Firebug (Pyrrhocorus apterus) is a fearless bug, 7-12 mm, feeding on fruits and dead insects.

Praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) 40-75 mm. The forelegs are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey. The picture shows the hunter eating a small gecko.

Tiger moth (Panaxia quadripunctaria) occurs so abundantly in the Butterfly Valley that they cover most of the leaves and trunks of the trees.

Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) 33-60 mm. It was previously considered a pest in Central Europe. The mouth of the grasshopper has powerful jaws.

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), wingspan 85 mm. This beautiful butterfly can be seen in the garden of the Monastery of Ag. Antonios on Paros.

Greek Cicada (Tibicen plebejus) is the largest European cicada. Its sound can be heard 800 m away.

Born with six legs

Text & Photos: Bjarne Emil Time

350 million years of history

In addition, the insects have 4 wings. But there are exceptions. 3/4 of all animals on earth are insects, and they were here long before us. For 350 million years, they have had the opportunity to develop and adapt to changing environments.

Humans have existed for only 2.5 million years, and all the time we have been dealing with insects, for better or worse. They do not only pollinate our food plants, berries and fruits, but are also important pieces in many ecosystems.
For almost two hundred years we were addicted to cochineal lice, which make the fine colour carmine red, used in lipstick and to dye clothes. Carmine is a poison that lice secrete as protection against their enemies. Fortunately, carmine is now being produced synthetically.

Mantis are good hunters. Their eyes are large. The first pair of legs are equipped with spikes and claws for holding the prey. The mantis can also attack larger animals than itself, such as small lizards and birds.
In general, the hunt goes well, but the male’s life is risky. Sexual activity can kill him. The female needs a lot of protein to produce eggs. Therefore, he becomes her first meal after mating.

The butterfly migrations on Paros are peaceful events. In June every year, thousands of tiger moths migrate to a small valley where water and various trees create a perfectly cool microclimate. During September, the females leave the area to lay eggs, preferably in the shade among bushes and plants and die afterwards. The larvae hatch in October. Next spring, in May, they transform into butterflies, and a new migration begins.
The valley is a beautiful nature park, open to the public in summer, and is highly recommended. But remember to avoid stressing the insects. Be careful, make no noise and don`t shoot with flash when you visit.

Sometimes there is more prey than the predators can eat. Especially when the prey are hordes of hungry migratory grasshoppers in search of fresh plants. These mass migrations are well known back in time, mentioned in the Old Testament as one of ten land plagues in Egypt. In a short time, the farmers lost their entire crop. Fortunately, this rarely happens these days.

The females remain silent in the grass or low bushes, hence the ancient Greek saying «Happy are the cicadas, for their women are dumb.» The truth is that they listen to good sex partners. The female lays her eggs in the bark of a tree. After hatching, the offspring lives as a nymph in the ground for up to five years. Perhaps this long-life cycle is an adaptation to avoid being eaten by the praying mantis which is a large predatory insect.

120 dB
A summer vacation on a Greek island is sunbathing and swimming. Lovely evenings at a tavern in comfortable temperature are also included, plus the intense sounds of the male singing cicadas in the surrounding trees. Whether today’s cicadas are descendants of Prince Tithonus is uncertain. He grew very old, babbled, and eventually became the first cicada, according to Greek mythology. The sounds, which are measured at a full 120 dB, occur when the cicada tightens and relaxes muscles that are attached to the membranes on its hind body.