Different Types of Insects

With millions of different types of insects in the world, organizing and identifying them can be complex. It's helpful to know that insects are defined as having six legs and three body sections.

There are more than 30 different scientific groupings of insect types. Above these groupings, there are six main categories of bugs that all insects fall into. Once you know these categories, you'll know if you're looking at an insect or a bug; there is a difference!

  • Insects have a pair of antennae and compound eyes. They are hatched from eggs, and undergo metamorphosis at some point to achieve their adult form. Insects and arachnids fall into the category called arthropods, but they are separate divisions under that category. Arachnids include spiders, ticks and other eight-legged creatures. They have their own category because they've got eight legs, while all insects have six.
  • Flies include the housefly, mosquito, tsetse fly and stable fly. These creatures lay eggs in garbage, manure or water. Every creature in this category has a pair of wings and can fly. They hatch from their eggs into a larval stage where the creature resembles a small worm. From that stage, they grow into adults.
  • Dragonflies are an ancient group of flies that has thin, needle-like bodies and two sets of wings that are layered. Dragonflies and damselflies are carnivores that primarily eat mosquitoes and other small insects. These creatures lay their eggs in water, then spend the first part of their lives as water-dwelling nymphs.
  • Butterflies and moths have two pairs of wings and suck flower nectar with long, straw-like mouth tubes called probosces. Butterflies are active during the day, while moths are nocturnal. These creatures hatch from eggs and grow into caterpillars. The caterpillars then create a coccoon and transform into adult moths and butterflies. Most moths and butterflies only live for a few days, but those inhabit northern areas with a scarce supply of nectar may live for more than a year.
  • Beetles have round bodies and two pairs of wings. The outer wings form a hardened, protective shell for the inner wings. Beetles can fly just as well as they can walk, unlike flies, which typically use their legs for very short walks or grasping. Beetles range from the benevolent, such as the aphid-eating ladybug, to the destructive, such as the Asian Longhorn Beetle, which can kill trees. Beetles hatch from eggs into caterpillar-like grubs. As they grow, the grubs shed their skin and the adult form slowly emerges.
  • Bugs include the bedbug, water bug, stink bug and cicada. Some bugs hop, some bugs fly. Some burrow, some live on ponds. The one thing they all have in common are mouthparts that can pierce their food source and extract juices from it.
  • Ants, bees and wasps live and work in colonies that are cooperative in nature. They are social, working together for the good of the whole. Each member of the colony has a specific type of job. These creatures use movement and chemical signals to communicate. A single queen in the colony lays thousands of eggs that hatch as miniature versions of the adults. While bees and wasps always have wings, ants only develop them when it's time for a colony to expand.
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