When the entomologists laid insect traps in Yercaud in Tamil Nadu a few months ago, they did not expect that India would join the club of countries that are home to a unique insect.
For, they were surprised to find the world’s smallest flying insect, a fairyfly that goes by the name Kikiki huna.
Measuring a mere 0.16 mm, Kikiki huna is a multicellular organism that is smaller than single-celled organisms.
Kikiki huna has been found in Chidambaram as well. While the insect’s functions are yet to be determined, Kikiki was first discovered in Trinidad around 20 years ago and later in Hawaii. It has also been found in Australia and Argentina. It derives its name from Hawaiian which means ‘tiny bit’.
Prashanth Mohanraj from the National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources (NBAIR), Bengaluru, said Kikiki huna is an engineering and artistic marvel. “It can do everything that a larger insect can do. It has a brain, a nervous and digestive system. It is the sheer marvel of creation… it is a great find as we didn’t expect it to turn up in our traps,” he said.
He said that like all fairyflies, Kikiki huna lays its eggs in the eggs of other insects. “The entire life stage is passed in the single egg, from which it emerges as an adult,” he said.
Not visible to the naked eye, the tiny insect has eluded many entomologists, said Abraham Verghese, director of NBAIR. He said that the challenge is now to study the tiny insect and understand its role. “Insects in our country are poorly known… we still have over a lakh species to identify.
Each has a role to play in the ecosystem,” he said.
Dr. Mohanraj said that the presence of such exquisitely crafted organisms within the confines of our borders should be a source of national pride and ensuring their continued survival should be our duty.