A remarkable variety of insects inhabit this planet. More species of insects exist than all other animal species together. Insects have survived on earth for more than 300 million years, and may possess the ability to survive for millions more.
Insects can be found almost everywhere — on the highest mountains and on the bottom of rushing streams, in the cold South Pole and in bubbling hot springs. They burrow through the ground, hop and sing in the trees, and dart and dance in the air. They come in many different colors and various shapes. Insects are extremely useful to humans, pollinating our crops as well as flowers in meadows, forests, deserts and other areas. But ticks and some insects, such as mosquitoes and fleas, can transmit disease.
Insects are vital to the immense cycle of life, furnishing food for other creatures and breaking down natural materials to chemicals and nutrients for recycling into new life. Whirling, buzzing, singing, chewing, vibrating with energy, they are all around us. We have only to open our eyes to watch and begin to understand them.
Ladybugs, also called lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are a very beneficial group. They are natural enemies of many insects. They are small insects, ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are commonly yellow, orange, or scarlet with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, head and antennae.
Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 5,000 species described, more than 450 native to North America alone.
A few species are pests in North America and Europe, but they are generally considered useful insects as many species feed on aphids or scale insects, which are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, and similar places. The Mall of America, for instance, releases thousands of ladybugs into its indoor park as a natural means of pest control for its gardens
Mantodea or mantises is an order of insects that contains approximately 2,200 species in 9 families worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae. Historically, the term “mantid” was used to refer to any member of the order because for most of the past century, only one family was recognized within the order; technically, however, the term only refers to this one family, meaning the species in the other eight recently-established families are not mantids, by definition (i.e., they are empusids, or hymenopodids, etc.), and the term “mantises” should be used when referring to the entire order. A colloquial name for the order is “praying mantises”, because of the typical “prayer-like” stance, although the term is often misspelled as “preying mantis” since mantises are predatory. The closest relatives of mantises are the orders Isoptera (termites) and Blattodea (cockroaches), and these three groups together are sometimes ranked as an order rather than a superorder. They are sometimes confused with phasmids (stick/leaf insects) and other elongated insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.
Beetles are the group of insects with the largest number of known species. They are classified in the order Coleoptera which contains more described species than in any other order in the animal kingdom, constituting about 25% of all known life-forms.
Beetles can be found in almost all habitats, but are not known to occur in the sea or in the polar regions. They interact with their ecosystems in several ways. They often feed on plants and fungi, break down animal and plant debris, and eat other invertebrates. Some species are prey of various animals including birds and mammals. Certain species are agricultural pests, such as the Colorado potato beetle Leptinotarsa decemlineata, the boll weevil Anthonomus grandis, the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, and the mungbean or cowpea beetle Callosobruchus maculatus, while other species of beetles are important controls of agricultural pests. For example, beetles in the family Coccinellidae (“ladybirds” or “ladybugs”) consume aphids, scale insects, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects that damage crops.
A dragonfly is a type of insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Even though dragonflies possess 6 legs like any other insect, they are not capable of walking.
Dragonflies are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, and butterflies. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as “nymphs”, are aquatic.
The rhinoceros beetles or rhino beetle are a subfamily (Dynastinae) of beetles in the family of scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae). They are among the largest of beetles, and their common name refers to the characteristic horns borne by the males of most species in the group. The male beetles use their horns in mating battles against other males.
Their larval stage is long, several years in some species. The larvae feed on rotten wood while the adults feed on nectar, plant sap and fruit. Rhinoceros beetle larvae are sometimes fried and eaten as a bush delicacy.
Rhinoceros beetles are popular pets in Asia. They are clean, easy to maintain, and safe to handle. In Asian countries, male beetles are also used for gambling fights since they naturally compete for female beetles with the winner knocking the other off a log. Rhinoceros beetles are also one of the strongest animals on the planet in relation to their own size. They can lift up to 850 times their own weight.
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and along with the related wasps and bees, they belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. Today, more than 12,500 species are classified with upper estimates of about 22,000 species. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.
Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. These larger colonies consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming castes of “workers”, “soldiers”, or other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called “drones” and one or more fertile females called “queens”. The colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.
A butterfly is any of several groups of mainly day-flying insects of the order Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. Like other holometabolous insects, butterflies’ life cycle consists of four parts, egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most species are diurnal. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight.
Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.