears?
This is the piece that kicked off this entire strange sidetrack of mine. Ants do their hearing through their legs. They have receptors that pick up on vibrations just like us but on their legs instead of inside satellite-shaped ears. These vibrations give them clues about their surroundings such as messages from their colony mates, clues about approaching predators, and other sound waves in their environment.
More Than a Mustache
I can’t help but notice that an ant’s mandibles have a certain type of mustache look to them. Unlike our decorative mustaches, ants use their mandibles to:
- transport food
- process food
- decapitate or dismember prey
- aid in nest building
Whenever we were done with MPH and it was time for something else, the time came to disassemble and put him away. The same rings true with ants. They are great for study and entertainment, but when they start to go where they shouldn’t – get in the space of something else, it is time to disassemble their colony.
Getting rid of ants is much more complex than taking MPH apart. The bulk of their colony (some species numbering in the hundreds of thousands range) resides hidden and protected in the colony. Luckily, my team of ant experts here at Rove Pest Control have all the tools necessary to take it off your hands and let you focus on your areas of expertise.