Beetles are by far the largest order of insects, with 350,000–400,000 species in four suborders (Adephaga, Archostemata, Myxophaga, and Polyphaga), making up about 40% of all insect species described, and about 30% of all animals. Even though classification at the family level is a bit unstable, there are about 500 recognized families and subfamilies. One of the first proposed estimates of the total number of beetle species on the planet is based on field data rather than on catalog numbers. The technique used for this original estimate, possibly as many as 12,000,000 species, was criticized, and was later revised, with estimates of 850,000–4,000,000 species proposed. Some 70–95% of all beetle species, depending on the estimate, remain undescribed. The beetle fauna is not equally well known in all parts of the world. For example, the known beetle diversity of Australia is estimated at 23,000 species in 3265 genera and 121 families. This is slightly lower than reported for North America, a land mass of similar size with 25,160 species in 3526 genera and 129 families. While other predictions show there could be as many as 28,000 species in North America, including those currently undescribed, a realistic estimate of the little-studied Australian beetle fauna's true diversity could vary from 80,000 to 100,000.

Patterns of beetle diversity can be used to illustrate factors that have led to the success of the group as a whole. Based on estimates for all 165 families, more than 358,000 species of beetles have been described and are considered valid. Most species (about 62%) are in six extremely diverse families, each with at least 20,000 described species: Curculionidae, Staphylinidae, Chrysomelidae, Carabidae, Scarabaeidae, and Cerambycidae. The smaller families account for 22% of the total species – 127 families with fewer than 1000 described species and 29 families with 1000–6000 described species. So, the success of beetles as a whole is driven not only by several extremely diverse lineages, but also by a high number of moderately successful lineages. The patterns seen today indicate that beetles went through a massive adaptive radiation early in their evolutionary history, with many of the resulting lineages flourishing through hundreds of millions of years to the present. The adaptive radiation of angiosperms helped drive the diversification of beetles, as four of the six megadiverse families of beetles are primarily angiosperm-feeders: Curculionidae, Chrysomelidae, Scarabaeidae, and Cerambycidae. However, even without the phytophagous groups, lineages of predators, scavengers, and fungivores are tremendously successful. Coleoptera are found in nearly all natural habitats, including freshwater and marine habitats, everywhere there is vegetative foliage, from trees and their bark to flowers, leaves, and underground near roots- even inside plants in galls, in every plant tissue, including dead or decaying ones.


A moth is an insect related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Most of this order are moths; there are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth (nearly ten times the number of species of butterfly), with thousands of species yet to be described. Most species of moth are nocturnal, but there are crepuscular and diurnal species.

Moths are not easily differentiated from butterflies. Sometimes the name "Heterocera" is used for moths while the term "Rhopalocera" is used for butterflies to formalize the popular distinction; these, however, have no taxonomic validity. Many attempts have been made to subdivide the Lepidoptera into groups such as the Microlepidoptera and Macrolepidoptera, Frenatae and Jugatae, or Monotrysia and Ditrysia. Failure of these names to persist in modern classifications is because none of them represents a pair of monophyletic groups. The reality is that butterflies are a small group that arose from within the "moths" (being considered as part of Ditrysia of the Neolepidoptera). There is thus no way to group all of the remaining taxa in a monophyletic group, as it will always exclude that one descendant lineage.

Several moths in the family Tineidae are commonly regarded as pests because their larvae eat fabric such as clothes and blankets made from natural proteinaceous fibers such as wool or silk. They are less likely to eat mixed materials containing artificial fibers. There are some reports that they can be repelled by the scent of wood from juniper and cedar, by lavender, or by other natural oils. However, many consider this unlikely to prevent infestation. Naphthalene (the chemical used in mothballs) is considered more effective, but there are concerns over its effects on human health. Moth larvae may be killed by freezing the items which they infest for several days at a temperature below −8 °C (18 °F). 


Waterbugs or Heteroptera is a group of about 40,000 species of insects in the Hemiptera. Sometimes called "true bugs", that name more commonly refers to Hemiptera as a whole, and "typical bugs" might be used as a more unequivocal alternative since among the Hemiptera the heteropterans are most consistently and universally termed "bugs". "Heteroptera" is Greek for "different wings": most species have forewings with both membranous and hardened portions (called hemelytra); members of the primitive Enicocephalomorpha have wings that are completely membranous.

The name "Heteroptera" is used in two very different ways in modern classifications; in Linnean nomenclature it commonly appears as a suborder within the order Hemiptera, where it can be paraphyletic or monophyletic depending on its delimitation. In phylogenetic nomenclature it is used as an unranked clade within the Prosorrhyncha clade which in turn is in the Hemiptera clade. This results from the realization that the Coleorrhyncha are actually just a "living fossil" relative of the traditional Heteroptera, close enough to them to be actually united with that group.

The Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha contain most of the aquatic and semi-aquatic members of the Heteroptera, while nearly all of the remaining groups that are common and familiar are in the Cimicomorpha and Pentatomomorpha.

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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.

Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae.

Bees have a long proboscis (a complex "tongue") that enables them to obtain the nectar from flowers. They have antennae almost universally made up of 13 segments in males and 12 in females, as is typical for the superfamily. Bees all have two pairs of wings, the hind pair being the smaller of the two; in a very few species, one sex or caste has relatively short wings that make flight difficult or impossible, but none are wingless.

The best-known bee species is the European honey bee, which, as its name suggests, produces honey, as do a few other types of bee. Human management of this species is known as beekeeping or apiculture.

Bees are the favorite meal of Merops apiaster, the bee-eater bird. Other common predators are kingbirds, mockingbirds, beewolves, and dragonflies.

The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their numbers, or natural biocontrol. Parasitic wasps are increasingly used in agricultural pest control as they prey mostly on pest insects and have little impact on crops.

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Lepisma saccharina, frequently called a silverfish or fishmoth, is a small, wingless insect in the order Thysanura. Its common name derives from the animal's silvery light grey and blue colour, combined with the fish-like appearance of its movements, while the scientific name (L. saccharina) indicates the silverfish's diet of carbohydrates such as sugar or starches.

Silverfish are nocturnal insects typically 13–25 mm (0.5–1 in) long. Their abdomens taper at the end, giving them a fish-like appearance. The newly hatched are whitish, but develop a greyish hue and metallic shine as they get older. They have three long cerci at the tips of their abdomens, one off the end of their body, one facing left, and one facing right. They also have two small compound eyes, despite other members of Thysanura being completely eyeless, such as the family Nicoletiidae.

Like other species in Apterygota, silverfish completely lack wings. They have long antennae, and move in a wiggling motion that resembles the movement of a fish. This, coupled with their appearance, influences their common name. Silverfish typically live for two to eight years.

The reproduction of silverfish is preceded by a ritual involving three phases, which may last over half an hour. In the first phase, the male and female stand face to face, their trembling antennae touching, then repeatedly back off and return to this position. In the second phase the male runs away and the female chases him. In the third phase the male and female stand side by side and head-to-tail, with the male vibrating his tail against the female. Finally the male lays a spermatophore, a sperm capsule covered in gossamer, which the female takes into her body via her ovipositor to fertilise the eggs.

The female lays groups of less than 60 eggs at once, deposited in small crevices.The eggs are oval-shaped, whitish, about 0.8 millimetres (0.031 in) long,and take between two weeks and two months to hatch. Silverfish usually lay fewer than 100 eggs in their lifetime.

When the nymphs hatch, they are whitish in colour, and look like smaller adults. As they moult, young silverfish develop a greyish appearance and a metallic shine, eventually becoming adults after three months to three years. They may go through 17 to 66 moults in their lifetime, sometimes 30 in a single year, which is much more than usual for an insect. Silverfish are among the few types of insect that continue to moult after reaching adulthood.


Crickets, family Gryllidae (also known as "true crickets"), are insects somewhat related to grasshoppers, and more closely related to katydids or bush crickets (family Tettigoniidae) and Weta (families Anostostomatidae and Rhaphidophoridae). They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae. There are more than 900 species of crickets. They tend to be nocturnal and are often confused with grasshoppers because they have a similar body structure including jumping hind legs. Crickets are harmless to humans.

The sound emitted by crickets is commonly referred to as chirping; the scientific name is stridulation. Only the male crickets chirp. The sound is emitted by the stridulatory organ, a large vein running along the bottom of each wing, covered with "teeth" (serration) much like a comb. The chirping sound is created by running the top of one wing along the teeth at the bottom of the other wing. As he does this, the cricket also holds the wings up and open, so that the wing membranes can act as acoustical sails. It is a popular myth that the cricket chirps by rubbing its legs together.

There are four types of cricket song: The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near, and is a very quiet song. An aggressive song is triggered by chemoreceptors on the antennae that detect the near presence of another male cricket and a copulatory song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating.

Crickets chirp at different rates depending on their species and the temperature of their environment. Most species chirp at higher rates the higher the temperature is (approximately 62 chirps a minute at 13°C in one common species; each species has its own rate). The relationship between temperature and the rate of chirping is known as Dolbear's Law. According to this law, counting the number of chirps produced in 14 seconds by the snowy tree cricket common in the United States and adding 40 will approximately equal the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.


Known as Armadillidiidae is a family of woodlice, a terrestrial crustacean group in the order Isopoda. Unlike members of other woodlouse families, members of this family can roll into a ball, an ability they share with the outwardly similar but unrelated pill millipedes and other animals. It is this ability which gives woodlice in this family their common name of pill bugs, roly polies, chiggy-wigs or potato bugs. The best known species in the family is Armadillidium vulgare, the common pill bug.

Woodlice in the family Armadillidiidae are able to form their bodies into a ball shape, in a process known as conglobation. This behaviour is shared with pill millipedes (which are often confused with pill bugs), armadillos and cuckoo wasps. This behaviour may be triggered by stimuli such as vibrations or pressure, and is a key defence against predation; it may also reduce respiratory water losses.

Among adults, they are often seen as unwanted (but essentially harmless) home pests.They are cherished among children, who enjoy keeping them as pets. Keeping a pet pill bug requires a very moist habitat with limited light. They can live for about two to three years.

Owners of pet tarantulas sometimes keep pill bugs as cage cleaners in the same habitat. The pill bugs eat faeces, mould, and leftovers. They are sometimes caught and fed to pets such as lizards, but this is not recommended since those animals might become poisoned.

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Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms.[1] Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica, and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exception of air and sea colonization. As of 2008, at least 43,678 spider species,[2] and 109 families have been recorded by taxonomists;[3] however, there has been confusion within the scientific community as to how all these families should be classified, as evidenced by the over 20 different classifications that have been proposed since 1900.[4]

Anatomically, spiders differ from other arthropods in that the usual body segments are fused into two tagmata, the cephalothorax and abdomen, and joined by a small, cylindrical pedicel. Unlike insects, spiders do not have antennae. In all except the most primitive group, the Mesothelae, spiders have the most centralized nervous systems of all arthropods, as all their ganglia are fused into one mass in the cephalothorax. Unlike most arthropods, spiders have no extensor muscles in their limbs and instead extend them by hydraulic pressure.

Their abdomens bear appendages that have been modified into spinnerets that extrude silk from up to six types of silk glands within their abdomen. Spider webs vary widely in size, shape and the amount of sticky thread used. It now appears that the spiral orb web may be one of the earliest forms, and spiders that produce tangled cobwebs are more abundant and diverse than orb-web spiders. Spider-like arachnids with silk-producing spigots appeared in the Devonian period about 386 million years ago, but these animals apparently lacked spinnerets. True spiders have been found in Carboniferous rocks from 318 to 299 million years ago, and are very similar to the most primitive surviving order, the Mesothelae. The main groups of modern spiders, Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae, first appeared in the Triassic period, before 200 million years ago.


Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari (also known as Acarina) and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.

Mites are among the most diverse and successful of all the invertebrate groups. They have exploited an incredible array of habitats, and because of their small size (most are microscopic) go largely unnoticed. Many live freely in the soil or water, but there are also a large number of species that live as parasites on plants, animals, and some that feed on mold. It is estimated that 48,200 species of mites have been described.

Some of the plant pests include the so-called spider mites (family Tetranychidae), thread-footed mites (family Tarsonemidae), and the gall mites (family Eriophyidae). Among the species that attack animals are members of the sarcoptic mange mites (family Sarcoptidae), which burrow under the skin. Demodex mites (family Demodicidae) are parasites that live in or near the hair follicles of mammals, including humans. Acari are mites, except for the three families of ticks. Perhaps the best-known mite, though, is the house dust mite (family Pyroglyphidae).

Insects may also have parasitic mites. Examples are Varroa destructor, which attaches to the body of the honeybee, and Acarapis woodi (family Tarsonemidae), which lives in the tracheae of honey bees. There are hundreds of species of mites associated with other bee species, and most are poorly described and understood. Some are thought to be parasites, while others beneficial symbionts.



Fleas are wingless insects (1/16 to 1/8-inch (1.5 to 3.3 mm) long) that are agile, usually dark colored (for example, the reddish-brown of the cat flea), with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm), making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper. According to an article in Science News, "researchers with the University of Cambridge in England have shown that fleas take off from their tibiae and tarsi—the insect equivalent of feet—and not their trochantera, or knees. The researchers report their conclusion in the March 1 Journal of Experimental Biology." It has been known that fleas do not use muscle power but energy stored in a protein named resilin but the researchers used high-speed video technology and mathematical models to discover where the spring action actually happens. Their bodies are laterally compressed, permitting easy movement through the hairs or feathers on the host's body (or in the case of humans, under clothing). The flea body is hard, polished, and covered with many hairs and short spines directed backward, which also assist its movements on the host. The tough body is able to withstand great pressure, likely an adaptation to survive attempts to eliminate them by mashing or scratching. Even hard squeezing between the fingers is normally insufficient to kill a flea. It is possible to eliminate them by pressing individual fleas with adhesive tape or softened beeswax (or "cheese" wax) or by rolling a flea briskly between the fingers to disable it then crushing it between the fingernails. Fleas also can be drowned in soapy water.

Micrograph of a flea larvaFleas lay tiny white oval-shaped eggs better viewed through a loupe. The larva is small, pale, has bristles covering its worm-like body, lacks eyes, and has mouthparts adapted to chewing. The larvae feed on various organic matter, especially the feces of mature fleas. The adult flea's diet consists solely of fresh blood. In the pupa phase, the larva is enclosed in a silken, debris-covered cocoon. 


A mouse (plural: mice) is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents, characteristically having a pointed snout, small rounded ears, and a long naked or almost hairless tail. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse (Mus musculus). It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles. They are known to invade homes for food and occasionally shelter.

Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of arthropods have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, because of its remarkable adaptability to almost any environment, the mouse is one of the most successful mammalian genera living on Earth today.

Mice can at times be vermin, damaging and eating crops, causing structural damage and spreading diseases through their parasites and feces. In North America, breathing dust that has come in contact with mouse excrement has been linked to hantavirus, which may lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).

Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. Many members of other rodent genera and families are also referred to as rats, and share many characteristics with true rats.

Rats are typically distinguished from mice by their size; rats are generally large muroid rodents, while mice are generally small muroid rodents. The muroid family is very large and complex, and the common terms rat and mouse are not taxonomically specific. Generally, when someone discovers a large muroid, its common name includes the term rat, while if it is small, the name includes the term mouse. Scientifically, the terms are not confined to members of the Rattus and Mus genera, for example, the pack rat and cotton mouse.

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Centipedes (from Latin prefix centi-, "hundred", and pes, pedere, "foot") are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda. They are elongated metameric animals with one pair of legs per body segment. Despite the name, centipedes can have a varying number of legs from under 20 to over 300. Centipedes have an odd number of pairs of legs, e.g. 15 or 17 pairs of legs (30 or 34 legs) but never 16 pairs (32 legs). A key trait uniting this group is a pair of venom claws or forcipules formed from a modified first appendage. Centipedes are a predominantly carnivorous taxon.

Centipedes normally have a drab coloration combining shades of brown and red. Cavernicolous (cave-dwelling) and subterranean species may lack pigmentation and many tropical scolopendromorphs have bright aposematic colours. Size can range from a few millimetres in the smaller lithobiomorphs and geophilomorphs to about 30 cm (12 in) in the largest scolopendromorphs. Centipedes can be found in a wide variety of environments.

Millipedes are arthropods that have two pairs of legs per segment (except for the first segment behind the head which does not have any appendages at all, and the next few which only have one pair of legs). Each segment that has two pairs of legs is a result of two single segments fused together as one. Most millipedes have very elongated cylindrical bodies, although some are flattened dorso-ventrally, while pill millipedes are shorter and can roll into a ball, like a pillbug.

The name "millipede" is a compound word formed from the Latin roots mille ("thousand") and pes ("foot"). Despite their name, no known millipede has 1,000 legs, although the rare species Illacme plenipes has up to 750. Common species have between 36 and 400 legs. The class contains around 10,000 species in 13 orders and 115 families. The giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas), is the largest species of millipede.

Millipedes can be easily distinguished from the somewhat similar and related centipedes (Class Chilopoda), which move rapidly, and have a single pair of legs for each body segment.

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Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae (pron.: /fɔrˈmɪsɨdiː/) and, along with the related wasps and bees, 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. More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified. 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 that may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. 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 sometimes are described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organisation and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Their long co-evolution with other species has led to mimetic, commensal, parasitic, and mutualistic relationships.

Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study. Many human cultures make use of ants in cuisine, medication, and rituals. Some species are valued in their role as biological pest control agents. Their ability to exploit resources may bring ants into conflict with humans, however, as they can damage crops and invade buildings. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant, are regarded as invasive species, establishing themselves in areas where they have been introduced accidentally.


Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests.

Among the best-known pest species are the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, which is about 30 mm (1.2 in) long; the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, about 15 mm (0.59 in) long; the Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai, also about 15 mm (0.59 in) in length; and the Oriental cockroach, Blatta orientalis, about 25 mm (0.98 in). Tropical cockroaches are often much bigger, and extinct cockroach relatives and 'roachoids' such as the Carboniferous Archimylacris and the Permian Apthoroblattina were not as large as the biggest modern species.

Cockroaches are generally rather large insects. Most species are about the size of a thumbnail, but several species are bigger. The world's heaviest cockroach is the Australian giant burrowing cockroach, which can reach 9 cm (3.5 in) in length and weigh more than 30 g (1.1 oz). Comparable in size is the Central American giant cockroach Blaberus giganteus, which grows to a similar length but is not as heavy.

Cockroaches have broad, flattened bodies and relatively small heads. They are generalized insects, with few special adaptations, and may be among the most primitive living neopteran insects. The mouthparts are on the underside of the head and include generalised chewing mandibles. They have large compound eyes, two ocelli, and long, flexible, antennae.

The first pair of wings (the tegmina) are tough and protective, lying as a shield on top of the membranous hind wings. All four wings have branching longitudinal veins, and multiple cross-veins. The legs are sturdy, with large coxae and five claws each. The abdomen has ten segments and several cerci.