Right beneath our feet is a secret world of disguise and espionage, social networking and courtship, rape and pillage, parenthood and relationships. The terrestrial arthropods – the bugs – are the most dominant animals on our planet. They outnumber us in their hundreds of billions and have survived for 500 million years. They have outlived every catastrophe Earth has thrown at them, seen the dinosaurs come and go and even witnessed our own arrival. They are so intrinsic to the natural world that without them we would struggle to exist. Sir David Attenborough will take you deep into the macroscopic world of bugs that deeply fascinates him. He will uncover their marvellous adaptability from the primitive evolutionary design of the millipede through to the graceful apex predators that exist today. We will descend into the watery depths to witness aquatic battles, explore intricate spider webs and get closer than ever before to the fangs and claws that create this fascinating world.
It’s sexy time with the arthropods! This week David Attenborough takes a look at the courtship rituals of the creatures beneath our feet. But lovebugs won’t want to take tips from these bugs. The male Chilean rose tarantula, for instance, weaves a silk mat; deposits sperm on it, then sucks that sperm into a finger-like appendage near his mouth before he looks for a mate. Then there’s the gruesome, but surprisingly effective, coupling of praying mantis. The cinematography is as amazing as ever, catching the mating battles of tramp ants and providing luminescent footage of the courtship dance of Tanzanian red claw scorpions.
3 • 2013 • Nature
A close-up view of sex, bug-style, as David Attenborough talks viewers through the different ways in which creepy-crawlies reproduce. Size matters for the minuscule male orb spider, creepily sneaking up on its intended and trying to mate without her noticing, while there's no rest for the lothario-like butterfly, which has plenty of notches on its proverbial bedpost. However, the harvestman spider has no use for sex at all, and reproduces by cloning itself.
4 • 2013 • Nature
While most of the series has focused on conflict, this episode is all about co-operation. The suitably named social spiders spin one enormous, 30m web for the whole colony, a queen bee rules her hive with a strict hierarchy and some green ants show great team spirit to help build a nest together. There are no broken societies here. David Attenborough shifts the focus to bugs that prefer cooperation rather than conflict. They include burrowing cockroaches, the suitably named social spiders - which share a 30-metre web.
5 • 2013 • Nature
Watching the fascinating display of leafcutter ants at the Natural History Museum in London is one of my favourite ways to while away a few hours, but David Attenborough is operating on a much grander scale here in the last in the series. In Argentina he observes some cousins of the leafcutters who are part of a community so vast it spans an entire continent. It’s one of the mandible-dropping facts in a look at one of the key inventions of arthropods: colonies. From termites and honey bees to the leafcutters, it seems that if you want to get ahead, you move to the big city.
6 • 2013 • Nature