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Noon Edition

Methuselah Insect

The life spans of most insects are shorter than a year. This is in part because they're cold-blooded and thus poorly equipped for winter. Some do live much longer, though, and my guess is that the periodic cicada holds the record.

They can live for a whopping seventeen years. And all but about two weeks of that time is spent in immaturity under ground. When they finally do rise from under the ground, their adult lives are over before they've hardly begun.

There's at least one species of long-horned beetle that beats out the cicada with its ability to survive in its larval form in dead wood for thirty-five to fifty years. But the insect with the longest life span, as far as we know, is the African mound-building termite queen.

These termites are known in part for the large mounds they build. They look something like haystacks, but more solid, like stone. Inside the mounds lives a highly sophisticated society of insects. Some termite queens live longer than sixty years.

Some scientists think they may live even longer than that. One thing's for sure, she's not lying around watching television all those long years. She's laying eggs constantly, up to something like thirty-five thousand a day.

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