How long do insects live? The usual answer is ‘not very long’. That’s because they are tiny and cold-blooded so susceptible to freezing temperatures – the vast majority of insects die out in the winter.
There are, of course, a few exceptions. The periodic cicada has a 17 year long lifespan. Almost all of this is spent living underground in larval form – the adult only emerges for a few weeks every 17 years in order to breed and then it dies. There’s also a species of long-horned beetle, the splendour beetle, which, under the right conditions can make it to a full half century – but this is not the longest living insect…
If you visit certain parts of Africa you may see some unusual constructions emerging from the soil. They can be up to 9 metres tall and have diameters of 30 metres. They are actually miniature cities built by tiny little insects – termites. If you were to scale it up, a termite mound is the equivalent of a 2 kilometre high building built by humans!
Termites are similar to ants in that they come in different ‘castes’, each suited to a particular job. Workers are the smallest, and most numerous, type of termite. It’s their job is to feed and clean other termites, dig tunnels, gather food and to build and maintain the nest. They do all of this despite being blind!
Next come the soldiers. Their job is to defend the colony from intruders and any unwanted attention from predators. They are armed with a poisonous bite which is most unpleasant to be on the receiving end of – imagine being bitten by hundreds, if not thousands of them!
Finally, we come to the king and queen. They have just one job – to make more termites! The queen is much larger than her 1 centimetre subjects and can grow up to 6 centimetres long. She lays literally millions of eggs during her life, and her life is exceptionally long. In fact, it is she who is the longest lived insect making, on average 40 years but up to a possible 60 years.
These are the record holding long-lived insects but which animals have the longest lives of all? Well, we’ve found out the 10 creatures with the longest lifespans just for you, and you can read all about them here. Enjoy!