One of the best parts of camping is being outside and enjoying nature. During the day, it can be fun to take a nature hike to see what kinds of animals and insects you can find. But did you also know that it can be a lot of fun to hike at night? It’s true! A fun night hike can let you see nature in a whole new way.

Of course, if you decide to hike at night, you’ll want to be very quiet. You’ll need to be careful not to wake up any sleeping insects.

Have you ever WONDERed whether bugs sleep like you do? Do they have tiny little beds with blankets and pillows? Maybe they have cute sayings their parents say before bed, such as “Sleep tight! Don’t let the human beings bite!”

Rest is an important part of the daily life of any living organism. You know how you feel if you don’t get enough sleep. It’s hard to do the things you like to do if you don’t get enough rest every evening.

Are bugs the same way, though? Scientists know that bugs don’t sleep in quite the same way that we humans do. For example, insects don’t have eyelids, so they can’t get any “shut-eye” like we do.

Scientists haven’t been able to study the brain activity of insects like they’ve studied humans and other mammals. Still, they believe that insects do indeed rest each day. They just do it a little differently than we do.

Most insects are either active only during the day or only at night. When they’re not active, they rest. This state of rest in insects is called torpor, and it’s not exactly like sleep as we know it.

During torpor, insects remain very still and don’t respond much to stimuli around them. Insects in a state of torpor can appear to be sleeping, because they aren’t moving or responding to the world around them.

Insects can come out of torpor in a matter of seconds if an environmental stimulus is powerful enough. Stimuli that can “wake” insects out of torpor include sounds, movement and the rising (or setting) of the sun.

So where do insects rest when they’re in a state of torpor? It can be just about anywhere they feel comfortable and safe from predators. Some resting places can be a bit strange. For example, some bees will clamp their jaws onto a plant and fold up their legs as they enter a state of torpor, dangling in this odd pose until morning!

Likewise, some migrating butterflies gather together in large groups in the evenings and hang from branches, appearing to sleep in anticipation of their continued journey the next day. Resting in large groups provides the butterflies with protection from predators, too.

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  1. We think it is interesting that an insect’s bed can be a leaf and that insects do not have eyelids. We wonder if they have eyebrows.

    • Hello, Mrs. Kannass’ Class! What a WONDERful, Wonder Question! We would love to see an insect with eyebrows! Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Wonder Friends! :-)

  2. We learned a lot about how insects sleep! We were wondering if they use dirt as a blanket??

    • Interesting question, Mrs. Whitehead & Mrs. Wright’s class! Digging a hole in the dirt to sleep would probably help keep them warm! Thanks for commenting! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where do bugs sleep?
  • Do bugs sleep like we do?
  • What is torpor?

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Try It Out

Wonderopolis would like to thank Wonder Friend Zach Slavin of the Audubon Foundation’s Together Green Initiative for suggesting the following WONDERful activity for today’s Camp What-A-Wonder.

Insects come in all shapes and sizes and their different diets and behavior mean they live in a wide variety of places. Can you find where your local insects sleep? When you find them, take a picture and create a virtual bug collection or photo album. We’d love to see what insects you find, so be sure to post to Facebook so all your Wonder Friends can see them too!

  • Ants, bees, and wasps are social insects, which means they work together to build a home for their entire extended family. Look for anthills in open areas like fields and yards, and even in the cracks of driveways and sidewalks.
  • Some insects, such as caterpillars, sleep in trees and bushes, close to the leaves that they spend most of their waking time eating. Lots of worms, beetles and other insects sleep on the ground, so you’ll often find them crawling around in the leaf litter or hiding in or under fallen trees and branches.
  • Other insects, such as mosquitoes and dragonflies, spend part of their lives living and sleeping underwater. If you take a net to a shallow pond, you might find them in their larval stages!

If it’s dark outside and you think all of the insects have gone to sleep, try shining a bright light at a white sheet or other lightly colored surface to attract nocturnal insects!

Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ 2011 BioBlitz BobCast 3: Bugs in the Night video, middle school students work with entomologists to find desert insects that are attracted to light.

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