Types of Insects
Insects, the most numerous, and arguably the most dominant, form of life on earth, attract interest wherever they are found.
Hardly a day passes when any single person does not meet up with at least one insect species.
Insect pests as well as beneficial insects inhabit agricultural lands everywhere.
The short video clip provides an example of insect mimicry, a defense mechanism possessed by many insects, across orders.
Formal insect identification gets a bit more complicated once past the point of knowing that a wasp is a wasp or a fly is a fly. The links in the box point to more detailed species information, arranged primarily by insect orders.
When entomologists talk about different types of insects, they typically refer to the bugs in the Class Insecta, or the bugs defined as insects with three body parts (head, thorax and abdomen) and six legs.
The types of insects found in North America get organized into almost thirty different orders, some more familiar than others. Approximately one dozen insect orders receive extended discussion. A handful of other insect orders are outlined below.
The popular urban myth that Earwigs (order Dermaptera) crawl into the ears of sleeping humans in order to snack on their brains remains a science fiction best seller.
A science fact best seller starts by recognizing that earwigs pose both garden and residential infestation problems across much of the United States.
As omnivores, large garden infestations can hurt plant production. The most popular, and least invasive control method involves rolling up slightly damp newspapers and placing them on the ground overnight. Collect and dispose of the newspaper in the morning.
Keeping a residence free of clutter and moisture from faulty plumbing are good preventative measures. Large home invasions mostly bring inconveniences. They can be dealt with some commercial non-toxic baits and traps.
Giant Earwings, the largest earwig species, can reach lengths exceeding three inches.
Mantids share the same insect order with cockroaches (Dictyoptera order). Member of the Mantidae family go by the common name, praying mantis, based on their habit of holding their front legs upward, as they sit and wait for prey.
About fifteen mantid species inhabit North America, most share similar physical traits such as a long, thin green or brown body, with long legs and small heads.
The red edging on the wings and thorax, and the brown tips on the legs suggest the species is a European mantis. The dark eyes are an artifact of low light conditions.
Humans consider Praying Mantis beneficial insects. In gardens they eat the insects that eat the garden plants.
Known to almost no one except professional entomologists and insect enthusiasts, snakeflies (order Raphidioptera) constitute a small group of predatory insects.
The North American population is limited to areas west of the Rocky Mountains, and consists of approximately twenty species that fit into two families.
Raphidiidae, the largest family consists of two genera and 18 species. Square-headed snakeflies (family) Inocelliidae consists of one genus (Negha) and three species.
The picture shows a female, with ovipositor, in the Agulla genus of the Raphidiidae family. The thin body and extended neck and head explain the common name snakefly.
Five walkingstick families make up the order Order Phasmida in the United States.
Most of the dozen or so species have long, thin, brown or green bodies that help them blend into their environment, with the orange and yellow Two-striped Walkingstick (Anisomorpha buprestoides), going against the grain.
Caution is advised in the presence of this native Southeast resident. As a defence mechanism that spray a caustic chemical that is known to cause sever pain if it hits the eyes.
The picture highlights the size disparity between genders, with females substantially larger than males.
Giant Walking Sticks (Megaphasma denticrus) ranks as North America's longest native insects, with females reaching seven inches in length.
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Insect ID Quiz
Improve your insect identification skills with this quiz.
Aquatic Insects and Fly Fishing
A review of four insect orders, dobsonflies, mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies, of interest to fly fishing enthusiasts.
© 2008-2013 Patricia A. Michaels