Some people know enough about prehistoric life to know that flowers and grass did not appear until the Cretaceous period, near the end of the dinosaur’s reign here on Earth. So surely butterflies, bees, and all those kinds of insects didn’t show up at least until about the same time as flowers right? Wrong!
When tracing back through the many insect groups (boy did I open up a can of worms there!) I was surprised to discover that there were members of the butterfly and wasp groups already around during the Jurassic period, long before any flowers grew.
Technically the groups are called Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, and ants), and the critters flying around weren’t exactly like the butterflies we see fluttering from flower to flower or the wasps buzzing around an angry nest in the tree, but…they’re still relatives, and what on earth are they doing when there are no flowers around?
Any sort of list for prehistoric insects was mostly unhelpful. Research for this series mostly involved painstaking unwinding of threads from modern groups, then tracing back on which ones are the oldest and most “primitive” groups. Luckily, Wikipedia has a handy little chart on the upper right-hand corner for almost every insect genus and family that says when in time it appeared. I would then trace those lineages and see if I could find fossil versions, or modern species that look nearly identical to their fossil ancestors.
Once I crawled into the rabbit hole I just had to keep going, even when I realized I’d bitten into quite a bit more than I could chew! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! 😀
I am eternally grateful that Wikipedia is such a great resource. From the sheer number of insects I discovered I’m afraid I did not have the time to cross reference with other resources, but you can always look into the many resources Wikipedia lists at the bottom of each article if you want to find out more!
“Dicondylia.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dicondylia#Taxonomy
“Lepidoptera.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidoptera
“Caddisfly.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caddisfly
“Hymenoptera.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymenoptera
“Sawfly.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sawfly
“Wasp.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasp
“Horntail.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horntail