Social Question

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Why do insects always die on their back?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (15697 points ) June 27th, 2014

When an insect is poisoned, they always seem to die on their back, and never on their feet or side. For a lot of them, the side is geometrically unstable, so I can understand that. But why not die on their feet? Are insects largely unstable and top heavy, or does the poison make them jump onto their back?

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27 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

I think it’s their legs curing up as they die that pushes them up higher off the ground and then they finally tip to one side or the other where they roll onto their backs.

Coloma's avatar

For the same reason Squirrels do, which is a mystery. Maybe @El_Cadejo has the answer, but Squirrels legs don’t curl up yet they are always belly up in the road. haha

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I have seen several which died with a death grip on screen, plant stalk, tree bark. I guess their legs grip when they die, unless there is nothing to grip, resulting in my friend @El_Cadejo‘s description.

XOIIO's avatar

They want one last look at the sky before they die, so that their last memory is a pleasant one.

CWMcCall's avatar

Insect legs are thin and miniscule in weight compared to their massive body. Almost all insects die standing up and the slightest breeze knocks them over on to their backs.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Thanks all. @CWMcCall, what about those that fall on their back before the moment of death, and lay kicking in the air?

hearkat's avatar

[Mod Says] Moved to Social with OP’s permission.

CWMcCall's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Those insects were clearly “on their last legs” and a puff of wind got them in their weakened state to where all they could do is bicycle their final few moments on their backs.

Coloma's avatar

Guess this is where the term ” Go belly up” comes from. haha

ibstubro's avatar

Spiders are insects, and don’t seem to die belly up very often. I don’t believe ants do, either, so it might have to do with the individual structure of the insect.

dxs's avatar

@ibstubro Spiders are not insects and I frequently see them dead belly up.

ibstubro's avatar

Cockroaches, then, @dxs. I’ve rarely seen a cockroach upside down – usually they’re upright and scare me just as much because I can’t tell they’re dead. House centipedes are almost always on their side, because of their body structure. The only dead praying mantis’ that I’ve seen just petrified in place, upright. Lady bugs would have to make quite a spring if they were going belly-up. I just think of all the bugs that have startled me that turned out to be dead.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ibstubro It was in fact cockroaches that inspired this question. My suburb has an issue with them right now, so I’m finding several that my baits have killed each day – always on their back.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s sometimes tough to remember that insects are animals and simply playing the hand they’ve been dealt. Perhaps they die on heir backs writhing in agony.

dxs's avatar

@ibstubro Are you kidding me? Have you been to Florida?

To answer the question, I did some research and it looks like it has to do with the nervous system. For instance, when you spray a bug with raid, it causes the bug to have convulsions where there’s a likelihood that the bug will end up on its back. By then, the bug is too weak that he cannot bring itself back onto its legs, and then dies.

I remember I saw a fly on a window sil that was about to die. He went belly up but its wings were still making noise, so i tured him over. Then he started walking around more, and went belly up again. It really seemed liked he was dead at this point. So that leads me to believe that there may be yet another reason as to why bugs do this when they die.

ibstubro's avatar

When I had a cockroach problem, @FireMadeFlesh, I remember a good number of then remaining upright, freaking me out, #2.

Coloma's avatar

Poor dying bugs, we should have little funerals for them. Now I am sad. haha

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, I have been to Florida, @dxs.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I’ve been to Florida too, @dxs, and those big S.O.B.s pack heat! You try to pull Raid with them they shoot you down and leave you steaming.
@Coloma, sssssshhhhhhhhhh. If my daughter got wind of that suggestion, my life would be daily bug burials!

dxs's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers I’ve never sprayed Raid on any bug, but I’ve heard cockroaches are indesctructable. They’re going to survive the end of the world, right? Whenever there was one in my room, I’d just bring him outside, if I didn’t manage lose him. Cockroaches have this weird ability to just run under something and then vanish.
I find bugs more disturbing when they’re dead.

Coloma's avatar

Well..I did spray a monster cockroach with Raid once, and then put it in a matchbox to show my ex husband. 3 hours later when I opened the box it scurried out, back from the dead. It was literally floating in a paper cup of Raid and came back to life!

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

^^^^^^^^^ Well, that scores high on MY “EWWW!” chart. ^^^^^^^^^^^^

XOIIO's avatar

@Coloma Now it’s in the walls, watching, waiting, and growing…

Coloma's avatar

@XOIIO Not here, somewhere in San Diego from 30 years ago. haha
I had never seen a cockroach in my life until I lived in Southern CA. Gah!

XOIIO's avatar

@Coloma How do you know it didn’t follow you?

Coloma's avatar

@XOIIO Hah..well…if it did I haven’t seen it. The ghost of cockroaches past.

ibstubro's avatar

It’s the size of a VW by now, @Coloma. Think Christine on steRaids.

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