And speaking of successful lifeforms, beetles are the true champions. Some sources estimate over 400,000 known species. That's a four, followed by five zeros.
If you go to South America, spend time in a tropical rainforest, look under a few rotting logs or turn over a leaf or two, you'll probably discover a new species yourself. You can name it after your mother or high school biology teacher.
One found on plants in the milkweed family is simply called red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). A herbivore, its body is full of the unpalatable toxins in intakes in milkweed sap, which looks like Elmer's glue. The insect’s red and black coloration is a warning to any would-be predators.
At Ijams look for them on the milkweed growing in the plaza.
- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales