Types of insects - Characteristics and names

Insects are hexapod arthropods, therefore, its body is divided into the head, thorax and abdomen. In addition, they all have six legs and two pairs of wings that emerge from the thorax. However, as we will see later, these appendices vary in each group. In fact, together with the antennae and the oral apparatus, they allow to easily differentiate the different types of insects that exist.

This group of animals is the most diverse and contains around one million species. However, most are thought to have not even been discovered yet.. ¿Do you want to know them more thoroughly? In this AnimalWised article we give you the keys to differentiate the different types of insects, with their characteristics and names.

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  1. Classification of insects
  2. Odonata (Order Odonata)
  3. Orthoptera (Order Orthoptera)
  4. Termites (Order Isoptera)
  5. Hemiptera (Order Hemiptera)
  6. Lepidoptera (Order Lepidoptera)
  7. Beetles (Order Coleoptera)
  8. Diptera (Order Diptera)
  9. Hymenoptera (Order Hymenoptera)
  10. Types of wingless insects
  11. Other types of insects

Classification of insects

Due to their enormous diversity, the classification of insects includes a large number of groups. Therefore, we are going to focus on the most popular and abundant types of insects. These are the following orders:

  • Odonates
  • Orthoptera
  • Isoptera
  • Hemiptera
  • Lepidoptera
  • Beetles
  • Diptera
  • Hymenoptera

Odonata (Order Odonata)

Odonates are one of the most beautiful insects in the world. This group includes more than 3,500 species that are distributed throughout the world. It's about the dragonflies (infraorder Anisoptera) and the damselflies (suborder Zygoptera), predatory insects with aquatic nymphs (young).

Odonates have two pairs of membranous wings and non-locomotive legs that serve to catch prey and cling to the substrate, but not to walk. Their eyes are compound and appear separated in the horses and close together in the dragonflies. This character allows them to be differentiated.

Examples of odonate insects

Some types of insects belonging to this group are:

  • Blue Damselfly (Calopterix virgo)
  • Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator)
  • Tiger Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltoni)

Orthoptera (Order Orthoptera)

This group is that of grasshoppers and crickets, that add more than 20,000 species. Although they are found almost all over the world, they enjoy warm areas and seasons. In them, both the young and the adults feed on plants. They are ametabolic animals that do not undergo metamorphosis, although they do mute.

We can easily differentiate these types of animals because their forewings are partially hardened (tegminas) and their hind legs are large and strong, perfectly adapted for jumping. Normally, they have green or brown colors that help them camouflage themselves in the environment that surrounds them and hide from the large number of predators that stalk them..

Examples of Orthoptera insects

Some examples of grasshoppers and crickets are:

  • Common green grasshopper (Tettigoria viridissima)
  • Pink grasshopper (Euconocephalus thunbergii)
  • Mole cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa)

Termites (Order Isoptera)

The termite group includes some 2 500 species, all very abundant. Normally, these types of insects feed on wood, although they can eat other plant substances. They inhabit large termite mounds that build in wood or soil and present the most complex caste systems known.

Their anatomy depends on the different castes. However, they all have large antennae, locomotive legs, and an 11-part segmented abdomen. As for the wings, they only appear in the primary reproducers. The rest of the castes are wingless insects.

Examples of termites

Some species of termites are:

  • Wetwood termite (Kalotermes flavicollis)
  • Canarian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis)

Hemiptera (Order Hemiptera)

These types of insects refer to the Bedbugs (suborder Heteroptera) and the aphids, mealybugs and cicadas (Homoptera). In total, there are more than 80,000 species, making it a very diverse group that includes aquatic insects, phytophagous, predators and even blood-sucking parasites..

Bedbugs have hemielitres, that is, their forewings are hard at the base and membranous at the apex. Homoptera, however, all have membranous wings. Most have well-developed antennae and a biting-sucking mouthpart..

Examples of hemiptera insects

Within this large group we can find species such as the following:

  • Beaked bug (Triatoma infestans)
  • Black aphid (Aphis fabae)
  • Cicada orni
  • Shield bug (Carpocoris fuscispinus)

Lepidoptera (Order Lepidoptera)

The Lepidoptera group includes more than 165,000 species of butterflies and moths. It is one of the most diverse and abundant types of insects. Adults feed on nectar and are pollinators, while larvae (caterpillars) are herbivores.

Its characteristics include its complex metamorphosis (they are holometabolos), its membranous wings covered with scales and its spirit. This is a very elongated sucking mouth appliance that they keep rolled up when they are not feeding..

Examples of Lepidopteran insects

Some species of butterflies and moths are:

  • Atlas butterfly (Attacus atlas)
  • Emperor butterfly (Thysania agrippina)
  • Skull Sphinx Moth (Acherontia atropos)

Beetles (Order Coleoptera)

Coleoptera or beetles are the most diverse and abundant order of insects. ¡It is estimated that there are 370,000 species known! Among them are insects as diverse as the flying deer (Lucanus cervus) or ladybugs (Coccinellidae).

The main characteristic of this type of insects is that their forewings are completely sclerotized and are called elytra. These cover and protect the second pair of wings, which are membranous and used to fly. In addition, the elytra are essential to control the flight.

Diptera (Order Diptera)

Are the flies, mosquitoes and horseflies, that bring together more than 122,000 species distributed throughout the world. These insects undergo metamorphosis during their life cycle and adults feed on liquids (nectar, blood, etc.), which is why they have a lick-sucking mouthpart..

Its main characteristic is the transformation of its hind wings into structures known as seesaws. The forewings are membranous and flap to fly, while the rocker arms allow them to maintain balance and control flight..

Examples of Diptera insects

Some examples of insects belonging to this group are:

  • Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopicus)
  • Tsetse fly (genus Glossina)

Hymenoptera (Order Hymenoptera)

Hymenoptera are the ants, wasps, bees and symphites. It is the second largest group of insects, with 200,000 described species. Many species are social and are organized in castes. Others are solitary and often parasitoids.

Except for symphytes, the first segment of the abdomen is attached to the thorax, which allows them great mobility. As for its oral apparatus, it is a chewer in predators, such as wasps, or a licker-sucker in those that feed on nectar, such as different types of bees. All these types of insects have powerful wing muscles and a highly developed glandular system that allows them to communicate with high efficiency..

Examples of Hymenopteran insects

Some species found in this large group of insects are:

  • Asian bee (Vespa velutina)
  • Potter wasps (Eumeninae)
  • Pollen wasps (Masarinae)

Types of wingless insects

At the beginning of the article we said that all insects have two pairs of wings, however, as we have seen, in many types of insects these structures have been transformed giving rise to other organs, such as elytra or rocker arms..

There are also wingless insects, that is, they do not have wings. It is the result of your evolutionary process. It is because both the wings and the structures necessary for their movement (wing muscles or hydraulic systems) require a lot of energy. Therefore, when they are not necessary, they tend to disappear, allowing the use of said energy for other purposes..

Examples of wingless insects

The best known wingless insects are most of ants and termites, in which only wings appear in reproductive individuals that depart to form new colonies. In this case, the determinant of whether wings appear or not is the food that is supplied to the larvae: it is epigenetics. That is, the genes that code for the appearance of wings are present in their genome but, depending on the type of feeding during development, their expression is suppressed or activated..

Some species of Hemiptera and Coleoptera have their wings transformed and permanently attached to their body, so that they cannot fly. Other types of insects, such as the order Zygentoma, are wingless and are true wingless insects. An example are moisture bugs or silverfishSilverfish saccharina).

Other types of insects

As we said before, there are so many types of insects that it is very difficult to name them all. However, in this section we give you details about other less abundant or more unknown groups:

  • Dermaptera. They are earwigs, insects that live in humid areas and have appendages (fences) like pincers at the end of the abdomen.
  • Zygentoma. They are apterous, flattened and elongated insects that flee from light and dryness. They are known as "bugs of humidity " and among them are the silverfish.
  • Blattodea. These are cockroaches, insects with long antennae and partially hardened wings that are better developed in males. Both have fences at the end of the abdomen..
  • Mantodea. Mantises are animals perfectly adapted to predation. Their front legs are specialized in abducting prey and have a great ability to blend in with the environment that surrounds them.
  • Phthiraptera. These are lice, a group that includes more than 5,000 species. They are all external blood-sucking parasites.
  • Neuroptera. It includes several types of insects, such as lion ants or lacewings. They have membranous wings and most are predators.
  • Shiphonaptera. They are the dreaded fleas, blood-sucking external parasites. Its mouthpart is biting-sucking and its hind legs are highly developed for jumping..
  • Trichoptera. The Friganos group is very unknown, although it includes more than 7,000 species. They have membranous wings and their legs are very long, like those of a mosquito. They stand out for the construction of "cases " for the protection of their larvae.

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