Podcast: How Fast Can the World’s Fastest Insect Fly?

by Ryan Schleeter

February 16, 2016

Check out episode 11 of Completely Optional Knowledge, the podcast that answers questions you never knew you had. Some things in life are #CompletelyOptional — satisfying your curiosity doesn’t have to be one of them.


You might think a dragonfly species would take the prize as the world’s fastest insect, but they had to settle for second in this contest. Read on to see who took the top prize. Photo by Craig O’Neal / Flickr. Creative Commons.

Completely Optional Knowledge listener Stephen Rang wants to know how fast he would have to run (or drive, as it turns out) to flee the world’s fastest known insect. So we’re off to the races with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Chris Goforth, who informs us that this particular insect can reach flying speeds of up to 70 mph — and it’s probably not one you would expect.

It turns out the winner of this insect 50-yard dash of your nightmares — a type of moth called the black cutworm — is both pretty rare and pretty gross looking, probably because it’s most often photographed as a larva.

So instead of forcing you to confront that image, instead we’re bringing you a visual representation of what we imagine to be its internal larval monologue:


Right? Gifs via f*ckyeahmoviegifs.tumblr.com.

Right? Gifs via f*ckyeahmoviegifs.tumblr.com.

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A question for Completely Optional Knowledge, that is! To appear on the show and have your burning curiosities satisfied, send us a question today!

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Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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