Insects are the most diverse group of animals on the planet. Some insects are beautiful and colorful, while others may seem a little more on the creepy side. Insect fossils have been found that date back 330 million years, so these creatures have been around for quite some time. This article will give you more information about what makes an insect an insect and provide several examples.
What Exactly is an Insect?
Insects are arthropods within the class Insecta. An arthropod typically has an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages. An insect’s body consists of three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen.
Insects are also characterized by having six legs. Some have wings, but some don’t. They inhabit a wide range of ecosystems and play crucial roles in various ecological processes.
18 Examples of Insects
1. Seven Spotted Ladybug
Scientific Name: Coccinella septempunctata
The seven-spotted ladybug is one of the most recognizable insects. The orange or red wing covers, also known as elytra, of the seven-spotted ladybug is adorned with seven black dots. Although some may have zero spots and some may have up to nine spots.
Ladybugs, including the seven-spotted variety, are known for their defensive secretion. When threatened, they can release a foul-smelling fluid from their leg joints, which can deter predators like birds. Ladybugs are also helpful in controlling aphid populations.
2. Green Tiger Beetle
Scientific Name: Cicindela campestris
The green tiger beetle is a predatory insect. As the name suggests, they are bright, metallic green. This insect uses its six purple legs to quickly run across the ground to catch prey such as ants, spiders, and caterpillars. In fact, the green tiger beetle is one of the fastest insects in the world. The green tiger beetle can be found throughout Europe.
3. Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle
Scientific Name: Oryctes rhinoceros
These large insects are characterized by six legs and a horn-like structure that protrudes from their head, resembling that of a rhinoceros. The life cycle of coconut rhinoceros beetles consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. These destructive beetles can be found in Asia, Yemen, and Hawaii. Infestations of these insects can significantly damage palm trees by eating the leaves and burrowing into the trunks.
4. Japanese Beetle
Scientific Name: Popillia japonica
Though native to Japan, the Japanese beetle has become a pest insect in North America. Japanese beetles are small insects, typically measuring about half an inch in length. They have an iridescent, metallic green body with copper-colored wing covers. Adult Japanese beetles primarily eat flowers, fruits, and other foliage, but the larvae eat grass roots, which causes millions of dollars in lawn destruction each year.
5. Common Dor Beetle
Scientific Name: Geotrupes stercorarius
The common dor beetle is a type of dung beetle native to the UK. This beetle is black and shiny. Like other insects, the common dor beetle has a head, thorax, and abdomen. This insect is unique in its diet of dung, or poop, from sheep, cows, and horses. These beetles can live 2 to 3 years.
6. Monarch Butterfly
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
Monarch butterflies are beautiful flying insects with two sets of wings, which are orange with black borders dotted with white spots. Black also runs through the orange in a vein-like pattern. These butterflies are fairly large, with up to a 4-inch wingspan. They start their life as yellow, black, and white striped caterpillars before going through metamorphosis to become a butterfly.
7. Luna Moth
Scientific Name: Actias luna
The luna moth is a large moth species native to North America, specifically the eastern US and Canada. They have lime-green wings and white bodies. Each wing has a long, curving tail and large eyespots resembling the moon, which contributes to their common name.
Luna moths are nocturnal, which means they are active at night and rest during the day. They are attracted to artificial lights and may be seen near outdoor lights or porch lights.
8. Atlas Moth
Scientific Name: Attacus atlas
The Atlas moth is the world’s largest moth species, with a wingspan of up to 10 inches or more. Their wings are coppery brown with white and black markings. They can be found throughout southeast Asia, preferring dry rainforests or subtropical regions.
These moths do not have mouths, so they do not eat. They live off the reserves they saved as ravenous caterpillars and only live long enough to mate, dying within two weeks of emerging from their cocoons.
Scientific Name: Musca domestica
Houseflies may be a nuisance, but they are important to the decomposition part of the ecosystem. These creatures start out life as maggots before going through metamorphosis to become the small, gray, winged creatures we know. Houseflies are very common in areas where humans live because they like to use human garbage to lay their eggs.
10. Fruit Fly
Scientific Name: Drosophila melanogaster
If you have ever had ripe or rotten fruit in your home, chances are you have encountered a fruit fly. They have a tan to brownish-yellow body with bright red eyes. Fruit flies undergo complete metamorphosis, consisting of four stages: egg, larva (maggot), pupa (cocoon), and adult.
The entire life cycle can be completed in as little as 7 to 10 days under optimal conditions. As their name suggests, fruit flies are primarily attracted to fruits and vegetables, especially those that are decaying. This is why they are commonly found in kitchens and compost bins.
11. Western Honey Bee
Scientific Name: Apis mellifera
Though the Western honey bee is native to Africa, Asia, and Europe, it has since been introduced to North America, South America, and Australia. These adorable fuzzy creatures are reddish brown with black and yellow bands on their abdomen.
In a hive, there is one queen bee who is responsible for creating all new life. The other females are sterile and are used as workers in the hive. Honeybees are very important to the ecosystem because they are the primary pollinators for a lot of different plant species.
12. Red Imported Fire Ant
Scientific Name: Solenopsis invicta
The red imported fire ant is an aggressive species of ant native to South America. They have invaded the southern parts of the United States as well. These reddish-brown insects are small but can deliver very painful stings.
They live in dome-shaped mounds in groups of anywhere from a few thousand to several hundred thousand ants. Red imported fire ants are very territorial and quick to defend their nests. When disturbed, they often emerge from their nests and deliver painful stings to intruders.
13. European Hornet
Scientific Name: Vespa crabro
European hornets are very large insects related to the common wasp. They are brown with brown and yellow stripes on their abdomens. Some people may be frightened by their size, but the European hornet isn’t as aggressive as the common wasp and is an important pollinator. These hornets can be found in the south and central regions of the UK.
14. European Paper Wasp
Scientific Name: Polistes dominula
The European paper wasp is a winged insect native to Europe and Northern Africa. They are black with yellow stripes, yellow legs, and brown wings. They get their name from the papery nests they build using a mixture of plant fibers and saliva.
Their colonies typically have between a few dozen to a few hundred wasps. Though these wasps are not particularly aggressive, they can and will defend themselves by stinging.
15. Bullet Ant
Scientific Name: Paraponera clavata
If you don’t want to experience the most painful sting in the world, I suggest steering clear of the bullet ant. They are also known as the 24-hour ant because that’s how long the pain from their sting takes to go away. Some people have described their sting as being as painful as a gunshot wound. Ouch! These ants have long, slender bodies and are typically between 1 and 1.5 inches long. They are primarily found in Central and South America.
16. Southern Green Stink Bug
Scientific Name: Nezara viridula
The southern green stink bug is one of many stink bug species, which are insects that emit a strange, foul smell when they are being bothered or squished. Like other stink bug species, the green stink bug is shield-shaped.
The southern green stink bug is believed to be native to Ethiopia but can now be found throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. When they are born, they are small and brown and called nymphs. They go through several molts before becoming green adults.
17. Pharaoh Cicada
Scientific Name: Magicicada septendecim
If you are from the southern US, chances are you have heard the sounds of cicadas emerging from the ground. These insects spend 17 years underground at nymphs before emerging to reproduce. Pharaoh cicadas are black with brown wings and red eyes. They are about 1.5 inches long, with wingspans up to 2 inches.
18. Cotton Aphid
Scientific Name: Aphis gossypii
Cotton aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that infest a variety of crops, vegetables, ornamental plants, and weeds. They reproduce very quickly through a process called parthenogenesis, which means the females can have offspring with a male. This makes it possible for their populations to explode and cause significant damage to crops.