That mind-boggling number is the estimated number of insects on the planet, according to E. O. Wilson. That’s supposedly 80% of the number of every species on Earth. The Entomological Society of America says:
More than one million different species of insects have been identified, but some experts believe that there may be as many as 30 million insect species in the world that have yet to be discovered and identified.
Oh my giddy aunt! Rather than short-circuiting my brain try to get a handle on such numbers, may I present a mere four of these seen recently near my house? Many thanks to insect enthusiast Elaine (go on, you know you are) for help with ID. We are happy to be corrected, so please let us know.
The first is flower or tiger longicorn, Aridaeus thoracicus.
Next is an immature cicada.
Below is a fiddler beetle, Eupoecila australasiae. These scarab beetles are called “fiddlers” because the pattern on the back resembles the shape of a fiddle – not so much with this one, but there’s individual variation.
And finally an antlion lacewing … [Update: this may not be an antlion – see Denis’s post in the comments section.]
There are oodles of antlion larvae pits in the dirt under my house, but I have never till now recognised an adult. Eisner, in his excellent book For Love of Insects, says this about antlion larvae:
Antlions are sit-and-wait predators. They typically construct funnel-shaped pits in sandy soil and lie in wait at the bottom with only the head protruding. Any small arthropod that oversteps the pit margin runs the risk of sliding down the pit’s slope into the jaws of the predator. … the antlion builds its pit by scooping up sand with its front end and flipping it away over its back, repeating the action time and time again until it has fashioned a pit of sufficient depth. … the antlion resorts to this flipping behaviour to shower the prey with sand as the prey struggles to avoid sliding into the pit. The antlion always orients itself in the pit in such a fashion that it can direct the flips with accuracy [having poor eyesight, it senses which way to flip the sand from the trickles of sand coming down on it from the struggling insect]. Pelted by sand, the prey finds itself swept down the slope and into the jaws of the larva. …Insects that slide to the bottom of the pit are instantly impaled upon the [ferocious-looking] jaws and slowly killed by salivary injection. The soft insides of the prey are then liquefied under action of the injected enzymes and the ensuing ‘soup’ is sucked up by the larva through the hollow core of its jaws. Ants … are the principal insects to fall victim to this strategy.
I look forward to seeing some more of the 10 quintillion. Just don’t ask me to do the maths.