Yesterday I wrote about some unusual insect orders, but even within the familiar orders, there are some strange insects. For example, the fly order contains things like:
Bat Flies are “flattened, spiderlike flies without eyes or wings” (source: wikipedia) and they are parasites of bats. They are rarely found elsewhere.
Carnid flies are another creepy example of flightless flies* that act as parasites. The carnid flies live in bird nests and are “blood-sucking ectoparasites of nestling birds” (thanks wikipeida, way to make them sound like villains).
And naturally, I have to mention the fly parasites of my favourite lineage… bee lice! The fascinating thing about bee lice is that they are not lice at all, but flightless flies*! Like the other two fly families above, they act more like mites or lice than flies. They exist as commensalists (they are not thought to be parasites) within honeybee hives, though their impact on bee health is largely unknown. Either way, it is not considered to be a major pest by beekeepers.
Velvet ants (Mutillidae) are one of the weirder hymenopteran families, in my opinion. They are often beautifully and brilliantly coloured. Flightless wasps rather than true ants (Formicidae), they are reputed to have one of the most painful stings known to man. I almost picked one up because they are so beautiful. It’s tempting, even knowing how dangerous they are.
The order Neuroptera has a few very interesting families. One of my favourites is the Mantis flies. Their upper body looks strikingly** like a praying mantis.
Owl flies are another neuropteran family. I only recently learned of them, via a Mark Berkery post. They are very (unexpectedly) beautiful (to my eyes). They seem like a cross between a dragonfly and a butterfly to me.