#3. Photuris Fireflies
You, sir, are a firefly. Yes, you're a firefly this time. You're a male firefly to be specific, just emerged into a cool, breezy, moonlit summer meadow. Crickets are chirping, frogs are croaking and the trees sigh softly in the wind. What's that light? Ah! Of course, the tell-tale flashing pattern of a beautiful young lady to share your evening with. You venture forth, a song in your heart and a merry lilt in your flight-path.
Too bad she's just going to rip your heart out.
No, you're not just being bug-emo; she is literally going to rip your heart from body and devour your intestines if you fly over to have sex with her.
"Can't we just cuddle? Maybe a handjob?"
Some female fireflies go out at night hoping to find the same thing we all want: Just a little lovin' and maybe a chance to pass on our genes (or the very least some new strange that'll let us do the weird stuff). But a select few of those hotties--you know the ones, just hovering there, blinking like skanks--are actually traps: They're really females of the Photuris genus, who answer the signals of entirely different species in order to seduce, slaughter and devour their menfolk.
Oh, snap! Mothafucka got Ackbar'd.
This deviant behavior not only serves to feed the femme fatales, but also helps to control the numbers of competing species for their offspring and, to add insult to injury, they also absorb their prey's defensive toxins for their own benefit. In some cases, Photuris devote so much time to perfecting their Siren song that they lose their own distinct signal. Often male Photuris end up having to imitate other species themselves, just to get close to the female. So while she's expecting a hot meal, all she's getting is a super-size portion of humpin'. It's basically the firefly equivalent of the porno pizza guy.
#2. The Cobra Lily
So you're flitting through the swamp one day, just doing what flying insects do--looking for food, a mate, somebody's head to fly into and annoy--when you catch sight of a distinctive red leaf in the sea of otherwise monotonous green. Like a hypnotic beacon, it leads you ever downward, all the way into a tight, hairy little tunnel that smells just a little odd.*
*Some things are too easy, even for Cracked.
So you finally get deep down into that sweet, sweet tunnel action--expecting to reap the appropriate rewards--only to find yourself suddenly stumbling about in a stagnant pool of corpses. Hey, we've all been there, right? No big deal; as long as you get out before the cops arrive, that's just a bad weekend and a life lesson learned: Never trust hairy stank tunnels.
Hairy stank tunnels are the plant kingdom's version of a big butt and a smile.
But when you turn for the nearest sunny exit, you bounce right off it. So you try another opening. Oop, you bounce off that too. You buzz around the mocking chamber for hours, nowhere to rest on the slick walls and a watery grave below...
"What? So my guts are a drowning pool of rotting corpses. You look fat in that dress. We all got problems."
A single species in its own special genus, the Cobra lily is one of the world's most unusual carnivorous plants, having evolved to toy with its victims like a flesh-eating house of mirrors. Its only true opening is secretively tucked beneath its serpentine hood, while its insides are lined with dozens of transparent windows. Any fly who enters is going to waste all of its energy banging its head on the walls until it collapses from exhaustion in the fluid-filled pool below, where symbiotic bacteria slowly break it down into plant food. Sound familiar? That's because it's the insect equivalent of the thing that ate Boba Fett at the end of Jedi.
#1. Assassin Bugs
So you're a termite patrolling the tunnels of your colony when one day you stumble upon a dead body just sort of dangling there. You sigh wearily: That's an obvious health code violation. And since some evil bastard forgot to give you hands, you clamber up there, silently curse the wicked god that made you grab corpses with the same part of your body that you taste with and prepare take out the trash the only way you know how. But the second you bite down, something long, sharp and horrible slams clear through your body, and starts to boil you from the inside out...
You've just made the acquaintance of an assassin bug: A diverse group of predators who impale prey on straw-like mouthparts and pump them full of digestive enzymes; sucking out their innards like an Organ Slurpee (the second to worst flavor behind banana) and leaving behind a practically unmarred, but entirely empty exoskeleton.
Like spiders, these vampiric fiends employ a whole range of unusual hunting tactics--some cover themselves in sticky plant juices to both attract and ensnare their victims, some live in partnership with carnivorous plants, while still others camouflage their spiny bodies in dust, debris or even the corpses of past prey.
That's right: They wear the corpses of their victims like clothes. The animal kingdom has found its Buffalo Bill.
The termite assassins utilize a unique two-part cloaking technique to hunt their prey: First, they cover themselves in bits and pieces of the termite mound itself, rendering them essentially invisible. Now that they can come and go as they please, they wait near a convenient opening for a worker to wander too close, devour it and then dangle the corpse just inside the nest to attract more termites. As soon as another insect latches onto the body for disposal, it gets hauled up, slaughtered and added to the trap which, counter-intuitively, becomes more effective as the number of corpses increase... because apparently termites operate on horror movie logic.
"Dear God it's terrifying! Wait here while I go check it out."
Jonathan Wojcik has a lot more to say about bugs, parasites and even weirder creatures on his own website, Bogleech.com.
Have an idea for an article? Think you're funny? Just go here and sign up. No experience necessary.
If you're glad you aren't an insect, then maybe you should check out the animals that have no qualms about killing humans in The 6 Deadliest Creatures (That Can Fit In Your Shoe) and The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You.
And stop by Twitter to get previews of upcoming articles and trick your friends into thinking you're psychic.