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Flat Earth Academy- Science

Biology: The insects- An amazing class of arthropods


A wondrous group: The insect class

If I had to spend my life looking at only one class of organisms, it would, without a doubt, be the insects for numerous reasons, both practical and philosophical.

A diversion

While I will try not to turn the Flat Earth Academy into a "link farm", I can't resist recommending Orkin's Virtual Cockroach to you!

Use the menus on the right of the Orkin screen to investigate any one of twelve main topics. Don't miss the sub-menus, e.g. the way to look at SEM (scanning electon microscope) images of parts of the 'roach, e.g. parts of the head.

Notice... without any prompting from me!... that Orkin, when they organized their wonderful resource, used almost the same "Seven main challenges of life" which I commend to you here at the Flat Earth Academy.

It won't be on the test

I hope you came to this page during studies at the Flat Earth Academy. Despite what you may think, reading some of its pages, the Academy is not trying to be Yet Another Wikipedia. Rather, it sets out to list Things You Should Know. Things that will give you a framework for further learning, and for getting through your day with your eyes open, and enjoying the world around you, rather than "closed", with you "blind" to things you might want to, or "merely" enjoy noticing. As William Blake said in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "The fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees." (That from a chapter heading in a Colin Dexter "Morse" novel.)

By the way... most of what is in the Academy is things that I would hope you would know by the time you were fourteen... and I taught much of the science here to English children of that age, years ago before schools moved from education to day care.

Before you read any more of this page, take 60 seconds. See how many insects you can list in that time. Try to think of different kinds of insects. Later give yourself a score, as follows:


The Groups of Living Things topic in the Academy is not a small learning task. Happily, I can tell you that you do not need to learn what follows. It is here in hopes of exciting you with the variety in the insect class. It is also here in case you want to be thorough in your scoring for the "how many different living things can you think of?" challenge I set elsewhere. (You can give yourself 2 points for each order represented on your list)

Insect Orders

In a moment, we will start a near-comprehensive list of the insect orders. However, before we do that, we'll explore the full taxonomic naming of a single species.

As you will have learned, if you've already looked at the overview of biology's naming system for living things, any living thing may be put in seven categories, and the organism is also given a species name.

Many well known animals, for example "the crow" are not the same the world over. What someone calls a crow in New York isn't quite the same bird as people call a crow in New Delhi... or even old York (England). (Even though they are all big and black.)

There is more than one species of honey bee... but the honeybee that is a hugely important pollinator in New York is the same species as the one that pollinates in old York. And many other places.

That sort of honeybee's full categorization, slightly "tweaked" for simplicity, is....

The hymenoptera are things like bees and wasps. Ants are also in the group, which will make more sense to you if you've ever seen an ant while it has wings... as many do, for part of their life cycles.

When you "move down" from the order level, and move to the apidae family, you leave the wasps and ants behind. Now you are dealing just with bees. The order still includes the bumble-bees, though, so you know other apidae.

When you move to the genus level, you get to a much smaller group of organisms. If you live in northern latitudes, you may not have ever seen another animal from the Apis genus. You would probably be able to tell it from the honeybee you are familiar with, but it would be even more like "your" honeybee than a bumblebee or wasp is.

The point of that little story was just to illustrate the full path from broad group to exact species. You could even say "specific" species, couldn't you!

The families of the insect class

I hope you saw my comment above? You do not have to learn what follows. I hope you will find it interesting, though. The links take you through to Wikipedia pages, for when you want to know more. (They will open in new tabs or windows.)

I cheated slightly by including the first group. The springtails are neat little creatures, very ancient.. about 400 million years old. They do have six legs, and are very like insects, but there are enough differences that they are put in an order of their own by "serious" scientists. But I wanted to include them in this survey without adding complication. There are two other similar groups.

I've put each group's "Latin" name (the one used by scientists worldwide) in brackets just because I like the sound of some of them. The ending "-ptera" comes from a word for "wing", and the family names often derive from a feature of the wing in species in the group. The diptera, for instance, are unusual in having just two wings. Most insects have four. Even the diptera have two little "things" in place of the "missing" pair of wings.

Oh dear... that's only about half of the insect families! Some of the others are a little obscure, perhaps... but not very many of them. Surely you've heard of, maybe even seen, cockroaches, caddis flies, mantises, earwigs, the beautiful lacewings? But I thought I'd better stop with the list, which was becoming rather long? Go to the Wikipedia article on the pterygota for a list like the above, but more complete!



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