HOME
TheInfoList



Insects or Insecta (from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language ...
') are pancrustacean hexapod
invertebrate Invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a ''backbone'' or ''spine''), derived from the notochord. This includes all animals apart from the subphylum Vertebrata. Familiar examples of inverte ...
s and the largest group within the
arthropod An arthropod (, (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Euarthropoda,Reference showing that Euarthropoda is a phylum: which includes insects, ...
phylum In biology, a phylum (; plural: phyla) is a level of classification or taxonomic rank below kingdom and above class. Traditionally, in botany the term division has been used instead of phylum, although the International Code of Nomenclature for ...
. Definitions and circumscriptions vary; usually, insects comprise a class within the Arthropoda. As used here, the term Insecta is
synonymous A synonym is a word, morpheme, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phrase in the same language. For example, the words ''begin'', ''start'', ''commence'', and ''initiate'' are all synonyms of one another ...
with Ectognatha. Insects have a
chitin units that repeat to form long chains in β-(1→4)-linkage. of the chitin molecule. Chitin (carbon, C8H13O5N)n ( ) is a long-chain polymer of ''N''-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose. This polysaccharide is a primary component of cel ...

chitin
ous
exoskeleton An exoskeleton (from Greek έξω, ''éxō'' "outer" and σκελετός, ''skeletós'' "skeleton") is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a huma ...
, a three-part body (
head A head is the part of an organism which usually includes the ears, brain, forehead, cheeks, chin, eyes, nose, and mouth, each of which aid in various sensory functions such as sight, hearing, smell, and taste, respectively. Some very simple anim ...
,
thorax The thorax or chest is a part of the anatomy of humans, mammals, other tetrapod animals located between the neck and the abdomen. In insects, crustaceans, and the extinct trilobites, the thorax is one of the three main divisions of the creature's ...
and
abdomen The abdomen (colloquially called the belly, tummy, midriff or stomach) is the part of the body between the thorax (chest) and pelvis, in humans and in other vertebrates. The abdomen is the front part of the abdominal segment of the trunk. The area ...
), three pairs of jointed
legs A leg is a weight-bearing and locomotive anatomical structure, usually having a columnar shape. During locomotion, legs function as "extensible struts". The combination of movements at all joints can be modeled as a single, linear element cap ...
,
compound eye as imaged by an electron microscope A compound eye is a Eye, visual organ found in arthropods such as insects and crustaceans. It may consist of thousands of ommatidia, which are tiny independent photoreception units that consist of a cornea, len ...
s and one pair of antennae. Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexe ...
and represent more than half of all known living
organism In biology, an organism (from Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the properties of life. It is a synonym for "life form". Organisms are classified by taxonomy into groups such as ...
s. The total number of
extant Extant is the opposite of the word extinct. It may refer to: * Extant hereditary titles * Extant literature, surviving literature, such as ''Beowulf'', the oldest extant manuscript written in English * Extant taxon, a taxon which is not extinct, s ...
species is estimated at between six and ten million; In: potentially over 90% of the animal life forms on Earth are insects. Insects may be found in nearly all
environments Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism or ...
, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans, which are dominated by another arthropod group,
crustacean Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimps, prawns, krill, woodlice, and barnacles. The crustacean group can be treated as a subphylum under the clade Mandibulat ...
s, which recent research has indicated insects are nested within. Nearly all insects hatch from
egg Diagram of a chicken egg in its 9th day. Membranes: allantois, chorion, amnion, and vitellus/ yolk. An egg is the organic vessel containing the zygote in which an embryo develops until it can survive on its own, at which point the animal hatch ...

egg
s. Insect growth is constrained by the inelastic
exoskeleton An exoskeleton (from Greek έξω, ''éxō'' "outer" and σκελετός, ''skeletós'' "skeleton") is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a huma ...
and development involves a series of molts. The immature stages often differ from the adults in structure, habit and habitat, and can include a passive
pupa '' A pupa ( la, pupa, "doll"; plural: ''pupae'') is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation between immature and mature stages. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, ...
l stage in those groups that undergo four-stage metamorphosis. Insects that undergo three-stage metamorphosis lack a pupal stage and adults develop through a series of nymphal stages."insect physiology" ''McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology'', Ch. 9, p. 233, 2007 The higher level relationship of the
insects Insects or Insecta (from Latin ') are pancrustacean hexapod invertebrates and the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Definitions and circumscriptions vary; usually, insects comprise a class within the Arthropoda. As used here, the term ...
is unclear. Fossilized insects of enormous size have been found from the
Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from ...
Era, including giant dragonflies with wingspans of 55 to 70 cm (22 to 28 in). The most diverse insect groups appear to have coevolved with
flowering plants The flowering plants, also known as Angiospermae (), or Magnoliophyta (), are the most diverse group of land plants, with 64 orders, 416 families, approximately 13,000 known genera and 300,000 known species. Like gymnosperms, angiosperms are seed ...
. Adult insects typically move about by walking, flying, or sometimes swimming. As it allows for rapid yet stable movement, many insects adopt a tripedal gait in which they walk with their legs touching the ground in alternating triangles, composed of the front and rear on one side with the middle on the other side. Insects are the only invertebrates to have evolved flight, and all flying insects derive from one common ancestor. Many insects spend at least part of their lives under water, with
larva A larva (plural larvae ) is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle. The lar ...
l adaptations that include
gill A gill () is a respiratory organ found in many aquatic organisms that extracts dissolved oxygen from water and excretes carbon dioxide. The gills of some species, such as hermit crabs, have adapted to allow respiration on land provided they are k ...
s, and some adult insects are aquatic and have adaptations for swimming. Some species, such as
water striders The Gerridae are a family of insects in the order Hemiptera, commonly known as water striders, water skeeters, water scooters, water bugs, pond skaters, water skippers, Jesus bugs, or water skimmers. Consistent with the classification of the Ger ...
, are capable of walking on the surface of water. Insects are mostly solitary, but some, such as certain
bee Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily ...
s,
ant Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants appear in the fossil record across the globe in considerable diversity during the latest Early Cretaceous and e ...
s and
termite Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the order Blattodea (along with cockroaches). Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, ...
s, are social and live in large, well-organized colonies. Some insects, such as
earwig Earwigs make up the insect order Dermaptera. With about 2,000 species in 12 families, they are one of the smaller insect orders. Earwigs have characteristic cerci, a pair of forceps-like pincers on their abdomen, and membranous wings folded unde ...
s, show maternal care, guarding their eggs and young. Insects can communicate with each other in a variety of ways. Male
moth Moths are a paraphyletic group of insects that includes all members of the order Lepidoptera that are not butterflies, with moths making up the vast majority of the order. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth, many of whi ...
s can sense the
pheromone exposes Nasonov's gland (white – at tip of abdomen) releasing pheromone to entice swarm into an empty hive A pheromone (from Ancient Greek ' "to bear" and hormone) is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in mem ...
s of female moths over great distances. Other species communicate with sounds:
crickets Crickets are Orthopteran insects which are related to bush crickets, and, more distantly, to grasshoppers. In older literature, such as Imms,Imms AD, rev. Richards OW & Davies RG (1970) ''A General Textbook of Entomology'' 9th Ed. Methuen 886 p ...
stridulate, or rub their wings together, to attract a mate and repel other males. Lampyrid
beetle Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera (), in the superorder Endopterygota. Their front pair of wings are hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. The Coleoptera, with about 400,000 ...

beetle
s communicate with light. Humans regard certain insects as
pests Pest or The Pest may refer to: Science and medicine * Pest (organism), an animal or plant detrimental to humans or human concerns ** Weed, a plant considered undesirable * Infectious disease, an illness resulting from an infection ** Plague (diseas ...
, and attempt to control them using
insecticide Insecticides are substances used to kill insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against insect eggs and larvae, respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and by consumers. Insecticides are claimed to be a ...
s, and a host of other techniques. Some insects damage crops by feeding on sap, leaves, fruits, or wood. Some species are
parasitic Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or inside another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life. The entomologist E. O. Wilson has ...
, and may
vector Vector may refer to: Biology *Vector (epidemiology), an agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; a disease vector *Vector (molecular biology), a DNA molecule used as a vehicle to artificially carr ...
diseases. Some insects perform complex ecological roles; blow-flies, for example, help consume
carrion Carrion (from Latin ''caro'', meaning "meat") is the decaying flesh of dead animals, including human flesh. Overview Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters (or scave ...
but also spread diseases. Insect
pollinators A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This helps to bring about fertilization of the ovules in the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grains. Insect pollinators in ...
are essential to the life cycle of many flowering plant species on which most organisms, including humans, are at least partly dependent; without them, the terrestrial portion of the biosphere would be devastated. Many insects are considered ecologically beneficial as predators and a few provide direct economic benefit.
Silkworm ''Bombyx mori'', the domestic silk moth, is an insect from the moth family Bombycidae. It is the closest relative of ''Bombyx mandarina'', the wild silk moth. The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of a silk moth. It is an economically impor ...
s produce
silk SILK is an audio compression format and audio codec developed by Skype Limited, now a Microsoft subsidiary. It was developed for use in Skype, as a replacement for the SVOPC codec. Since licensing out, it has also been used by others. It has been ...
and honey bees produce
honey Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance made by honey bees and some related insects. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants (floral nectar) or from secretions of other insects (such as honeydew), by regurgitation, enzymatic a ...
and both have been domesticated by humans. Insects are consumed as food in 80% of the world's nations, by people in roughly 3000 ethnic groups.Damian Carrington.
Insects could be the key to meeting food needs of growing global population
", ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer'' and ''The Guardian Weekly'', ''The Guardian'' is part of the Gua ...

The Guardian
'' 1 August 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
Human activities also have effects on insect biodiversity.


Etymology

The word "insect" comes from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language ...
word ', meaning "with a notched or divided body", or literally "cut into", from the neuter singular perfect passive participle of , "to cut into, to cut up", from ''in''- "into" and ''secare'' "to cut"; because insects appear "cut into" three sections. A
calque In linguistics, a calque () or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal word-for-word or root-for-root translation. When used as a verb, "to calque" means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while ...
of
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor of ...
"cut into sections",
Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian. He wrote the encyclopedic ''Natural ...

Pliny the Elder
introduced the Latin designation as a loan-translation of the
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor of ...
word (''éntomos'') or "insect" (as in
entomology upright=1.2, A Phyllium sp., mimicking a leaf Entomology () is the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology. In the past the term "insect" was less specific, and historically the definition of entomology would also include the study of anima ...
), which was
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic schoo ...

Aristotle
's term for this class of life, also in reference to their "notched" bodies. "Insect" first appears documented in English in 1601 in
Holland Holland is a geographical regionG. Geerts & H. Heestermans, 1981, ''Groot Woordenboek der Nederlandse Taal. Deel I'', Van Dale Lexicografie, Utrecht, p 1105 and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands. The name ''Holland'' is also ...
's translation of Pliny. Translations of Aristotle's term also form the usual word for "insect" in
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
(, from ' "to cut" and '' mil'', "animal"),
Serbo-Croatian Serbo-Croatian () – also called Serbo-Croat (), Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (SCB), Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), and Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian (BCMS) – is a South Slavic language and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and ...
(''zareznik'', from ''rezati'', "to cut"),
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...

Russian
( ''nasekomoje'', from ''seč'/-sekat, "to cut"), etc.


Definitions

The precise definition of the taxon Insecta and the equivalent English name "insect" varies; three alternative definitions are shown in the table. In the broadest
circumscription Circumscription may refer to: *Circumscribed circle *Circumscription (logic) *Circumscription (taxonomy) *Circumscription theory, a theory about the origins of the political state in the history of human evolution proposed by the American anthropol ...
, Insecta ''
sensu lato ''Sensu'' is a Latin word meaning "in the sense of". It is used in a number of fields including biology, geology, linguistics, semiotics, and law. Commonly it refers to how strictly or loosely an expression is used in describing any particular co ...
'' consists of all hexapods. Traditionally, insects defined in this way were divided into "Apterygota" (the first five groups in the table)—the wingless insects—and
Pterygota The Pterygota (Ancient Greek ''πτερυγωτός'' (pterugōtós, “winged”)) are a subclass of insects that includes the winged insects. It also includes insect orders that are secondarily wingless (that is, insect groups whose ancestors ...
—the winged and secondarily wingless insects. However, modern phylogenetic studies have shown that "Apterygota" is not monophyletic, and so does not form a good taxon. A narrower circumscription restricts insects to those hexapods with external mouthparts, and comprises only the last three groups in the table. In this sense, Insecta ''
sensu stricto ''Sensu'' is a Latin word meaning "in the sense of". It is used in a number of fields including biology, geology, linguistics, semiotics, and law. Commonly it refers to how strictly or loosely an expression is used in describing any particular co ...
'' is equivalent to Ectognatha. In the narrowest circumscription, insects are restricted to hexapods that are either winged or descended from winged ancestors. Insecta '' sensu strictissimo'' is then equivalent to Pterygota. For the purposes of this article, the middle definition is used; insects consist of two wingless taxa,
Archaeognatha The Archaeognatha are an order of apterygotes, known by various common names such as jumping bristletails. Among extant insect taxa they are some of the most evolutionarily primitive; they appeared in the Middle Devonian period at about the same t ...

Archaeognatha
(jumping bristletails) and
Zygentoma Zygentoma are an order in the class Insecta, and consist of about 550 known species. The Zygentoma include the so-called silverfish or fishmoths, and the firebrats. A conspicuous feature of the order are the three long caudal filaments. The two la ...
(silverfish), plus the winged or secondarily wingless Pterygota.


Phylogeny and evolution

Although traditionally grouped with
millipede Millipedes are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments; they are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda, the name being derived from this feature. Each double-legged segment is ...
s and
centipede Centipedes (from the New Latin prefix ', "hundred", and the Latin word ', ''"foot"'') are predatory arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda (Ancient Greek ', ''kheilos'', lip, and New Latin suffix , "foot", describing the forcipules) of the ...
s—possibly on the basis of convergent adaptations to terrestrialisation—evidence has emerged favoring closer evolutionary ties with
crustacean Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimps, prawns, krill, woodlice, and barnacles. The crustacean group can be treated as a subphylum under the clade Mandibulat ...
s. In the
Pancrustacea Pancrustacea is a clade, comprising all crustaceans and hexapods. This grouping is contrary to the Atelocerata hypothesis, in which Myriapoda and Hexapoda are sister taxa, and Crustacea are only more distantly related. As of 2010, the Pancrustacea ...
theory, insects, together with
Entognatha The Entognatha are a class of wingless and ametabolous arthropods, which, together with the insects, makes up the subphylum Hexapoda. Their mouthparts are entognathous, meaning that they are retracted within the head, unlike the insects. Entognat ...
,
Remipedia Remipedia is a class of blind crustaceans found in coastal aquifers which contain saline groundwater, with populations identified in almost every ocean basin so far explored, including in Australia, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. The f ...
, and
Cephalocarida The Cephalocarida are a class in the subphylum Crustacea comprising only 12 benthic species. They were discovered in 1955 by Howard L. Sanders, and are commonly referred to as horseshoe shrimps. They have been grouped together with the Remipedia ...
, make up a natural
clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "branch"), also known as a monophyletic group or natural group, is a group of organisms that are monophyletic—that is, composed of a common ancestor and all its lineal descendants - on a phylogenetic tree. R ...
labeled Miracrustacea within Crustaceans, now termed Pancrustacea. Insects form a single clade, closely related to crustaceans and
myriapod Myriapoda (Ancient Greek ''myria-'' (''μυρίος'' "ten thousand") + ''pous'' (''πούς'' "foot") is a subphylum of arthropods containing millipedes, centipedes, and others. The group contains over 16,000 species, most of which are terrestria ...
s. Other terrestrial arthropods, such as
centipede Centipedes (from the New Latin prefix ', "hundred", and the Latin word ', ''"foot"'') are predatory arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda (Ancient Greek ', ''kheilos'', lip, and New Latin suffix , "foot", describing the forcipules) of the ...
s,
millipede Millipedes are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments; they are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda, the name being derived from this feature. Each double-legged segment is ...
s,
scorpion Scorpions are predatory arachnids of the order Scorpiones. They have eight legs, and are easily recognized by a pair of grasping pincers and a narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back and always endin ...
s,
spider Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, chelicerae with fangs generally able to inject venom, and spinnerets that extrude silk. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversi ...

spider
s,
woodlice A woodlouse (plural woodlice) is a crustacean from the monophyletic suborder Oniscidea within the isopods. This name is descriptive of their being found in old wood. The first woodlice were marine isopods which are presumed to have colonised lan ...
,
mite Mites are small arachnids (eight-legged arthropods). Mites are not a defined taxon, but the name is used for members of several groups in the subclass acari of the class Arachnida. Mites span two different groups of arachnids: * The Acariform ...
s, and
tick Ticks (suborder Ixodida) are parasitic arachnids that are part of the superorder Parasitiformes. Along with mites, they constitute the subclass Acari. Adult ticks are approximately 3 to 5 mm in length depending on age, sex, species, and " ...
s are sometimes confused with insects since their body plans can appear similar, sharing (as do all arthropods) a jointed exoskeleton. However, upon closer examination, their features differ significantly; most noticeably, they do not have the six-legged characteristic of adult insects. The higher-level
phylogeny , based on completely sequenced genomes. A phylogenetic tree (also phylogeny or evolutionary tree Felsenstein J. (2004). ''Inferring Phylogenies'' Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA.) is a branching diagram or a tree showing the evolutionary rela ...

phylogeny
of the arthropods continues to be a matter of debate and research. In 2008, researchers at
Tufts University Tufts University is a private research university on the border of Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1852 as Tufts College by Christian universalists who sought to open a nonsectarian institution of higher learning. It was ...
uncovered what they believe is the world's oldest known full-body impression of a primitive flying insect, a 300-million-year-old specimen from the
Carboniferous period The Carboniferous ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic that spans 60 million years from the end of the Devonian Period million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Permian Period, Mya. The name ''Carboniferous'' means "coal-b ...
. The oldest insect fossil was considered to be the
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60.3 million years from the end of the Silurian, million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Carboniferous, Mya. It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from ...
''
Rhyniognatha hirsti ''Rhyniognatha'' is an extinct genus of arthropod of disputed placement. It has been considered in some analyses as the oldest insect known, as well as possibly being a flying insect ''Rhynignatha'' is known from a partial head with preserved mout ...
'', from the 396-million-year-old
Rhynie chert The Rhynie chert is an Early Devonian sedimentary deposit exhibiting extraordinary fossil detail or completeness (a Lagerstätte). It is exposed near the village of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland; a second unit, the Windyfield chert, is located ...

Rhynie chert
. However, other analyses have disputed this placement, finding it to be more likely a myriapod. Four super radiations of insects have occurred:
beetle Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera (), in the superorder Endopterygota. Their front pair of wings are hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. The Coleoptera, with about 400,000 ...

beetle
s (from about 300 million years ago),
flies Flies are insects of the order Diptera, the name being derived from the Greek δι- ''di-'' "two", and πτερόν ''pteron'' "wing". Insects of this order use only a single pair of wings to fly, the hindwings having evolved into advanced mec ...

flies
(from about 250 million years ago),
moth Moths are a paraphyletic group of insects that includes all members of the order Lepidoptera that are not butterflies, with moths making up the vast majority of the order. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth, many of whi ...
s and
wasp A wasp is any insect of the narrow-waisted suborder Apocrita of the order Hymenoptera which is neither a bee nor an ant; this excludes the broad-waisted sawflies (Symphyta), which look somewhat like wasps but are in a separate suborder. The w ...
s (both from about 150 million years ago). These four groups account for the majority of described species. The flies and moths along with the
flea Flea, the common name for the order Siphonaptera, includes 2,500 species of small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of mammals and birds. Fleas live by consuming blood, or hematophagy, from their hosts. Adult fleas grow to ...
s evolved from the
Mecoptera Mecoptera (from the Greek: ''mecos'' = "long", ''ptera'' = "wings") are an order of insects in the superorder Endopterygota with about six hundred species in nine families worldwide. Mecopterans are sometimes called scorpionflies after their larg ...
. The origins of
insect flight Insects are the only group of invertebrates that have evolved wings and flight. Insects first flew in the Carboniferous, some 350 to 400 million years ago. Wings may have evolved from appendages on the sides of existing limbs, which already had ner ...
remain obscure, since the earliest winged insects currently known appear to have been capable fliers. Some extinct insects had an additional pair of winglets attaching to the first segment of the thorax, for a total of three pairs. As of 2009, no evidence suggests the insects were a particularly successful group of animals before they evolved to have wings.
Late Carboniferous Late may refer to: * LATE, an acronym which could stand for: ** Limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, a proposed form of dementia ** Local-authority trading enterprise, a New Zealand business law ** Local average treatment effect, ...
and
Early Permian#REDIRECT One (disambiguation) One or 1 is the first natural number. 1, one, or ONE may also refer to: * AD 1, first year of the AD era * 1 BC, the year before AD 1 * ''One'' (pronoun), a pronoun in the English language * Hydrogen, with an atomic nu ...
insect orders include both
extant Extant is the opposite of the word extinct. It may refer to: * Extant hereditary titles * Extant literature, surviving literature, such as ''Beowulf'', the oldest extant manuscript written in English * Extant taxon, a taxon which is not extinct, s ...
groups, their stem groups, and a number of
Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from ...
groups, now extinct. During this era, some giant dragonfly-like forms reached wingspans of , making them far larger than any living insect. This gigantism may have been due to higher
atmospheric oxygen Atmospheric chemistry is a branch of atmospheric science in which the chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere and that of other planets is studied. It is a multidisciplinary approach of research and draws on environmental chemistry, physics, meteorolo ...
levels that allowed increased respiratory efficiency relative to today. The lack of flying vertebrates could have been another factor. Most extinct orders of insects developed during the Permian period that began around 270 million years ago. Many of the early groups became extinct during the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction in the history of the Earth, around 252 million years ago. The remarkably successful
Hymenoptera Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones. Many of the species are parasitic. Females typically ...
appeared as long as 200 million years ago in the
Triassic The Triassic ( ) is a geologic period and system which spans 50.6 million years from the end of the Permian Period 251.902 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Jurassic Period 201.36 Mya. The Triassic is the first and shortest period of ...
period, but achieved their wide diversity more recently in the
Cenozoic The Cenozoic Era ( ) meaning "new life" is the current and most recent of the three geological eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (also referred to as the K-Pg, or K-T, extinction event) is the boundary betwee ...
era, which began 66 million years ago. A number of highly successful insect groups evolved in conjunction with
flowering plants The flowering plants, also known as Angiospermae (), or Magnoliophyta (), are the most diverse group of land plants, with 64 orders, 416 families, approximately 13,000 known genera and 300,000 known species. Like gymnosperms, angiosperms are seed ...
, a powerful illustration of coevolution. Many modern insect
genera Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial ...
developed during the Cenozoic. Insects from this period on are often found preserved in
amber Amber is fossilized tree resin that has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Much valued from antiquity to the present as a gemstone, amber is made into a variety of decorative objects."Amber" (2004). In ...
, often in perfect condition. The body plan, or
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines *Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts *Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies, ...
, of such specimens is thus easily compared with modern species. The study of fossilized insects is called paleoentomology.


Phylogeny


Taxonomy

Traditional morphology-based or appearance-based
systematics Biological systematics is the study of the diversification of living forms, both past and present, and the relationships among living things through time. Relationships are visualized as evolutionary trees (synonyms: cladograms, phylogenetic trees ...
have usually given the
Hexapoda The subphylum Hexapoda (from the Greek for ''six legs'') constitutes the most species of arthropods and includes the insects as well as three much smaller groups of wingless arthropods: Collembola, Protura, and Diplura (all of these were once cons ...
the rank of superclass, and identified four groups within it: insects (Ectognatha), springtails (
Collembola Springtails (Collembola) form the largest of the three lineages of modern hexapods that are no longer considered insects (the other two are the Protura and Diplura). Although the three orders are sometimes grouped together in a class called Entogn ...
),
Protura The Protura, or proturans, and sometimes nicknamed coneheads, are very small (<2 mm long), soil-dwelling animals, so inconspicuous they were not noticed until the 20th century. The Protura constitute an Diplura The order Diplura ("two-pronged bristletails") is one of three orders within the class Entognatha (alongside Collembola (springtails) and Protura). The name "diplura", or "two tails", refers to the characteristic pair of caudal appendages or fila ...
, the latter three being grouped together as the
Entognatha The Entognatha are a class of wingless and ametabolous arthropods, which, together with the insects, makes up the subphylum Hexapoda. Their mouthparts are entognathous, meaning that they are retracted within the head, unlike the insects. Entognat ...
on the basis of internalized mouth parts. Supraordinal relationships have undergone numerous changes with the advent of methods based on evolutionary history and genetic data. A recent theory is that the Hexapoda are
polyphyletic 300px, Cladogram of the primates, showing a monophyly (the simians, in yellow), a paraphyly">monophyly.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="primates, showing a monophyly">primates, showing a monophyly (the simians, ...
(where the last common ancestor was not a member of the group), with the entognath classes having separate evolutionary histories from the Insecta. Many of the traditional appearance-based
taxa In biology, a taxon (back-formation from ''taxonomy''; plural taxa) is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit. Although neither is required, a taxon is usually known by a particular name ...
have been shown to be paraphyletic, so rather than using ranks like subclass,
superorder In biological classification, the order ( la, ordo) is # a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by the nomenclature codes. The well-known ranks in descending order are: life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, ...
, and
infraorder In biological classification, the order ( la, ordo) is # a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by the nomenclature codes. The well-known ranks in descending order are: life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, ...
, it has proved better to use
monophyletic 300px, A cladogram of the primates, showing a ''monophyletic'' taxon: ''the simians'' (in yellow); a ''paraphyletic'' taxon: ''the prosimians'' (in cyan, including the red patch); and a ''polyphyletic'' group: ''the night-active primates, i.e., ...
groupings (in which the last common ancestor is a member of the group). The following represents the best-supported monophyletic groupings for the Insecta. Insects can be divided into two groups historically treated as subclasses: wingless insects, known as Apterygota, and winged insects, known as Pterygota. The Apterygota consist of the primitively wingless order of the silverfish (Zygentoma). Archaeognatha make up the Monocondylia based on the shape of their
mandibles In anatomy, the mandible, lower jaw or jawbone is the largest, strongest and lowest bone in the human facial skeleton. It forms the lower jaw and holds the lower teeth in place. The mandible sits beneath the maxilla. It is the only movable bone of ...
, while Zygentoma and Pterygota are grouped together as Dicondylia. The Zygentoma themselves possibly are not
monophyletic 300px, A cladogram of the primates, showing a ''monophyletic'' taxon: ''the simians'' (in yellow); a ''paraphyletic'' taxon: ''the prosimians'' (in cyan, including the red patch); and a ''polyphyletic'' group: ''the night-active primates, i.e., ...
, with the family
Lepidotrichidae Lepidotrichidae is a family of basal insects belonging to the order Zygentoma. The family is considered to contain two genera: the extinct ''Lepidotrix'', known from specimens preserved in Baltic amber, and the extant ''Tricholepidion'', which con ...
being a
sister group In phylogenetics, a sister group or sister taxon comprises the closest relative(s) of another given unit in an evolutionary tree. Definition The expression is most easily illustrated by a cladogram: Taxon A and taxon B are sister groups to each ...
to the Dicondylia (Pterygota and the remaining Zygentoma). Paleoptera and Neoptera are the winged orders of insects differentiated by the presence of hardened body parts called
sclerite A sclerite (Greek , ', meaning "hard") is a hardened body part. In various branches of biology the term is applied to various structures, but not as a rule to vertebrate anatomical features such as bones and teeth. Instead it refers most commonly t ...
s, and in the Neoptera, muscles that allow their wings to fold flatly over the abdomen. Neoptera can further be divided into incomplete metamorphosis-based (
Polyneoptera The cohort Polyneoptera is a proposed taxonomic ranking for the Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, etc.) and all other Neopteran insects believed to be more closely related to Orthoptera than to any other insect orders. These winged insects, now ...
and
Paraneoptera Paraneoptera or Acercaria is a monophyletic superorder of insects which includes four extant orders, the bark lice (which contains true lice), thrips, and hemipterans, the true bugs. It also includes a fifth extinct order, the Permopsocida, known ...
) and complete metamorphosis-based groups. It has proved difficult to clarify the relationships between the orders in Polyneoptera because of constant new findings calling for revision of the taxa. For example, the Paraneoptera have turned out to be more closely related to the Endopterygota than to the rest of the Exopterygota. The recent molecular finding that the traditional louse orders
Mallophaga The Mallophaga are a suborder of lice, known as chewing lice, biting lice, or bird lice, containing more than 3000 species. These lice are external parasites that feed mainly on birds, although some species also feed on mammals. They infest both d ...
and
Anoplura Sucking lice (Anoplura, formerly known as Siphunculata) have around 500 species and represent the smaller of the two traditional suborders of lice. As opposed to the paraphyletic chewing lice, which are now divided among three suborders, the sucki ...
are derived from within
Psocoptera Psocoptera are an order of insects that are commonly known as booklice, barklice or barkflies. They first appeared in the Permian period, 295–248 million years ago. They are often regarded as the most primitive of the hemipteroids. Their n ...

Psocoptera
has led to the new taxon
Psocodea Psocodea is a taxonomic group of insects comprising the bark lice, book lice and true lice. It was formerly considered a superorder, but is now generally considered by entomologists as an order. Despite the greatly differing appearance of lice, th ...
.
Phasmatodea The Phasmatodea (also known as Phasmida, Phasmatoptera or Spectra) are an order of insects whose members are variously known as stick insects, stick-bugs, walking sticks, or bug sticks. They are generally referred to as phasmatodeans, phasmids, ...
and Embiidina have been suggested to form the Eukinolabia. Mantodea, Blattodea, and Isoptera are thought to form a monophyletic group termed
Dictyoptera Dictyoptera (from Greek δίκτυον ''diktyon'' "net" and πτερόν ''pteron'' "wing") is an insect superorder that includes two extant orders of polyneopterous insects: the order Blattodea (termites and cockroaches together) and the orde ...
. The Exopterygota likely are paraphyletic in regard to the Endopterygota. Matters that have incurred controversy include Strepsiptera and Diptera grouped together as Halteria based on a reduction of one of the wing pairs—a position not well-supported in the entomological community. The Neuropterida are often lumped or split on the whims of the taxonomist. Fleas are now thought to be closely related to boreid mecopterans. Many questions remain in the basal relationships among endopterygote orders, particularly the Hymenoptera. The study of the classification or taxonomy of any insect is called
systematic entomology ''Systematic Entomology'' is a scientific journal covering the field of systematic entomology, published by the Royal Entomological Society of London. Having begun in 1932 as ''Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London, Series B: Tax ...
. If one works with a more specific order or even a family, the term may also be made specific to that order or family, for example systematic dipterology.


Evolutionary relationships

Insects are prey for a variety of organisms, including terrestrial vertebrates. The earliest vertebrates on land existed 400 million years ago and were large amphibious
piscivore (''Nerodia sipedon'') eating a fish A piscivore is a carnivore, carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. Piscivorous is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophagous. Fish were the diet of early tetrapods (amphibians); insectivory came ...
s. Through gradual evolutionary change,
insectivory A robber fly eating a hoverfly The giant anteater, a large insectivorous mammal An insectivore is a carnivorous plant or animal that eats insects. An alternative term is entomophage, which also refers to the human practice of eating insects. ...
was the next diet type to evolve. Insects were among the earliest terrestrial
herbivore 250px, A sawfly_larva_feedi ...
s and acted as major selection agents on plants. Plants evolved chemical defenses against this herbivory and the insects, in turn, evolved mechanisms to deal with plant toxins. Many insects make use of these toxins to protect themselves from their predators. Such insects often advertise their toxicity using warning colors. This successful evolutionary pattern has also been used by
mimic In evolutionary biology, mimicry is an evolved resemblance between an organism and another object, often an organism of another species. Mimicry may evolve between different species, or between individuals of the same species. Often, mimicry fu ...
s. Over time, this has led to complex groups of coevolved species. Conversely, some interactions between plants and insects, like
pollination Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, and ...
, are beneficial to both organisms. Coevolution has led to the development of very specific mutualisms in such systems.


Diversity

Estimates on the total number of insect species, or those within specific orders, often vary considerably. Globally, averages of these estimates suggest there are around 1.5 million beetle species and 5.5 million insect species, with about 1 million insect species currently found and described. Between 950,000 and 1,000,000 of all described species are insects, so over 50% of all described eukaryotes (1.8 million) are insects (see illustration). With only 950,000 known non-insects, if the actual number of insects is 5.5 million, they may represent over 80% of the total. As only about 20,000 new species of all organisms are described each year, most insect species may remain undescribed, unless the rate of species descriptions greatly increases. Of the 24 orders of insects, four dominate in terms of numbers of described species; at least 670,000 identified species belong to
Coleoptera Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera (), in the superorder Endopterygota. Their front pair of wings are hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. The Coleoptera, with about 400,000 ...
,
Diptera Flies are insects of the order Diptera, the name being derived from the Greek δι- ''di-'' "two", and πτερόν ''pteron'' "wing". Insects of this order use only a single pair of wings to fly, the hindwings having evolved into advanced mec ...
,
Hymenoptera Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones. Many of the species are parasitic. Females typically ...
or
Lepidoptera Lepidoptera ( , from Ancient Greek ''lepís'' “scale” + ''pterón'' “wing”) is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths (both are called lepidopterans). About 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 famili ...
. As of 2017, at least 66 insect species extinctions had been recorded in the previous 500 years, which generally occurred on oceanic islands. Declines in insect abundance have been attributed to artificial lighting, land use changes such as urbanization or agricultural use, pesticide use, and invasive species. Studies summarized in a 2019 review suggested a large proportion of insect species are threatened with extinction in the 21st century. Though ecologist Manu Sanders notes the 2019 review was biased by mostly excluding data showing increases or stability in insect population, with the studies limited to specific geographic areas and specific groups of species. A larger meta-study published in 2020, analyzing data from 166 long-term surveys, suggested that populations of terrestrial insects are decreasing by about 9% per decade. Claims of pending mass insect extinctions or "insect apocalypse" based on a subset of these studies have been popularized in news reports, but often extrapolate beyond the study data or hyperbolize study findings. Other areas have shown increases in some insect species, although trends in most regions are currently unknown. It is difficult to assess long-term trends in insect abundance or diversity because historical measurements are generally not known for many species. Robust data to assess at-risk areas or species is especially lacking for arctic and tropical regions and a majority of the southern hemisphere.


Morphology and physiology


External

Insects have segmented bodies supported by
exoskeleton An exoskeleton (from Greek έξω, ''éxō'' "outer" and σκελετός, ''skeletós'' "skeleton") is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a huma ...
s, the hard outer covering made mostly of
chitin units that repeat to form long chains in β-(1→4)-linkage. of the chitin molecule. Chitin (carbon, C8H13O5N)n ( ) is a long-chain polymer of ''N''-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose. This polysaccharide is a primary component of cel ...

chitin
. The segments of the body are organized into three distinctive but interconnected units, or tagmata: a head, a
thorax The thorax or chest is a part of the anatomy of humans, mammals, other tetrapod animals located between the neck and the abdomen. In insects, crustaceans, and the extinct trilobites, the thorax is one of the three main divisions of the creature's ...
and an
abdomen The abdomen (colloquially called the belly, tummy, midriff or stomach) is the part of the body between the thorax (chest) and pelvis, in humans and in other vertebrates. The abdomen is the front part of the abdominal segment of the trunk. The area ...
. The head supports a pair of sensory antennae, a pair of
compound eye as imaged by an electron microscope A compound eye is a Eye, visual organ found in arthropods such as insects and crustaceans. It may consist of thousands of ommatidia, which are tiny independent photoreception units that consist of a cornea, len ...
s, zero to three simple eyes (or ocelli) and three sets of variously modified appendages that form the mouthparts. The thorax is made up of three segments: the prothorax, mesothorax and the metathorax. Each thoracic segment supports one pair of legs. The meso- and metathoracic segments may each have a pair of
wings A wing is a type of fin that produces lift while moving through air or some other fluid. Accordingly, wings have streamlined cross-sections that are subject to aerodynamic forces and act as airfoils. A wing's aerodynamic efficiency is expressed ...
, depending on the insect. The abdomen consists of eleven segments, though in a few species of insects, these segments may be fused together or reduced in size. The abdomen also contains most of the digestive,
respiratory The respiratory system (also respiratory apparatus, ventilatory system) is a biological system consisting of specific organs and structures used for gas exchange in animals and plants. The anatomy and physiology that make this happen varies grea ...
,
excretory Excretion is a process in which metabolic waste is eliminated from an organism. In vertebrates this is primarily carried out by the lungs, kidneys, and skin. This is in contrast with secretion, where the substance may have specific tasks after leav ...
and reproductive internal structures. Considerable variation and many adaptations in the body parts of insects occur, especially wings, legs, antenna and mouthparts.


Segmentation

The
head A head is the part of an organism which usually includes the ears, brain, forehead, cheeks, chin, eyes, nose, and mouth, each of which aid in various sensory functions such as sight, hearing, smell, and taste, respectively. Some very simple anim ...
is enclosed in a hard, heavily sclerotized, unsegmented, exoskeletal head capsule, or
epicranium The Epicranium is the medical term for the collection of structures covering the cranium. It consists of the muscles, aponeurosis, and skin. Skull {{anatomy-stub ...
, which contains most of the sensing organs, including the antennae, ocellus or eyes, and the mouthparts. Of all the insect orders, Orthoptera displays the most features found in other insects, including the
sutures Suture, literally meaning "seam", may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * ''Suture'' (album), a 2000 album by American Industrial rock band Chemlab * ''Suture'' (film), a 1993 film directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel Healthcare * Sut ...
and
sclerite A sclerite (Greek , ', meaning "hard") is a hardened body part. In various branches of biology the term is applied to various structures, but not as a rule to vertebrate anatomical features such as bones and teeth. Instead it refers most commonly t ...
s. Here, the vertex, or the apex (dorsal region), is situated between the compound eyes for insects with a hypognathous and opisthognathous head. In prognathous insects, the vertex is not found between the compound eyes, but rather, where the ocellus, ocelli are normally. This is because the primary axis of the head is rotated 90° to become parallel to the primary axis of the body. In some species, this region is modified and assumes a different name. The thorax is a tagma composed of three sections, the prothorax, mesothorax and the metathorax. The anterior segment, closest to the head, is the prothorax, with the major features being the first pair of legs and the pronotum. The middle segment is the mesothorax, with the major features being the second pair of legs and the anterior wings. The third and most posterior segment, abutting the abdomen, is the metathorax, which features the third pair of legs and the posterior wings. Each segment is delineated by an intersegmental suture. Each segment has four basic regions. The dorsal surface is called the tergum (or ''notum'') to distinguish it from the abdominal terga. The two lateral regions are called the pleura (singular: pleuron) and the ventral aspect is called the sternum. In turn, the notum of the prothorax is called the pronotum, the notum for the mesothorax is called the mesonotum and the notum for the metathorax is called the metanotum. Continuing with this logic, the mesopleura and metapleura, as well as the mesosternum and metasternum, are used. The abdomen is the largest tagma of the insect, which typically consists of 11–12 segments and is less strongly sclerotized than the head or thorax. Each segment of the abdomen is represented by a sclerotized tergum and sternum. Terga are separated from each other and from the adjacent sterna or pleura by membranes. Spiracles are located in the pleural area. Variation of this ground plan includes the fusion of terga or terga and sterna to form continuous dorsal or ventral shields or a conical tube. Some insects bear a sclerite in the pleural area called a laterotergite. Ventral sclerites are sometimes called laterosternites. During the embryonic stage of many insects and the postembryonic stage of primitive insects, 11 abdominal segments are present. In modern insects there is a tendency toward reduction in the number of the abdominal segments, but the primitive number of 11 is maintained during embryogenesis. Variation in abdominal segment number is considerable. If the Apterygota are considered to be indicative of the ground plan for pterygotes, confusion reigns: adult Protura have 12 segments, Collembola have 6. The orthopteran family Acrididae has 11 segments, and a fossil specimen of Zoraptera has a 10-segmented abdomen.


Exoskeleton

The insect outer skeleton, the cuticle, is made up of two layers: the epicuticle, which is a thin and waxy water resistant outer layer and contains no
chitin units that repeat to form long chains in β-(1→4)-linkage. of the chitin molecule. Chitin (carbon, C8H13O5N)n ( ) is a long-chain polymer of ''N''-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose. This polysaccharide is a primary component of cel ...

chitin
, and a lower layer called the procuticle. The procuticle is chitinous and much thicker than the epicuticle and has two layers: an outer layer known as the exocuticle and an inner layer known as the endocuticle. The tough and flexible endocuticle is built from numerous layers of fibrous chitin and proteins, criss-crossing each other in a sandwich pattern, while the exocuticle is rigid and sclerotization, hardened. The exocuticle is greatly reduced in many insects during their
larva A larva (plural larvae ) is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle. The lar ...
l stages, e.g., caterpillars. It is also reduced in soft-bodied adult insects. Insects are the only
invertebrate Invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a ''backbone'' or ''spine''), derived from the notochord. This includes all animals apart from the subphylum Vertebrata. Familiar examples of inverte ...
s to have developed active flight capability, and this has played an important role in their success. Their flight muscles are able to contract multiple times for each single nerve impulse, allowing the wings to beat faster than would ordinarily be possible. Having their muscles attached to their exoskeletons is efficient and allows more muscle connections.


Internal


Nervous system

The nervous system of an insect can be divided into a insect brain, brain and a ventral nerve cord. The head capsule is made up of six fused segments, each with either a pair of ganglion, ganglia, or a cluster of nerve cells outside of the brain. The first three pairs of ganglia are fused into the brain, while the three following pairs are fused into a structure of three pairs of ganglia under the insect's esophagus, called the subesophageal ganglion. The thoracic segments have one ganglion on each side, which are connected into a pair, one pair per segment. This arrangement is also seen in the abdomen but only in the first eight segments. Many species of insects have reduced numbers of ganglia due to fusion or reduction. Some cockroaches have just six ganglia in the abdomen, whereas the wasp ''Vespa crabro'' has only two in the thorax and three in the abdomen. Some insects, like the house fly ''Housefly, Musca domestica'', have all the body ganglia fused into a single large thoracic ganglion. At least a few insects have nociceptors, cells that detect and transmit signals responsible for the sensation of Pain in animals, pain. This was discovered in 2003 by studying the variation in reactions of larvae of the common fruitfly Drosophila to the touch of a heated probe and an unheated one. The larvae reacted to the touch of the heated probe with a stereotypical rolling behavior that was not exhibited when the larvae were touched by the unheated probe. Although nociception has been demonstrated in insects, there is no consensus that insects feel pain consciously Insects are capable of learning.


Digestive system

An insect uses its digestive system to extract nutrients and other substances from the food it consumes. Most of this food is ingested in the form of macromolecules and other complex substances like proteins, polysaccharides, fats and nucleic acids. These macromolecules must be broken down by catabolism, catabolic reactions into smaller molecules like amino acids and simple sugars before being used by cells of the body for energy, growth, or reproduction. This break-down process is known as digestion. There is extensive variation among different Taxonomic order, orders, Metamorphosis, life stages, and even castes in the digestive system of insects. This is the result of extreme adaptations to various lifestyles. The present description focuses on a generalized composition of the digestive system of an adult orthopteroid insect, which is considered basal to interpreting particularities of other groups. The main structure of an insect's digestive system is a long enclosed tube called the alimentary canal, which runs lengthwise through the body. The alimentary canal directs food unidirectionally from the mouth to the anus. It has three sections, each of which performs a different process of digestion. In addition to the alimentary canal, insects also have paired salivary glands and salivary reservoirs. These structures usually reside in the thorax, adjacent to the foregut. The salivary glands (element 30 in numbered diagram) in an insect's mouth produce saliva. The salivary ducts lead from the glands to the reservoirs and then forward through the head to an opening called the salivarium, located behind the hypopharynx. By moving its mouthparts (element 32 in numbered diagram) the insect can mix its food with saliva. The mixture of saliva and food then travels through the salivary tubes into the mouth, where it begins to break down. Some insects, like Diptera, flies, have Mastication, extra-oral digestion. Insects using extra-oral digestion expel digestive enzymes onto their food to break it down. This strategy allows insects to extract a significant proportion of the available nutrients from the food source. The gut is where almost all of insects' digestion takes place. It can be divided into the foregut, stomach, midgut and hindgut.


= Foregut

= The first section of the alimentary canal is the foregut (element 27 in numbered diagram), or stomodaeum. The foregut is lined with a cuticular lining made of
chitin units that repeat to form long chains in β-(1→4)-linkage. of the chitin molecule. Chitin (carbon, C8H13O5N)n ( ) is a long-chain polymer of ''N''-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose. This polysaccharide is a primary component of cel ...

chitin
and proteins as protection from tough food. The foregut includes the buccal cavity (mouth), pharynx, esophagus and Crop (anatomy), crop and proventriculus (any part may be highly modified), which both store food and signify when to continue passing onward to the midgut. Digestion starts in buccal cavity (mouth) as partially chewed food is broken down by saliva from the salivary glands. As the salivary glands produce fluid and enzyme, carbohydrate-digesting enzymes (mostly amylases), strong muscles in the pharynx pump fluid into the buccal cavity, lubricating the food like the salivarium does, and helping blood feeders, and xylem and phloem feeders. From there, the pharynx passes food to the esophagus, which could be just a simple tube passing it on to the crop and proventriculus, and then onward to the midgut, as in most insects. Alternately, the foregut may expand into a very enlarged crop and proventriculus, or the crop could just be a diverticulum, or fluid-filled structure, as in some Diptera species.


= Midgut

= Once food leaves the crop, it passes to the stomach, midgut (element 13 in numbered diagram), also known as the mesenteron, where the majority of digestion takes place. Microscopic projections from the midgut wall, called microvillus, microvilli, increase the surface area of the wall and allow more nutrients to be absorbed; they tend to be close to the origin of the midgut. In some insects, the role of the microvilli and where they are located may vary. For example, specialized microvilli producing digestive enzymes may more likely be near the end of the midgut, and absorption near the origin or beginning of the midgut.


= Hindgut

= In the hindgut (element 16 in numbered diagram), or proctodaeum, undigested food particles are joined by uric acid to form fecal pellets. The rectum absorbs 90% of the water in these fecal pellets, and the dry pellet is then eliminated through the anus (element 17), completing the process of digestion. Envaginations at the anterior end of the hindgut form the Malpighian tubules, which form the main excretory system of insects.


Excretory system

Insects may have one to hundreds of Malpighian tubule system, Malpighian tubules (element 20). These tubules remove nitrogenous wastes from the hemolymph of the insect and regulate osmotic balance. Wastes and solutes are emptied directly into the alimentary canal, at the junction between the midgut and hindgut.


Reproductive system

The reproductive system of female insects consist of a pair of ovaries, accessory glands, one or more spermathecae, and ducts connecting these parts. The ovaries are made up of a number of egg tubes, called ovarioles, which vary in size and number by species. The number of eggs that the insect is able to make vary by the number of ovarioles with the rate that eggs can develop being also influenced by ovariole design. Female insects are able make eggs, receive and store sperm, manipulate sperm from different males, and lay eggs. Accessory glands or glandular parts of the oviducts produce a variety of substances for sperm maintenance, transport and fertilization, as well as for protection of eggs. They can produce glue and protective substances for coating eggs or tough coverings for a batch of eggs called oothecae. Spermathecae are tubes or sacs in which sperm can be stored between the time of mating and the time an egg is fertilized. For males, the reproductive system is the testis, suspended in the body cavity by Invertebrate trachea, tracheae and the fat body. Most male insects have a pair of testes, inside of which are sperm tubes or follicles that are enclosed within a membranous sac. The follicles connect to the vas deferens by the vas efferens, and the two tubular vasa deferentia connect to a median ejaculatory duct that leads to the outside. A portion of the vas deferens is often enlarged to form the seminal vesicle, which stores the sperm before they are discharged into the female. The seminal vesicles have glandular linings that secrete nutrients for nourishment and maintenance of the sperm. The ejaculatory duct is derived from an invagination of the epidermal cells during development and, as a result, has a cuticular lining. The terminal portion of the ejaculatory duct may be sclerotized to form the intromittent organ, the aedeagus. The remainder of the male reproductive system is derived from embryonic mesoderm, except for the germ cells, or spermatogonia, which descend from the primordial pole cells very early during embryogenesis.


Respiratory system

Respiratory system of insects, Insect respiration is accomplished without lungs. Instead, the Respiratory system of insects, insect respiratory system uses a system of internal tubes and sacs through which gases either diffuse or are actively pumped, delivering oxygen directly to tissues that need it via their invertebrate trachea, trachea (element 8 in numbered diagram). In most insects, air is taken in through openings on the sides of the abdomen and thorax called Spiracle (arthropods), spiracles. The respiratory system is an important factor that limits the size of insects. As insects get larger, this type of oxygen transport is less efficient and thus the heaviest insect currently weighs less than 100 g. However, with increased atmospheric oxygen levels, as were present in the late
Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from ...
, larger insects were possible, such as dragonflies with wingspans of more than two feet. There are many different patterns of gas exchange demonstrated by different groups of insects. Gas exchange patterns in insects can range from continuous and diffusion, diffusive ventilation, to discontinuous gas exchange. During continuous gas exchange, oxygen is taken in and carbon dioxide is released in a continuous cycle. In discontinuous gas exchange, however, the insect takes in oxygen while it is active and small amounts of carbon dioxide are released when the insect is at rest. Diffusive ventilation is simply a form of continuous gas exchange that occurs by diffusion rather than physically taking in the oxygen. Some species of insect that are submerged also have adaptations to aid in respiration. As larvae, many insects have gills that can extract oxygen dissolved in water, while others need to rise to the water surface to replenish air supplies, which may be held or trapped in special structures.


Circulatory system

Because oxygen is delivered directly to tissues via tracheoles, the circulatory system is not used to carry oxygen, and is therefore greatly reduced. The insect circulatory system is open; it has no veins or artery, arteries, and instead consists of little more than a single, perforated dorsal tube that pulses peristalsis, peristaltically. This dorsal blood vessel (element 14) is divided into two sections: the heart and aorta. The dorsal blood vessel circulates the hemolymph, arthropods' fluid analog of blood, from the rear of the body cavity forward. Hemolymph is composed of plasma in which hemocytes are suspended. Nutrients, hormones, wastes, and other substances are transported throughout the insect body in the hemolymph. Hemocytes include many types of cells that are important for immune responses, wound healing, and other functions. Hemolymph pressure may be increased by muscle contractions or by swallowing air into the digestive system to aid in moulting. Hemolymph is also a major part of the open circulatory system of other arthropods, such as spiders and crustaceans.


Reproduction and development

The majority of insects hatch from egg (biology), eggs. The fertilization and development takes place inside the egg, enclosed by a shell (chorion) that consists of maternal tissue. In contrast to eggs of other arthropods, most insect eggs are drought resistant. This is because inside the chorion two additional membranes develop from embryonic tissue, the amnion and the serosa. This serosa secretes a cuticle rich in
chitin units that repeat to form long chains in β-(1→4)-linkage. of the chitin molecule. Chitin (carbon, C8H13O5N)n ( ) is a long-chain polymer of ''N''-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose. This polysaccharide is a primary component of cel ...

chitin
that protects the embryo against desiccation. In Schizophora however the serosa does not develop, but these flies lay their eggs in damp places, such as rotting matter. Some species of insects, like the cockroach ''Blaptica dubia'', as well as juvenile aphids and tsetse flies, are Ovoviviparity, ovoviviparous. The eggs of ovoviviparous animals develop entirely inside the female, and then hatch immediately upon being laid. Some other species, such as those in the genus of cockroaches known as ''Diploptera'', are viviparous, and thus gestate inside the mother and are Viviparity, born alive. Some insects, like parasitic wasps, show polyembryony, where a single fertilized egg divides into many and in some cases thousands of separate embryos. Insects may be ''univoltine'', ''bivoltine'' or ''multivoltine'', i.e. they may have one, two or many broods (generations) in a year. Other developmental and reproductive variations include haplodiploidy, Polymorphism (biology), polymorphism, paedomorphosis or peramorphosis, sexual dimorphism, parthenogenesis and more rarely hermaphroditism. In haplodiploidy, which is a type of sex-determination system, the offspring's sex is determined by the number of sets of chromosomes an individual receives. This system is typical in bees and wasps. Polymorphism is where a species may have different ''morphs'' or ''forms'', as in the Amblycorypha oblongifolia, oblong winged katydid, which has four different varieties: green, pink and yellow or tan. Some insects may retain phenotypes that are normally only seen in juveniles; this is called paedomorphosis. In peramorphosis, an opposite sort of phenomenon, insects take on previously unseen traits after they have matured into adults. Many insects display sexual dimorphism, in which males and females have notably different appearances, such as the moth ''Orgyia recens'' as an exemplar of sexual dimorphism in insects. Some insects use parthenogenesis, a process in which the female can reproduce and give birth without having the eggs fertilization, fertilized by a male. Many aphids undergo a form of parthenogenesis, called cyclical parthenogenesis, in which they alternate between one or many generations of asexual and sexual reproduction. In summer, aphids are generally female and parthenogenetic; in the autumn, males may be produced for sexual reproduction. Other insects produced by parthenogenesis are bees, wasps and ants, in which they spawn males. However, overall, most individuals are female, which are produced by fertilization. The males are haploid and the females are diploid. More rarely, some insects display hermaphroditism, in which a given individual has both male and female reproductive organs. Insect life-histories show adaptations to withstand cold and dry conditions. Some temperate region insects are capable of activity during winter, while some others migrate to a warmer climate or go into a state of torpor. Still other insects have evolved mechanisms of diapause that allow eggs or pupae to survive these conditions.


Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis in insects is the biological process of development all insects must undergo. There are two forms of metamorphosis: incomplete metamorphosis and complete metamorphosis.


Incomplete metamorphosis

hemimetabolism, Hemimetabolous insects, those with incomplete metamorphosis, change gradually by undergoing a series of ecdysis, molts. An insect molts when it outgrows its exoskeleton, which does not stretch and would otherwise restrict the insect's growth. The molting process begins as the insect's epidermis (skin), epidermis secretes a new epicuticle inside the old one. After this new epicuticle is secreted, the epidermis releases a mixture of enzymes that digests the endocuticle and thus detaches the old cuticle. When this stage is complete, the insect makes its body swell by taking in a large quantity of water or air, which makes the old cuticle split along predefined weaknesses where the old exocuticle was thinnest. Immature insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis are called Nymph (biology), nymphs or in the case of dragonflies and damselflies, also Naiad (insect), naiads. Nymphs are similar in form to the adult except for the presence of wings, which are not developed until adulthood. With each molt, nymphs grow larger and become more similar in appearance to adult insects.


Complete metamorphosis

Holometabolism, or complete metamorphosis, is where the insect changes in four stages, an Egg (biology), egg or embryo, a
larva A larva (plural larvae ) is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle. The lar ...
, a
pupa '' A pupa ( la, pupa, "doll"; plural: ''pupae'') is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation between immature and mature stages. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, ...
and the adult or imago. In these species, an egg hatches to produce a
larva A larva (plural larvae ) is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle. The lar ...
, which is generally worm-like in form. This worm-like form can be one of several varieties: eruciform (caterpillar-like), scarabaeiform (grub-like), campodeiform (elongated, flattened and active), elateriform (wireworm-like) or vermiform (maggot-like). The larva grows and eventually becomes a
pupa '' A pupa ( la, pupa, "doll"; plural: ''pupae'') is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation between immature and mature stages. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, ...
, a stage marked by reduced movement and often sealed within a pupa, cocoon. There are three types of pupae: obtect, exarate or coarctate. Obtect pupae are compact, with the legs and other appendages enclosed. Exarate pupae have their legs and other appendages free and extended. Coarctate pupae develop inside the larval skin. Insects undergo considerable change in form during the pupal stage, and emerge as adults. Butterflies are a well-known example of insects that undergo complete metamorphosis, although most insects use this life cycle. Some insects have evolved this system to hypermetamorphosis. Complete metamorphosis is a trait of the most diverse insect group, the Endopterygota. Endopterygota includes 11 Orders, the largest being
Diptera Flies are insects of the order Diptera, the name being derived from the Greek δι- ''di-'' "two", and πτερόν ''pteron'' "wing". Insects of this order use only a single pair of wings to fly, the hindwings having evolved into advanced mec ...
(flies),
Lepidoptera Lepidoptera ( , from Ancient Greek ''lepís'' “scale” + ''pterón'' “wing”) is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths (both are called lepidopterans). About 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 famili ...
(butterflies and moths), and
Hymenoptera Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones. Many of the species are parasitic. Females typically ...
(bees, wasps, and ants), and Beetle, Coleoptera (beetles). This form of development is exclusive to insects and not seen in any other arthropods.


Senses and communication

Many insects possess very sensitive and specialized organs of sense, perception. Some insects such as bees can perceive ultraviolet wavelengths, or detect polarized light, while the antennae of male moths can detect the
pheromone exposes Nasonov's gland (white – at tip of abdomen) releasing pheromone to entice swarm into an empty hive A pheromone (from Ancient Greek ' "to bear" and hormone) is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in mem ...
s of female moths over distances of many kilometers. The yellow paper wasp (''Polistes versicolor'') is known for its wagging movements as a form of communication within the colony; it can waggle with a frequency of 10.6±2.1 Hz (n=190). These wagging movements can signal the arrival of new material into the nest and aggression between workers can be used to stimulate others to increase foraging expeditions. There is a pronounced tendency for there to be a trade-off between visual acuity and chemical or tactile acuity, such that most insects with well-developed eyes have reduced or simple antennae, and vice versa. There are a variety of different mechanisms by which insects perceive sound; while the patterns are not universal, insects can generally hear sound if they can produce it. Different insect species can have varying Animal hearing, hearing, though most insects can hear only a narrow range of frequencies related to the frequency of the sounds they can produce. Mosquitoes have been found to hear up to 2 kHz, and some grasshoppers can hear up to 50 kHz. Certain predatory and parasitic insects can detect the characteristic sounds made by their prey or hosts, respectively. For instance, some nocturnal moths can perceive the Ultrasound, ultrasonic emissions of bats, which helps them avoid predation. Insects that feed on blood have special sensory structures that can detect infrared emissions, and use them to home in on their hosts. Some insects display a rudimentary numeracy, sense of numbers, such as the solitary wasps that prey upon a single species. The mother wasp lays her eggs in individual cells and provides each egg with a number of live caterpillars on which the young feed when hatched. Some species of wasp always provide five, others twelve, and others as high as twenty-four caterpillars per cell. The number of caterpillars is different among species, but always the same for each sex of larva. The male solitary wasp in the genus ''Eumenes (genus), Eumenes'' is smaller than the female, so the mother of one species supplies him with only five caterpillars; the larger female receives ten caterpillars in her cell.


Light production and vision

A few insects, such as members of the families Poduridae and Onychiuridae (Collembola), Mycetophilidae (Diptera) and the beetle families Lampyridae, Phengodidae, Elateridae and Staphylinidae are bioluminescent. The most familiar group are the fireflies, beetles of the family Lampyridae. Some species are able to control this light generation to produce flashes. The function varies with some species using them to attract mates, while others use them to lure prey. Cave dwelling larvae of ''Arachnocampa'' (Mycetophilidae, fungus gnats) glow to lure small flying insects into sticky strands of silk. Some fireflies of the genus ''Photuris'' mimicry, mimic the flashing of female ''Photinus (beetle), Photinus'' species to attract males of that species, which are then captured and devoured. The colors of emitted light vary from dull blue (''Orfelia fultoni'', Mycetophilidae) to the familiar greens and the rare reds (''Phrixothrix tiemanni'', Phengodidae). Most insects, except some species of Rhaphidophoridae, cave crickets, are able to perceive light and dark. Many species have acute vision capable of detecting minute movements. The eyes may include simple eyes or Ocellus, ocelli as well as
compound eye as imaged by an electron microscope A compound eye is a Eye, visual organ found in arthropods such as insects and crustaceans. It may consist of thousands of ommatidia, which are tiny independent photoreception units that consist of a cornea, len ...
s of varying sizes. Many species are able to detect light in the infrared, ultraviolet and the visible light wavelengths. Color vision has been demonstrated in many species and phylogenetic analysis suggests that UV-green-blue trichromacy existed from at least the
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60.3 million years from the end of the Silurian, million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Carboniferous, Mya. It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from ...
period between 416 and 359 million years ago.


Sound production and hearing

Insects were the earliest organisms to produce and sense sounds. Insects make sounds mostly by mechanical action of appendages. In grasshoppers and crickets, this is achieved by stridulation. Cicadas make the loudest sounds among the insects by producing and amplifying sounds with special modifications to their body to form tymbals and associated musculature. The African cicada ''Brevisana brevis'' has been measured at 106.7 decibels at a distance of .Walker, T.J., ed. (2001)
University of Florida Book of Insect Records
.
Some insects, such as the ''Helicoverpa zea'' moths, hawk moths and Hedylidae, Hedylid butterflies, can hear ultrasound and take evasive action when they sense that they have been detected by bats. Some moths produce ultrasonic clicks that were once thought to have a role in jamming bat Animal echolocation, echolocation. The ultrasonic clicks were subsequently found to be produced mostly by unpalatable moths to warn bats, just as Aposematism, warning colorations are used against predators that hunt by sight. Some otherwise palatable moths have evolved to Batesian mimicry, mimic these calls. More recently, the claim that some moths can jam bat sonar has been revisited. Ultrasonic recording and high-speed infrared videography of bat-moth interactions suggest the palatable tiger moth really does defend against attacking big brown bats using ultrasonic clicks that jam bat sonar. Very low sounds are also produced in various species of
Coleoptera Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera (), in the superorder Endopterygota. Their front pair of wings are hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. The Coleoptera, with about 400,000 ...
,
Hymenoptera Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones. Many of the species are parasitic. Females typically ...
,
Lepidoptera Lepidoptera ( , from Ancient Greek ''lepís'' “scale” + ''pterón'' “wing”) is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths (both are called lepidopterans). About 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 famili ...
, Mantodea and Neuroptera. These low sounds are simply the sounds made by the insect's movement. Through microscopic stridulatory structures located on the insect's muscles and joints, the normal sounds of the insect moving are amplified and can be used to warn or communicate with other insects. Most sound-making insects also have tympanal organs that can perceive airborne sounds. Some species in Hemiptera, such as the Corixidae, corixids (water boatmen), are known to communicate via underwater sounds. Most insects are also able to sense vibrations transmitted through surfaces. file:Field cricket Gryllus pennsylvanicus.ogg, Cricket in garage with familiar call. Communication using surface-borne vibrational signals is more widespread among insects because of size constraints in producing air-borne sounds. Insects cannot effectively produce low-frequency sounds, and high-frequency sounds tend to disperse more in a dense environment (such as foliage), so insects living in such environments communicate primarily using substrate-borne vibrations. The mechanisms of production of vibrational signals are just as diverse as those for producing sound in insects. Some species use vibrations for communicating within members of the same species, such as to attract mates as in the songs of the shield bug ''Nezara viridula''. Vibrations can also be used to communicate between entirely different species; lycaenid (gossamer-winged butterfly) caterpillars, which are Myrmecophile, myrmecophilous (living in a mutualistic association with ants) communicate with ants in this way. The Madagascar hissing cockroach has the ability to press air through its spiracles to make a hissing noise as a sign of aggression; the death's-head hawkmoth makes a squeaking noise by forcing air out of their pharynx when agitated, which may also reduce aggressive worker honey bee behavior when the two are in close proximity.


Chemical communication

Chemical communications in animals rely on a variety of aspects including taste and smell. Chemoreception is the physiological response of a sense organ (i.e. taste or smell) to a chemical stimulus where the chemicals act as signals to regulate the state or activity of a cell. A semiochemical is a message-carrying chemical that is meant to attract, repel, and convey information. Types of semiochemicals include pheromones and kairomones. One example is the butterfly ''Phengaris arion ''which uses chemical signals as a form of mimicry to aid in predation. In addition to the use of sound for communication, a wide range of insects have evolved chemical communication, chemical means for communication. These chemicals, termed semiochemicals, are often derived from plant metabolites including those meant to attract, repel and provide other kinds of information. Pheromones, a type of semiochemical, are used for attracting mates of the opposite sex, for aggregating conspecificity, conspecific individuals of both sexes, for deterring other individuals from approaching, to mark a trail, and to trigger aggression in nearby individuals. Allomones benefit their producer by the effect they have upon the receiver. Kairomones benefit their receiver instead of their producer. Synomones benefit the producer and the receiver. While some chemicals are targeted at individuals of the same species, others are used for communication across species. The use of scents is especially well known to have developed in social insects.


Social behavior

Social insects, such as
termite Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the order Blattodea (along with cockroaches). Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, ...
s,
ant Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants appear in the fossil record across the globe in considerable diversity during the latest Early Cretaceous and e ...
s and many
bee Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily ...
s and
wasp A wasp is any insect of the narrow-waisted suborder Apocrita of the order Hymenoptera which is neither a bee nor an ant; this excludes the broad-waisted sawflies (Symphyta), which look somewhat like wasps but are in a separate suborder. The w ...
s, are the most familiar species of Eusociality, eusocial animals. They live together in large well-organized colonies that may be so tightly integrated and genetically similar that the colonies of some species are sometimes considered superorganisms. It is sometimes argued that the various species of honey bee are the only invertebrates (and indeed one of the few non-human groups) to have evolved a system of abstract symbolic communication where a behavior is used to ''represent'' and convey specific information about something in the environment. In this communication system, called Bee learning and communication, dance language, the angle at which a bee dances represents a direction relative to the sun, and the length of the dance represents the distance to be flown. Though perhaps not as advanced as honey bees, bumblebees also potentially have some social communication behaviors. ''Bombus terrestris'', for example, exhibit a faster learning curve for visiting unfamiliar, yet rewarding flowers, when they can see a conspecific foraging on the same species. Only insects that live in nests or colonies demonstrate any true capacity for fine-scale spatial orientation or homing. This can allow an insect to return unerringly to a single hole a few millimeters in diameter among thousands of apparently identical holes clustered together, after a trip of up to several kilometers' distance. In a phenomenon known as philopatry, insects that hibernation, hibernate have shown the ability to recall a specific location up to a year after last viewing the area of interest. A few insects seasonally Insect migration, migrate large distances between different geographic regions (e.g., the overwintering areas of the monarch butterfly).


Care of young

The eusocial insects build nests, guard eggs, and provide food for offspring full-time (see Eusociality). Most insects, however, lead short lives as adults, and rarely interact with one another except to mate or compete for mates. A small number exhibit some form of parental care, where they will at least guard their eggs, and sometimes continue guarding their offspring until adulthood, and possibly even feeding them. Another simple form of parental care is to construct a nest (a burrow or an actual construction, either of which may be simple or complex), store provisions in it, and lay an egg upon those provisions. The adult does not contact the growing offspring, but it nonetheless does provide food. This sort of care is typical for most species of bees and various types of wasps.


Locomotion


Flight

Insects are the only group of
invertebrate Invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a ''backbone'' or ''spine''), derived from the notochord. This includes all animals apart from the subphylum Vertebrata. Familiar examples of inverte ...
s to have developed flight. The evolution of insect wings has been a subject of debate. Some entomology, entomologists suggest that the wings are from paranotal lobes, or extensions from the insect's exoskeleton called the notum, nota, called the ''paranotal theory''. Other theories are based on a Pleuron (insect anatomy), pleural origin. These theories include suggestions that wings originated from modified gills, spiracular flaps or as from an appendage of the epicoxa. The ''epicoxal theory'' suggests the insect wings are modified epicoxal exites, a modified appendage at the base of the legs or arthropod leg, coxa. In the Carboniferous age, some of the ''Meganeura'' dragonflies had as much as a wide wingspan. The appearance of gigantic insects has been found to be consistent with high atmospheric oxygen. The respiratory system of insects constrains their size, however the high oxygen in the atmosphere allowed larger sizes. The largest flying insects today are much smaller, with the largest wingspan belonging to the white witch moth (''Thysania agrippina''), at approximately .Book of Insect Records - Chapter 32: Largest Lepidopteran Wing Span
/ref> Insect flight has been a topic of great interest in aerodynamics due partly to the inability of steady-state theories to explain the lift generated by the tiny wings of insects. But insect wings are in motion, with flapping and vibrations, resulting in churning and vortex, eddies, and the misconception that physics says Bumblebee#Misconception about flight, "bumblebees can't fly" persisted throughout most of the twentieth century. Unlike birds, many small insects are swept along by the prevailing winds although many of the larger insects are known to make insect migration, migrations. Aphids are known to be transported long distances by low-level jet streams. As such, fine line patterns associated with converging winds within weather radar imagery, like the WSR-88D radar network, often represent large groups of insects.


Walking

Many adult insects use six legs for walking and have adopted a tripedal gait. The tripedal gait allows for rapid walking while always having a stable stance and has been studied extensively in cockroaches and
ant Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants appear in the fossil record across the globe in considerable diversity during the latest Early Cretaceous and e ...
s. The legs are used in alternate triangles touching the ground. For the first step, the middle right leg and the front and rear left legs are in contact with the ground and move the insect forward, while the front and rear right leg and the middle left leg are lifted and moved forward to a new position. When they touch the ground to form a new stable triangle the other legs can be lifted and brought forward in turn and so on. The purest form of the tripedal gait is seen in insects moving at high speeds. However, this type of locomotion is not rigid and insects can adapt a variety of gaits. For example, when moving slowly, turning, avoiding obstacles, climbing or slippery surfaces, four (tetrapod) or more feet (wave-gait) may be touching the ground. Insects can also adapt their gait to cope with the loss of one or more limbs. Cockroaches are among the fastest insect runners and, at full speed, adopt a bipedal run to reach a high velocity in proportion to their body size. As cockroaches move very quickly, they need to be video recorded at several hundred frames per second to reveal their gait. More sedate locomotion is seen in the stick insects or walking sticks (
Phasmatodea The Phasmatodea (also known as Phasmida, Phasmatoptera or Spectra) are an order of insects whose members are variously known as stick insects, stick-bugs, walking sticks, or bug sticks. They are generally referred to as phasmatodeans, phasmids, ...
). A few insects have evolved to walk on the surface of the water, especially members of the Water strider, Gerridae family, commonly known as water striders. A few species of ocean-skaters in the genus ''Halobates'' even live on the surface of open oceans, a habitat that has few insect species.


Use in robotics

Insect walking is of particular interest as an alternative form of locomotion in robots. The study of insects and bipeds has a significant impact on possible robotic methods of transport. This may allow new robots to be designed that can traverse terrain that robots with wheels may be unable to handle.


Swimming

A large number of insects live either part or the whole of their lives underwater. In many of the more primitive orders of insect, the immature stages are spent in an aquatic environment. Some groups of insects, like certain water beetles, have aquatic adults as well. Many of these species have adaptations to help in under-water locomotion. Water beetles and water bugs have legs adapted into paddle-like structures. Dragonfly nymph (biology), naiads use jet propulsion, forcibly expelling water out of their rectal chamber. Some species like the water striders are capable of walking on the surface of water. They can do this because their claws are not at the tips of the legs as in most insects, but recessed in a special groove further up the leg; this prevents the claws from piercing the water's surface film. Other insects such as the staphylinidae, Rove beetle ''Stenus'' are known to emit pygidial gland secretions that reduce surface tension making it possible for them to move on the surface of water by Marangoni effect, Marangoni propulsion (also known by the German language, German term ''Entspannungsschwimmen'').


Ecology

Insect ecology is the scientific study of how insects, individually or as a community, interact with the surrounding Natural environment, environment or ecosystem. Insects play one of the most important roles in their ecosystems, which includes many roles, such as soil turning and aeration, dung burial, pest control, pollination and wildlife nutrition. An example is the
beetle Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera (), in the superorder Endopterygota. Their front pair of wings are hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. The Coleoptera, with about 400,000 ...

beetle
s, which are scavengers that feed on dead animals and fallen trees and thereby recycling, recycle biological materials into forms found useful by other
organism In biology, an organism (from Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the properties of life. It is a synonym for "life form". Organisms are classified by taxonomy into groups such as ...
s. These insects, and others, are responsible for much of the process by which topsoil is created.


Defense and predation

Insects are mostly soft bodied, fragile and almost defenseless compared to other, larger lifeforms. The immature stages are small, move slowly or are immobile, and so all stages are exposed to predation and parasitism. Insects then have a variety of defense strategies to avoid being attacked by predators or parasitoids. These include camouflage, mimicry, toxicity and active defense. Camouflage is an important defense strategy, which involves the use of coloration or shape to blend into the surrounding environment. This sort of protective coloration is common and widespread among beetle families, especially those that feed on wood or vegetation, such as many of the leaf beetles (family Chrysomelidae) or weevils. In some of these species, sculpturing or various colored scales or hairs cause the beetle to resemble bird dung or other inedible objects. Many of those that live in sandy environments blend in with the coloration of the substrate. Most phasmids are known for effectively replicating the forms of sticks and leaves, and the bodies of some species (such as ''O. macklotti'' and ''Palophus centaurus'') are covered in mossy or lichenous outgrowths that supplement their disguise. Very rarely, a species may have the ability to change color as their surroundings shift (''Bostra scabrinota''). In a further behavioral adaptation to supplement crypsis, a number of species have been noted to perform a rocking motion where the body is swayed from side to side that is thought to reflect the movement of leaves or twigs swaying in the breeze. Another method by which stick insects avoid predation and resemble twigs is by feigning death (catalepsy), where the insect enters a motionless state that can be maintained for a long period. The nocturnal feeding habits of adults also aids Phasmatodea in remaining concealed from predators. Another defense that often uses color or shape to deceive potential enemies is mimicry. A number of longhorn beetles (family Cerambycidae) bear a striking resemblance to
wasp A wasp is any insect of the narrow-waisted suborder Apocrita of the order Hymenoptera which is neither a bee nor an ant; this excludes the broad-waisted sawflies (Symphyta), which look somewhat like wasps but are in a separate suborder. The w ...
s, which helps them avoid predation even though the beetles are in fact harmless. Batesian mimicry, Batesian and Müllerian mimicry, Müllerian mimicry complexes are commonly found in Lepidoptera. Genetic polymorphism and natural selection give rise to otherwise edible species (the mimic) gaining a survival advantage by resembling inedible species (the model). Such a mimicry complex is referred to as ''Batesian''. One of the most famous examples, where the viceroy butterfly was long believed to be a Batesian mimic of the inedible monarch butterfly, monarch, was later disproven, as the viceroy is more toxic than the monarch, and this resemblance is now considered to be a case of Müllerian mimicry. In Müllerian mimicry, inedible species, usually within a taxonomic order, find it advantageous to resemble each other so as to reduce the sampling rate by predators who need to learn about the insects' inedibility. Taxa from the toxic genus ''Heliconius'' form one of the most well known Müllerian complexes. Chemical defense is another important defense found among species of Coleoptera and Lepidoptera, usually being advertised by bright colors, such as the monarch butterfly. They obtain their toxicity by sequestering the chemicals from the plants they eat into their own tissues. Some Lepidoptera manufacture their own toxins. Predators that eat poisonous butterflies and moths may become sick and vomit violently, learning not to eat those types of species; this is actually the basis of Müllerian mimicry. A predator who has previously eaten a poisonous lepidopteran may avoid other species with similar markings in the future, thus saving many other species as well. Some ground beetles of the family Carabidae can spray chemicals from their abdomen with great accuracy, to repel predators.


Pollination

Pollination is the Process (science), process by which pollen is transferred in the reproduction of plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Most flowering plants require an animal to do the transportation. While other animals are included as pollinators, the majority of pollination is done by insects. Because insects usually receive benefit for the pollination in the form of energy rich nectar it is a grand example of Mutualism (biology), mutualism. The various flower traits (and combinations thereof) that differentially attract one type of pollinator or another are known as pollination syndromes. These arose through complex plant-animal adaptations. Pollinators find flowers through bright colorations, including ultraviolet, and attractant pheromones. The study of pollination by insects is known as ''anthecology''.


Parasitism

Many insects are parasites of other insects such as the parasitoid wasps. These insects are known as entomophagous parasites. They can be beneficial due to their devastation of pests that can destroy crops and other resources. Many insects have a parasitic relationship with humans such as the mosquito. These insects are known to spread diseases such as malaria and yellow fever and because of such, mosquitoes indirectly cause more deaths of humans than any other animal.


Relationship to humans


As pests

Many insects are considered
pests Pest or The Pest may refer to: Science and medicine * Pest (organism), an animal or plant detrimental to humans or human concerns ** Weed, a plant considered undesirable * Infectious disease, an illness resulting from an infection ** Plague (diseas ...
by humans. Insects commonly regarded as pests include those that are parasitic (''e.g.'' lice, Bed bug (insect), bed bugs), List of diseases caused by insects, transmit diseases (mosquitoes,
flies Flies are insects of the order Diptera, the name being derived from the Greek δι- ''di-'' "two", and πτερόν ''pteron'' "wing". Insects of this order use only a single pair of wings to fly, the hindwings having evolved into advanced mec ...

flies
), damage structures (
termite Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the order Blattodea (along with cockroaches). Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, ...
s), or destroy agricultural goods (locusts, weevils). Many entomologists are involved in various forms of pest control, as in research for companies to produce
insecticide Insecticides are substances used to kill insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against insect eggs and larvae, respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and by consumers. Insecticides are claimed to be a ...
s, but increasingly rely on methods of biological pest control, or biocontrol. Biocontrol uses one organism to reduce the population density of another organism—the pest—and is considered a key element of integrated pest management. Despite the large amount of effort focused at controlling insects, human attempts to kill pests with insecticides can backfire. If used carelessly, the poison can kill all kinds of organisms in the area, including insects' natural predators, such as birds, mice and other insectivores. The effects of DDT's use exemplifies how some insecticides can threaten wildlife beyond intended populations of pest insects.


In beneficial roles

File:Common brown robberfly with prey.jpg, left, A robberfly with its prey, a hoverfly. Insectivorous relationships such as these help control insect populations. Although pest insects attract the most attention, many insects are beneficial to the environment (biophysical), environment and to humans. Some insects, like
wasp A wasp is any insect of the narrow-waisted suborder Apocrita of the order Hymenoptera which is neither a bee nor an ant; this excludes the broad-waisted sawflies (Symphyta), which look somewhat like wasps but are in a separate suborder. The w ...
s,
bee Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily ...
s, butterfly, butterflies and
ant Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants appear in the fossil record across the globe in considerable diversity during the latest Early Cretaceous and e ...
s, pollination, pollinate flowering plants. Pollination is a Mutualism (biology), mutualistic relationship between plants and insects. As insects gather nectar from different plants of the same species, they also spread pollen from plants on which they have previously fed. This greatly increases plants' ability to cross-pollinate, which maintains and possibly even improves their evolutionary Fitness (biology), fitness. This ultimately affects humans since ensuring healthy crops is critical to agriculture. As well as pollination ants help with seed distribution of plants. This helps to spread the plants, which increases plant diversity. This leads to an overall better environment. A serious environmental problem is the pollinator decline, decline of populations of pollinator insects, and a number of species of insects are now cultured primarily for pollination management in order to have sufficient pollinators in the field, orchard or greenhouse at flowering plant, bloom time. Another solution, as shown in Delaware, has been to raise native plants to help support native pollinators like ''Lasioglossum vierecki, L. vierecki''.Kuehn, F. Coordinator. (2015)
"Farming for native bees"
. World Wide Web electronic publication. (Retrieved: September 22, 2015).
The economic value of pollination by insects has been estimated to be about $34 billion in the US alone. Products made by insects. Insects also produce useful substances such as
honey Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance made by honey bees and some related insects. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants (floral nectar) or from secretions of other insects (such as honeydew), by regurgitation, enzymatic a ...
, wax, lacquer and
silk SILK is an audio compression format and audio codec developed by Skype Limited, now a Microsoft subsidiary. It was developed for use in Skype, as a replacement for the SVOPC codec. Since licensing out, it has also been used by others. It has been ...
. Honey bees have been cultured by humans for thousands of years for honey, although contracting for crop pollination is becoming more significant for beekeepers. The silkworm has greatly affected human history, as Silk Road, silk-driven trade established relationships between China and the rest of the world. Pest control. Insectivore, Insectivorous insects, or insects that feed on other insects, are beneficial to humans if they eat insects that could cause damage to agriculture and human structures. For example, aphids feed on crops and cause problems for farmers, but ladybugs feed on aphids, and can be used as a means to significantly reduce pest aphid populations. While birds are perhaps more visible predators of insects, insects themselves account for the vast majority of insect consumption. Ants also help control animal populations by consuming small vertebrates. Without predators to keep them in check, insects can undergo almost unstoppable population explosions. Medical uses. Insects are also used in medicine, for example fly larvae (maggots) were formerly used to Maggot therapy, treat wounds to prevent or stop gangrene, as they would only consume dead flesh. This treatment is finding modern usage in some hospitals. Recently insects have also gained attention as potential sources of drugs and other medicinal substances. Adult insects, such as crickets and insect larvae of various kinds, are also commonly used as fishing bait.


In research

Insects play important roles in biological research. For example, because of its small size, short generation time and high fecundity, the common fruit fly ''Drosophila melanogaster'' is a model organism for studies in the genetics of higher eukaryotes. ''D. melanogaster'' has been an essential part of studies into principles like genetic linkage, epistasis, interactions between genes, chromosome, chromosomal genetics, evo-devo, development, behavior and evolution. Because genetic systems are well conserved among eukaryotes, understanding basic cellular processes like DNA replication or Transcription (genetics), transcription in fruit flies can help to understand those processes in other eukaryotes, including humans. The genome of ''D. melanogaster'' was Genome project, sequenced in 2000, reflecting the organism's important role in biological research. It was found that 70% of the fly genome is similar to the human genome, supporting the evolution theory.


As food

In some cultures, insects, especially deep-fried cicadas, are considered to be delicacy, delicacies, whereas in other places they form part of the normal diet. Insects have a high protein content for their mass, and some authors suggest their potential as a major source of protein in human nutrition. In most first-world countries, however, entomophagy (the eating of insects), is taboo. Since it is impossible to entirely eliminate pest insects from the human food chain, insects are inadvertently present in many foods, especially grains. Food safety laws in many countries do not prohibit insect parts in food, but rather limit their quantity. According to Cultural materialism (anthropology), cultural materialist anthropologist Marvin Harris, the eating of insects is taboo in cultures that have other protein sources such as fish or livestock. Due to the abundance of insects and a worldwide concern of food shortages, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations considers that the world may have to, in the future, regard the prospects of eating insects as a food staple. Insects are noted for their nutrients, having a high content of protein, minerals and fats and are eaten by one-third of the global population.


As feed

Several insect species such as the black soldier fly or the housefly in their maggot farming, maggot forms, as well as beetle larvae such as mealworms can be processed and used as feed for farmed animals such as chicken, fish and pigs.


In other products

Insect larvae (i.e. Black soldier fly, black soldier fly larvae) can provide protein, Grease (lubricant), grease, and
chitin units that repeat to form long chains in β-(1→4)-linkage. of the chitin molecule. Chitin (carbon, C8H13O5N)n ( ) is a long-chain polymer of ''N''-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose. This polysaccharide is a primary component of cel ...

chitin
. The grease is usable in the pharmaceutical industry (cosmetics, surfactants for shower gel) -hereby replacing other vegetable oils as palm oil. Also, insect cooking oil, insect butter and fatty alcohols can be made from such insects as the superworm (''Zophobas morio'').


As pets

Many species of insects are sold and kept as pets. There are even special hobbyist magazines such as "Bugs" (now discontinued).


In culture

Scarabaeidae, Scarab beetles held religious and cultural symbolism in Old Egypt, Greece and some shamanistic Old World cultures. The ancient China, Chinese regarded cicadas as symbols of rebirth or immortality. In Mesopotamian literature, the epic poem of Gilgamesh has allusions to Odonata that signify the impossibility of immortality. Among the Indigenous Australians, Aborigines of Australia of the Arrernte language, Arrernte language groups, honey ants and witchetty grubs served as personal clan totems. In the case of the 'San' bush-men of the Kalahari, it is the praying mantis that holds much cultural significance including creation and zen-like patience in waiting.


See also

* Chemical ecology * Defense in insects * Entomology * Ethnoentomology * Flying and gliding animals * Insect biodiversity * Insect ecology * :Insect-borne diseases, Insect-borne diseases * Prehistoric insects * Pain in invertebrates


References


Bibliography

*


Further reading

*


External links


Insects of North America

Overview of Orders of Insects
*
A Safrinet Manual for Entomology and Arachnology
Secretariat of the Pacific Community, SPC
Tree of Life Project
– Insecta
Insecta Movies

Insect Morphology
Overview of insect external and internal anatomy
Fossil Insect Database
International Palaeoentological Society
UF Book of Insect Records

InsectImages.org
24,000 high resolution insect photographs
BBC Nature:
Insect news, and video clips from BBC programmes past and present.
The Nature Explorers
Many insect video clips. {{Authority control Insects, Entomology Insects described in 1758, Extant Early Devonian first appearances Late Devonian animals