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Introduction to Insects

Insects are the most plentiful animals on the planet. They have distinct features that help
identify them from other animals. They have six legs and three main body parts: head, thorax,
and abdomen. They have one pair of antennae, also called feelers. These are located on the
head section. The mouthpart of an insect is used to suck or chew. Some insects have wings.
Some insects have no wings, some two wings and some have 4 wings. The six legs are
attached to the thorax, the middle section of the body. The thorax is sometimes called the chest.
The wings are also attached to the thorax. The abdomen contains the food processing organs
plus the body parts needed for reproduction.
Insects belong to the group of animals that have jointed legs, segmented bodies and exoskeletons. Insects are arthropods. Exo-skeletons are external skeletons. In order for an insect to
grow larger, the insect must shed its external skeleton. This happens several times during its
life.
Insect metamorphosis, the changing from larva to adult, may be simple or complete. In simple
metamorphosis, the egg stage is followed by a nymph stage, and finally the adult stage.
Nymphs look something like the adult except they are smaller, have undeveloped wings and
are not able to reproduce. In simple metamorphosis, the nymphs live in the same environment
and eat the same food as the adult. A grasshopper goes through simple metamorphosis:
Egg==>nymph==> adult Dragonflies, damselflies and mayflie live in the water during the
nymph stage. When metamorphosis has finished these insects are flying insects. The nymphs
of these insects are called naiads and they go through simple metamorphosis. Complete
metamorphosis is where the egg hatches into a larva, then changes into a pupa; and the adult
emerges from the pupa. Mosquitoes, butterflies, beetles and flies undergo complete
metamorphosis: Egg==>larva==>pupa==>adult
Many insects are beneficial and help us by pollinating plants we use for food. They help by
controlling other insect populations and they provide a food source for other insects, animals
and other wildlife. Some insects provide products we eat, wear or use. A few insects are a
nuisance and cause problems for us by biting, stinging, and eating crops and household
materials. Some insects bother us in protecting themselves when we interfere with them.
The study of insects is called ENTOMOLOGY. The scientist who studies insects is called an
entomologist. There are more than twenty groups of insects known at the present time and
entomologists are still discovering new ones. There are almost a million species of insects
known in the world. Some insects have been around for 300-400 million years.
Insects are found everywhere, in many different habitats, from the ice of Antarctica, to the hot
desert, to the rain forest, to the cities, from underground to mountain tops. They are adapted to
many types of habitats. Adaptation is a special shape or body part that helps an insect survive.
Insects also show huge variety in shape and form.

Insects have a complete and complex digestive tract. The ocelli and compound eyes, some insects
are quite sensitive to sounds, and their chemoreceptive abilities are astounding.
Insects are dioecious and fertilization is internal in most. In some, hatching eggs produce miniature
adults, which to grow must shed their exoskeleton in a process called ecdyisis. Complete
transformation or "metamorphosis" is called "holometabolous." Other species undergo a more
gradual process referred to as "hemimetabolous." Ametabola- a group of insects, which includes
certain primitive orders (as Thysanura) that undergo an inconspicuous metamorphosis.

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