March 27, 2000

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Creepy Crawlies

Insects have gotten a bad name for the most part – mosquitoes bite, ants and flies ruin picnics and many bugs eat the same things that we do. But without insects our lives would be very different. Insects help us by pollinating our fruit trees, our vegetables, and the flowers in our yards. Can you imagine what it would be like without fruits and vegetables or flowers? Without insects we couldn’t survive!

Did you know there are more insects in more places on the planet than any other living creature? No one knows for sure how many different kinds of insects there are, but scientists think there are at least 3 MILLION insect species in the world! And they can be found just about everywhere on earth – even in the coldest and hottest areas of our planet! Let’s face it – Insects Rule the Earth!

Keeping it straight!

In order for us to understand all the different living things on earth we classify living organisms into groups and then subdivide those groups into categories. There are four main groups for all living things: Viruses, Bacteria, Plants and Animals. Insects are part of the ANIMAL kingdom and are known as invertebrates, which means they don't have a skeleton inside their body. Instead they have "armor" or an exoskeleton on the outside.

Instead of growing a little at a time like we do, insects grow in big spurts by shedding their skin. Insects usually shed four or five times before they become an adult and quit growing. We call the series of change from egg to adult – metamorphosis. The best known example of metamorphosis is probably the butterfly in which there are four stages of growth: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon) and finally adult.

Bug or insect?

Although insects come in all different shapes and sizes they all share certain features. Adult insects all have bodies made up of three body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen), six legs (three pairs), and a pair of antennae. Most adult insects also have wings.

Although we call insects bugs, not all insects are bugs! A "true" bug is a type of insect that has both piercing and sucking mouthparts. True bugs include water boatman, backswimmers, water striders, plant bugs, bed bugs, assassin bugs, and stink bugs.

Looking for Insects?

Because there are so many types of insects, it is usually not hard to find them!

  • Walking around your yard or nearby field look for ants, bees, butterflies, wasps, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers and flies.
  • Look for insects on plants! Many insects eat plants so this is a good place to begin looking for insects! You can find ants, aphids, butterflies, grasshoppers, praying mantids, beetles and spiders living among plants.
  • Near Streams and ponds look for mayflies, dragonflies, water striders, mosquitoes, beetles, and water bugs.

Because insects are so abundant it is usually not too hard to find them! For more information on the study of insects – check out our Insect Links!

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