Entomology (from Ancient Greek ἔντομον (entomon), meaning 'insect', and -λογία (-logia), meaning 'study of') is the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology. In the past the term "insect" was more vague, and historically the definition of entomology included the study of terrestrial animals in other arthropod groups or other phyla, such as arachnids, myriapods, earthworms, land snails, and slugs. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use.
Like several of the other fields that are categorized within zoology, entomology is a taxon-based category; any form of scientific study in which there is a focus on insect-related inquiries is, by definition, entomology. Entomology therefore overlaps with a cross-section of topics as diverse as molecular genetics, behavior, biomechanics, biochemistry, systematics, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, morphology, and paleontology.
At some 1.3 million described species, insects account for more than two-thirds of all known organisms, date back some 400 million years, and have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth.
Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (especially biological control and beekeeping), but scientific study began only as recently as the 16th century.
William Kirby is widely considered as the father of Entomology. In collaboration with William Spence, he published a definitive entomological encyclopedia, Introduction to Entomology, regarded as the subject's foundational text. He also helped to found the Royal Entomological Society in London in 1833, one of the earliest such societies in the world; earlier antecedents, such as the Aurelian society date back to the 1740s.
Entomology developed rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was studied by large numbers of people, including such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.
There has also been a history of people becoming entomologists through museum curation and research assistance, such as Sophie Lutterlough at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Insect identification is an increasingly common hobby, with butterflies and dragonflies being the most popular.
Most insects can easily be recognized to order such as Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) or Coleoptera (beetles). However, insects other than Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are typically identifiable to genus or species only through the use of Identification keys and Monographs. Because the class Insecta contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species of beetles alone) and the characteristics separating them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist. This has led to the development of automated species identification systems targeted on insects, for example, Daisy, ABIS, SPIDA and Draw-wing.
In 1994, the Entomological Society of America launched a new professional certification program for the pest control industry called the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE). To qualify as a "true entomologist" an individual would normally require an advanced degree, with most entomologists pursuing their PhD. While not true entomologists in the traditional sense, individuals who attain the ACE certification may be referred to as ACEs or Associate Certified Entomologist
Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects, and a number of these subspecialties are given their own informal names, typically (but not always) derived from the scientific name of the group:
Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.
Here is a list of selected museums which contain very large insect collections.
Entomology has been depicted in various films such as:
BugGuide (or BugGuide.net) is a website and online community of naturalists, both amateur and professional, who share observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures. The website consists of informational guide pages and many thousands of photographs of arthropods from the United States and Canada which are used for identification and research. The non-commercial site is hosted by the Iowa State University Department of Entomology. BugGuide was conceived by photographer Troy Bartlett in 2003 and since 2006 has been maintained by Dr. John VanDyk, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entomology and Senior Systems Analyst at Iowa State University. The website has been recognized for helping change public perception of insects.According to VanDyk, BugGuide had over 809 million hits in 2010, averaging approximately 26 hits per second. He also stated that in early 2011 the site consisted of almost 34,000 written pages representing about 23 percent of the estimated insect species in North America. In April 2012 the guide surpassed 500,000 photos. By October 2014, BugGuide had 30,774 species pages and 48,572 total pages, with over 808,718 images submitted by more than 27,846 contributors. On 22 September 2014, BugGuide surpassed 1,000,000 pages (most of which are photographs).The photographs posted have contributed to or resulted in several scientific publications. A large proportion of images featured in an atlas of vespid wasps are credited to contributors to BugGuide. BugGuide photographs have detected new state records of invasive pest ants and beetles.Geologist and moth collector Richard Wilson said of the site, "The BugGuide site is very useful for anyone finding an insect and it is very interactive on getting it identified if a picture can be taken."According to gardening author Margaret Roach, "The site is where naturalists of all levels share photos of 'insects, spiders and their kin' to foster enthusiasm and expand the knowledge base about these often-overlooked (and as BugGuide points out, 'oft-maligned') creatures."According to the site itself, BugGuide.net has been responsible for the identification of 11 new, previously undescribed species as of mid-2014. In addition, 12 species new to the Western Hemisphere were first identified via the site; another seven new to North America; and numerous new country records (primarily the United States) and state/county sightings.Bulletin of the Natural History Museum
Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, formerly known as Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) is a series of scientific journals published by the British Museum, and later by the Natural History Museum of London. Titles in the series included
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Botany Series
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Entomology Series
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Geology Series
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Historical Series
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Mineralogy Series
Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Zoology SeriesUpon transfer to the Natural History Museum, the journals were known as
Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, Botany Series
Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, Entomology Series
Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, Historical Series
Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, Geology Series (which included the former Mineralogy series)
Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, Zoology SeriesThe Botany, Entomology and Zoology series merged to form Systematics and Biodiversity, while the Geology series was succeeded by the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International
The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI, sometimes also referred to as CAB International) is a not-for-profit inter-governmental development and information organisation focusing primarily on agricultural and environmental issues in the developing world.Cleridae
Cleridae are a family of beetles of the superfamily Cleroidea. They are commonly known as checkered beetles. The family Cleridae has a worldwide distribution, and a variety of habitats and feeding preferences.
Cleridae have a large number of niches and feeding habits. Most genera are predaceous and feed on other beetles and larvae; however other genera are scavengers or pollen feeders. Clerids have elongated bodies with bristly hairs, are usually bright colored, and have variable antennae. Checkered beetles range in length between 3 millimeters and 24 millimeters. Cleridae can be identified based on their 5–5–5 tarsal formula, division of sternites, and the absence of a special type of vesicle. Female Cleridae lay between 28–42 eggs at a time predominately under the bark of trees. Larvae are predaceous and feed vigorously before pupation and subsequently emergence as adults.
Clerids have a minor significance in forensic entomology. Some species are occasionally found on carrion in the later dry stages of decay. Also, some species are pests (stored product entomology) and are found infesting various food products. Research efforts related to Cleridae have focused primarily on using certain species as biological controls. This is a very effective technique for controlling bark beetles due to the voracious appetite of many clerid species.Compound eye
A compound eye is a visual organ found in arthropods such as insects and crustaceans. It may consist of thousands of ommatidia, which are tiny independent photoreception units that consist of a cornea, lens, and photoreceptor cells which distinguish brightness and color. The image perceived by the arthropod is a combination of inputs from the numerous ommatidia, which are oriented to point in slightly different directions. Compared with single-aperture eyes, compound eyes have poor image resolution; however, they possess a very large view angle and the ability to detect fast movement and, in some cases, the polarization of light.Dru Drury
Dru Drury (4 February 1724 – 15 December 1803) was a British entomologist.Entomological Society of America
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) was founded in 1889 and today has more than 6,000 members, including educators, extension personnel, consultants, students, researchers, and scientists from agricultural departments, health agencies, private industries, colleges and universities, and state and federal governments. It serves the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. To facilitate communication among members, the ESA is divided into four sections based on entomological interests, and six branches, based on geographic proximity. The national office is located in Annapolis, Maryland.Forensic entomology
Forensic entomology is the scientific study of the invasion of the succession pattern of arthropods with their developmental stages of different species found on the decomposed cadavers during legal investigations.
It is the application and study of insect and other arthropod biology to criminal matters. It also involves the application of the study of arthropods, including insects, arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, and crustaceans to criminal or legal cases. It is primarily associated with death investigations; however, it may also be used to detect drugs and poisons, determine the location of an incident, and find the presence and time of the infliction of wounds. Forensic entomology can be divided into three subfields: urban, stored-product and medico-legal/medico-criminal entomology.Glossary of entomology terms
This glossary of entomology describes terms used in the formal study of insect species by entomologists.Human interactions with insects
Human interactions with insects include both a wide variety of uses, whether practical such as for food, textiles, and dyestuffs, or symbolic, as in art, music, and literature, and negative interactions including serious damage to crops and extensive efforts to eliminate insect pests.
Academically, the interaction of insects and society has been treated in part as cultural entomology, dealing mostly with "advanced" societies, and in part as ethnoentomology, dealing mostly with "primitive" societies, though the distinction is weak and not based on theory. Both academic disciplines explore the parallels, connections and influence of insects on human populations, and vice versa. They are rooted in anthropology and natural history, as well as entomology, the study of insects. Other cultural uses of insects, such as biomimicry, do not necessarily lie within these academic disciplines.
More generally, people make a wide range of uses of insects, both practical and symbolic. On the other hand, attitudes to insects are often negative, and extensive efforts are made to kill them. The widespread use of insecticides has failed to exterminate any insect pest, but has caused resistance to commonly-used chemicals in a thousand insect species.
Practical uses include as food, in medicine, for the valuable textile silk, for dyestuffs such as carmine, in science, where the fruit fly is an important model organism in genetics, and in warfare, where insects were successfully used in the Second World War to spread disease in enemy populations. One insect, the honey bee, provides honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and an anti-inflammatory peptide, melittin; its larvae too are eaten in some societies. Medical uses of insects include maggot therapy for wound debridement. Over a thousand protein families have been identified in the saliva of blood-feeding insects; these may provide useful drugs such as anticoagulants, vasodilators, antihistamines and anaesthetics.
Symbolic uses include roles in art, in music (with many songs featuring insects), in film, in literature, in religion, and in mythology. Insect costumes are used in theatrical productions and worn for parties and carnivals.Hyaline
A hyaline substance is one with a glassy appearance. The word is derived from Greek: ὑάλινος transparent and Greek: ὕαλος crystal, glass.Insect
Insects or Insecta (from Latin insectum) are hexapod invertebrates and the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Definitions and circumscriptions vary; usually, insects comprise a class within the Arthropoda. As used here, the term Insecta is synonymous with Ectognatha. Insects have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms. The total number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million; potentially over 90% of the animal life forms on Earth are insects. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans, which are dominated by another arthropod group, crustaceans.
Nearly all insects hatch from eggs. Insect growth is constrained by the inelastic exoskeleton and development involves a series of molts. The immature stages often differ from the adults in structure, habit and habitat, and can include a passive pupal stage in those groups that undergo four-stage metamorphosis. Insects that undergo three-stage metamorphosis lack a pupal stage and adults develop through a series of nymphal stages. The higher level relationship of the insects is unclear. Fossilized insects of enormous size have been found from the Paleozoic Era, including giant dragonflies with wingspans of 55 to 70 cm (22 to 28 in). The most diverse insect groups appear to have coevolved with flowering plants.
Adult insects typically move about by walking, flying, or sometimes swimming. As it allows for rapid yet stable movement, many insects adopt a tripedal gait in which they walk with their legs touching the ground in alternating triangles, composed of the front & rear on one side with the middle on the other side. Insects are the only invertebrates to have evolved flight, and all flying insects derive from one common ancestor. Many insects spend at least part of their lives under water, with larval adaptations that include gills, and some adult insects are aquatic and have adaptations for swimming. Some species, such as water striders, are capable of walking on the surface of water. Insects are mostly solitary, but some, such as certain bees, ants and termites, are social and live in large, well-organized colonies. Some insects, such as earwigs, show maternal care, guarding their eggs and young. Insects can communicate with each other in a variety of ways. Male moths can sense the pheromones of female moths over great distances. Other species communicate with sounds: crickets stridulate, or rub their wings together, to attract a mate and repel other males. Lampyrid beetles communicate with light.
Humans regard certain insects as pests, and attempt to control them using insecticides, and a host of other techniques. Some insects damage crops by feeding on sap, leaves, fruits, or wood. Some species are parasitic, and may vector diseases. Some insects perform complex ecological roles; blow-flies, for example, help consume carrion but also spread diseases. Insect pollinators are essential to the life cycle of many flowering plant species on which most organisms, including humans, are at least partly dependent; without them, the terrestrial portion of the biosphere would be devastated. Many insects are considered ecologically beneficial as predators and a few provide direct economic benefit. Silkworms produce silk and honey bees produce honey and both have been domesticated by humans. Insects are consumed as food in 80% of the world's nations, by people in roughly 3000 ethnic groups.Lepidopterology
Lepidopterology (from Ancient Greek λεπίδος (scale) and πτερόν (wing); and -λογία -logia.), is a branch of entomology concerning the scientific study of moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies. Someone that studies in this field is a lepidopterist or, archaically, an aurelian.Maggot
A maggot is the larva of a fly (order Diptera); it is applied in particular to the larvae of Brachycera flies, such as houseflies, cheese flies, and blowflies, rather than larvae of the Nematocera, such as mosquitoes and Crane flies. A 2012 study estimated the population of maggots in North America alone to be in excess of 3×105 trillion.Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society
Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society was a peer-reviewed scientific journal of entomology established in 1926 by the Royal Entomological Society. A history is presented below.Psyche (entomology journal)
Psyche is a scientific journal of entomology which was established in 1874 by the Cambridge Entomological Club as a "journal for the publication of biological contributions upon Arthropoda from any competent person". The name of the journal is derived from the Ancient Greek word for butterfly.
The journal has been published since 1874 (with gaps from 1886 to 1887, 1995 to 1999, and 2000 to 2007). In 2007 the Club transferred the journal to the Hindawi Publishing Corporation, and it became an open-access journal in 2008, with articles distributed online under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Almost all back issues were scanned and are available online as PDF files.Royal Entomological Society
The Royal Entomological Society is devoted to the study of insects. Its aims are to disseminate information about insects and improving communication between entomologists.
The society was founded in 1833 as the Entomological Society of London. It had many antecedents beginning as the Society of Entomologists of London.The Global Lepidoptera Names Index
The Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex) is a searchable database maintained by the Department of Entomology at the Natural History Museum, London.
It is based on card indices and scanned journals, nomenclatural catalogues and the Zoological Record. It contains the majority of world's Lepidoptera names published up until 1981 and for some groups is up to date.The Global Lepidoptera Names Index or LepIndex allows anyone free internet access to:
the zoological authority who named a butterfly or moth species
where the original description was published
status of the name (valid name or synonym)It is the main source of Lepidoptera names in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System and Catalogue of Life.Thomas Say
Thomas Say (June 27, 1787 – October 10, 1834) was an American entomologist, conchologist, and herpetologist. His definitive studies of insects and shells, numerous contributions to scientific journals, and scientific expeditions to Florida, Georgia, the Rocky Mountains, Mexico, and elsewhere made him an internationally known naturalist. Say has been called the father of American descriptive entomology and American conchology. He served as librarian for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, curator at the American Philosophical Society, and professor of natural history at the University of Pennsylvania.