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10 Weirdest Bugs of Borneo

stick insect

Borneo is the Kingdom of Bug. Do you know each rainforest tree supports up to 1,000 species of insect? And this doesn’t include other bugs which have no leg, many legs, 8 legs, etc. Most of them can make girls scream. However, I’m really fascinated by bugs, so “bug hunting” is always my favorite activity during jungle trekking. Below is a list of 10 weirdest bugs of Borneo (in my opinion).

No. 10: Stalk-eyed Fly

“You need long eyes to get laid.”

No, Stalk-eyed Fly doesn’t need a long penis to impress female. The long eyestalks projected from the sides of the head of male fly is a symbol of sexy. Female always prefers to mate with the male fly which has longer eyestalks.

Stalk-eyed Flies
Pic: a pair of mating Stalk-eyed Flies

Stalk-eyed Fly (Diopsidae)
Pic: this male Stalk-eyed Fly has eyestalks longer than its body.

Imagine both of our eye are 2 Meters apart. Would you marry a guy like that?

No. 9: Lantern Fly

“The unicorn in world of insects”

Lantern Fly gets its name because people thought its snout was luminous at night (No, it doesn’t). Actually the “nose” is an extension of its mouth for feeding on the sap from plant and tree.

lantern fly
In 19th century, there is a widely circulated myth that persons bitten by Lantern Fly will die if they don’t have sex within 24 hours. Well, Lantern Fly doesn’t bite, so I guess nobody is killed this way.

lantern bug (Fulgoridae)
Whatever, due to its peculiar mouth and colorful wings, Lantern Fly is a favorite subject of photographers. You would find it stays still on tree bark during dusk.

No. 8: Pill Millipede

“Be a slimeball when in danger.”

When disturbed, pill millipede will roll its body into a ball to defend itself.

Pill Millipede

When pill millipede rolls into a ball, I would give it to a clueless city girl, telling her that it’s a beautiful nut. She would keep it in her pocket. Then I’ll wait for the scream. *hahaha*

Pill Millipede on palm

You can see a Pill Millipede “rolls” in following video:

No. 7: Whip Scorpion

“This bug might be fond of SM sex.”

With leathery carapace and a whip-like tail, Whip Scorpion looks like a kinky lover. Probably it also enjoys whipping its prey to death? Just kidding.

whip scorpion

To know its weapon, you may keep your face very close to Whip Scorpion for an unforgettable surprise. Last time my camera was too near to this bug, and it sprayed very potent chemical (a mix of acetic acid and octanoic acid) to my lens. The smell was so terrible that, for hour, my camera smelled like a stinky socks soaked in strong vinegar.

whip scorpion (Thelyphonida)

The good thing about Whip Scorpion is – it can control the population of roaches. Ask your mom to keep a few in the kitchen as cockroach killer and vinegar supplier. 😀

No. 6: Violin Beetle

“The musician of insect’s world?”

Violin Beetle reminds me of a fable about a lazy grasshopper who plays violin and doesn’t listen to ants’ advice to stock food for winter. Whoever see Violin Beetle will be amused by its funny shape.

violin beetle

Banjo Beetle

Violin Beetle is quite a secretive creature and I only see it once. Beware, it is not a romantic violin player. When threatened, it’ll emit a noxious fluid that can hurt your eyes and hands when contacted.

No. 5: Cave Centipede

“The creature from the darkest corner of hell.”

I bet most of you are afraid of centipede. How about a fast moving centipede with long legs?

Cave Centipede

Most bugs are attracted to light, but this eerie bug hates light. You can find a lot of them on the wall of a cave. Their bites are nasty so watch where you put your hand during caving.

House (Scutigeromorpha)

Cave Centipede looks just like a freak coming out of our nightmare.

No. 4: Leech

“The friendliest dweller of rainforest.”

If you walk in the deep forest of Borneo, you will be greeted by hundreds of this little annoying blood sucker. Not only it makes girls scream at highest pitch and maximum volume, I had seen it makes many big guys jumping in panic.

leech on Facebook
Pic: Leeches want to add you as a Food Friend

Leech is blind but it survives the hostile forest environment by being the most persistent bug. When it senses your body heat, it’ll come for you and never quit until it gets a few drops of your warm blood. They are especially abundant during wet season.

tiger leech

Once it gets on your skin, it’ll look for the warmest (most sensitive) spot of your body for a buffet. By the time you find out, it already becomes a hanging blood bag 3 to 5 times bigger.

leech on camera
Pic: leech crawling on camera

The anticoagulant in leech bite will make your wound bleeds profusely for hour, a terrifying scene for the weak-hearted.

fully-fed leech
Pic: a fully-fed leech

To get rid of leech, you may read my article on “How to prevent leech bite?”

No. 3: Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug

“An insect that wears carcasses as trophy.”

Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug is not only weird, it is also disgusting. They mainly prey on ants. After sucking the ant dry, Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug will put the dead body on its back. It can stack more than 20 dead ants at a time.

ant assassin bug

Seeing such corpse-carrying behavior may cause discomfort to your stomach (I think it is funny though), but it is a good camouflage to confuse its predators such as jumping spider.

Ant Assassin Bug

My photos may be not so clear. You may check out better close-up photos here.

No. 2: Horsehair Worm

“Horse hair? It is more like the hair of a demon!”

I wish I’ve never seen this sinister parasite, as it makes me sick just by thinking about it.

mantis
You know mantis is a fierce predator feared by all insects, but it is a victim to Horsehair Worm. One day I saw a mantis running restlessly around, then it fell into a basin. To rescue it from being drown, I grabbed the mantis. Then I saw a worm crawling out of its butt, it was so GROSS.

Horsehair Worm enters insects’ body when the victims (e.g. mantis, cricket) drink water containing its larvae. When the worm is fully grown inside its host and ready to get out, it’ll control the brain of parasitized insect, causing it to seek water and drown itself, then it’ll wriggle out from the ass of its host and return to water.

horsehair worm

Horror movie does happen in real life. Luckily, Horsehair Worm is harmless to human.

No. 1: Stick Insect

“A walking twig.”

Besides being the Weirdest of all, Stick Insect is also a winner of Best Camouflaged and the Longest Insect in the world. The longest insect in the world is a 56.7cm-long (22.3 inches) stick-insect (species: Phobaeticus chani) found in Sabah.

stick insect
Pic: a stick?

stick insect
Pic: No…. It’s a stick insect.

The look of this bizarre bug resembles a stick, and it behaves like a stick too. When it moves, it rocks back and forth to imitate twig swaying in the breeze. Even its eggs also look like seeds, to fool the carnivorous predators. If Charles Darwin saw Stick Insect, he would think it evolved from plant.

mating stick insects
Pic: a pair of mating stick insects, looks like two sticks fucking each other..

Many species of stick insects are parthenogenic, which means the females can produce eggs (offspring) without mating with males!

endemic stick insect of Borneo
Pic: giant female stick insect (species: Haaniella echinata) in Danum Valley, it is endemic to Borneo.

There are around 3,000 species of stick insects in the world, and they have rich variety of shape and size.

So, which weird bug is your favorite? 🙂 Nevermind if you dislike them all, they dislike human too, so it’s unlikely that you would find one of these bugs in your house.

Photos taken in Sabah Borneo, Malaysia

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Sundew, plant that eats insects

sundew

Pitcher plant is the most well-known carnivorous plant of Sabah, but very few know that Sabah also has sundews (or Drosera), another type of insectivorous plant that traps and “eats” insects. There are over 190 species of sundews (Drosera species) and they are widespread in the world. Anyway, Sabah sundew is an interesting “discovery” for me.

comparison of size: 5-cent coin and Sundews
I guess the reason most people don’t see sundews is because they are tiny. As shown in photo above, each plant is about the size of a 5-cent coin. They are almost invisible to those who are not actively looking for them. However, its bright color leaves make my search easier.

Drosera

Drosera burmannii
Sundews usually grow in acidic wet soil. This plant needs a lot of moisture, so you may spot them in the humid area of swamp, island and even highland. I found some at the sandy river bank of Binsuluk River near Membakut. It is probably a Drosera burmannii species (tropical sundew).

Drosera of Sabah
As the soil in which they grow is infertile, sundews lure and trap insects with their sticky tentacles. Once they capture the insect, they will digest it and absorb its nutrition and minerals as a supplement.

close-up of Drosera
close-up of Sundew
Sundew is very small, so I have to use special lens like a microscope to zoom-into its rosette for photo-taking. It is a very beautiful (but odd) plant when seen up-close.

sundew tentacles topped with sticky secretions
mucilage at the tip of sundew tentacles
Check out the droplets at the tip of its tentacles. They look like morning dew, right? That’s why they are called sundew, which means Dew of the Sun. Actually these droplets are mucilage, a sticky secretion that glues the prey such as ant.

Sundew, the carnivorous plant
Sundews are fun to look at (especially during feeding time), so someone even keeps them as “pet”. Sundews are protected plant in some countries. I don’t think Sabah or Malaysia has any law to protect sundews.

Sundew plant of Sabah
Sundew has long stem that carries flowers far away from the sticky trap of its base, so it won’t accidentally trap its pollinators.

flowers of Sundew
Pic: The flower and buds of sundew.

Sabah sundews
To confirm my specimen is really a carnivorous plant, I purposely put a few ants on its leaves. Note the leaf at the right has very long outer tentacles, which are also known as snap-tentacles. In nature, the sweet mucilage of sundew can attract insects.

ant struggled in Sundew trap
The trap works. The sticky mucilage immobilizes the ants. Their movement becomes slower and slower. The more they struggle, the more they are enveloped by mucilage. Bigger ants are still able to escape in my experiment.

insect trapped and digested by sundew
The final blow comes, when the movement triggers the inner and outer tentacles of sundew to bend toward the ants, pressing them to contact more sticky mucilage (see photo above). As a result, the ants are either die of exhaustion or asphyxiation in about half an hour. Sundew will then secrete enzymes to digest the captured prey, dissolving it into nutrient soup for consumption.

I’m glad that sundews don’t eat human.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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