iant cockroaches, hard working armies of ants and copy-cat insects, are only some examples of the exotic variety of invertebrate fauna found in Peru. It is amongst the 10 countries in the world with the greatest amount of biodiversity and, according to scientists, has around 70% of life habitats to be found on the planet.
Although there are no exact statistics available, due to the need for more research, it is estimated - to give just one example - that around 21% of butterfly species in the world can be found in Peru. The Amazon region has the largest number of insects, due to the megadiversity of its flora, and its intense humidity, making it the the perfect habitat for these tiny beings that are of such great importance for the ecosystem.
Around Iquitos, capital of Loreto department, it's possible to see Titanus giganteus, the largest cockroach in the world, the female of which can grow up to 15 centimetres. The Megasoma actaeon species is also a great surprise, this time for it's weight; it can grow up to 80 grams.
One of the more surprising insects to be found is the so called stick insect , grasshoppers of the orthopteran species. These insects take the form of the leaves and lichens which shelter them, and even imitate their movements. They can measure up to 30 centimetres, and are similar to the slim stick insects. The same perfection is achieved by another small grasshopper, with big antennae, the species Tettigoniidae, this one native to the Peruvian jungle and excellent at faking the appearance of leaves bitten by other insects.
Although ants are not chameleonic,
they are a fine example of community life in the Amazon forests, where you can find two clear examples; legionary ants, from the Formicidae family and Atta sp., the leaf cutters. The first species are said to be omnivores, and they move in large groups destroying everything in their path, including vertebrates which may cross it! The latter species are real gourmets, because they use the leaves they cut to make a paste that provides the habitat for their actual food, mushrooms. Both types of ants may live in colonies of up to a million insects.
However these tiny insects are not just native to the jungle, but can also be found in the river crossed desert coast of Peru, principally in the hillocks found in the Lachay National Park, to the north of Lima. This park has its own peculiar flora that provides a habitat for insect species native to that landscape. South of Lima, in Paracas National Park, Scarabeidae cockroaches can be found living in guano birds nests, feeding of their droppings. It is thought that they play an important part in the recycling of this organic material.
Another unique type of cockroach, known as "conocochas", from the coleopterous species, live in the high Andes. As a result of evolution, these insects lost their wings due to having to adapt to the climactic conditions of the region. An excellent indicator of the environmental health of the rivers and lakes of this area, is the abundant presence of efemeropeters, plecopters, and tricopters, which depend on crystal clear, rapid, unpolluted waters to survive.
All these insects are part of the rich entomological variety found in Peru, a paradise for researchers in this complex world of surprising miniature species.