Insects are one of the most important species in any ecosystem. Their products are often transformed into other useful substances like silk, honey, and more. What makes these small and resilient organisms stand out and survive the different ecosystems on this planet? Let’s find out with the list of insect characteristics below.
The insects and its role in the ecosystems
Insects belong to the group of species called Arthropoda Phylum under the class called “Insecta.” These organisms usually aid other organisms, such as bacteria, other animals, and humans, to survive by playing different roles in nature. Being an invertebrate, insects don’t have a backbone and are usually a terrestrial life. Numerous insect species have been surviving on the planet for more than 320 million years. Scientists believe that insects evolved from the millipedes, the counterpart of crustaceans in the sea.
7 main groups of insects
There are different variations in insect groups that can be found all around the world. Did you know that researchers are discovering about 2,000 new insect species each year? This diverse group can be divided into seven main insect groups based on shapes and sizes.
- Beetles – characterized by hard wing cases and strong shells.
- Bees, Wasps, and Ants – warm colors and a stinger for self-defense.
- True Bugs – has camouflaged front wings and rear wings.
- Flies – only has a single pair of wings with a small bristly body
- Butterflies And Moths – two sets of colorful wings that are usually bigger than their main body
- Dragonflies – slim body and wings with large eyes in front.
- Crickets and Grasshoppers – three sets of legs, with the rear having jumping powers. This insect group doesn’t have wide wings.
10 characteristics of insects
1. The presence of exoskeletons
Even with thousands of different species, there is one special characteristic that can only be found on insects: they have exoskeletons. With their size and other body parts, getting an exoskeleton can help them survive. The exoskeleton is made out of Chitin, which is also a primary component of fungi, crustaceans, and mollusks. Its outer layer is made with a water-resistant layer, while the inner layer is a thick one made of Chitin.
2. Most Insects Have Six Legs (Pair of Three)
Most insects only have six legs, unless you’re a millipede. Millipedes have up to 750 legs in one body alone. Some insect species will have very powerful hind legs for jumping, such as grasshoppers. Insects have three legs on each of their sides to act as support from landing and other activities.
3. Insects have three main parts
Insects would have three main body segments, and the first one is the insect’s head. Insects usually pick up sensory signals using their head and other appendages. They will also have the thorax, which is the area between the neck and the abdomen. And last but not least, the abdomen, which is where the organs are found.
4. Insects have some appendages
Appendages are anything attached to the insect’s body other than its main three parts. Some of its most notable forms of appendages are the insect antenna, which is present in a lot of insect’s bodies. Other examples are called mouthparts (or mandibles, maxillae, and maxillipeds). All of the appendages are usually variations of an existing basic structure.
5. Some insects undergo Metamorphosis
Some insects undergo changes (or Metamorphosis) before they can reach complete adulthood. Metamorphosis comes in two forms: complete or incomplete. Complete Metamorphosis has a total of four-stage transformations, which comprises of egg, larva, pupa, and adult (just like butterflies). Incomplete Metamorphosis, on the other hand, has three stages (egg, nymph, and adult).
6. The majority of insects are small
The majority of insect species are small in size and tend to stay with colonies to become safer. On average, the Coleoptera (beetles), which makes up half of all insect species, are only 1cm to 2.5cm in size. The largest insect on Earth is also a beetle called Titanus giganteus or Titan Beetle, which can grow up to 6.6 inches in length.
7. But, smaller insects can hurt more
Insects should not be underestimated when in a colony. They can inflict pain using their horns, strings, or other defensive body parts that can cause collective damage. Besides, smaller insects can inflict deadlier damage. According to Douglas Emlen from the University of Montana, the smaller an insect’s weapon is, the more violent and destructive it would be, as these parts are designed fo fighting solely.
8. Some insects have unusual mating processes
The insect population has some of the weirdest mating rituals in nature. For example, female wasp spiders will eat the male if they mate with a female for more than ten seconds. Soapberry bugs mate with their partners for as long as 24 hours. The male bees only get to experience their sexy times once because their testicles will explode, causing his death.
9. Insects play several important roles in the ecosystem
Insects have a lot of ecological importance in several ecosystems on Earth. They are the main switch in pollinating flowers, which are both beneficial for plants and other animals. Some insect species are also called decomposers, helping new plants grow. Some cultures use insects as medicines and food sources. And last but not least, some insects like bees and silkworms produce essential products like honey and silk.
10. Majority of animals on Earth are insects
In 2011, the total count of species on the planet reached 8.7 million, and the majority of those species are insects. It is reported that there are 1.2 million species in arthropods, and 1 million of those are insect species.