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About Insects

All insects belong to the phylum Arthropoda. But unlike other arthropods—like lobsters, spiders, or millipedes—insects have three pairs of jointed legs, segmented bodies, an exoskeleton, one pair of antennae, and (usually) one or two pairs of wings.

Insects live in nearly every habitat, and it’s estimated that there are currently 10 quintillion insects on the globe. So far scientists who study bugs, called entomologists, have named one million insect species but studies estimate that four million are still uncategorized.

The oldest insect fossil—a mandible (or jaw) found in Scotland—is between 408 and 438 million years old. The oldest winged fossil dates back 330 million years ago, suggesting that insects were among the first animals to leave the oceans for land during the Devonian period some 400 million years ago.

Insects are vital to every ecosystem. They pollinate plants, decompose plant and animal matter, and are themselves a source of food. Birds alone are estimated to eat 400 to 500 million tons of insects per year.

Latest Insect Videos

Latest Insect Stories
Will dams spoil one of Europe’s last wild rivers?
Will dams spoil one of Europe’s last wild rivers?
The unlikely rise of antkeeping
The unlikely rise of antkeeping
Angelina Jolie embraces bees—and female beekeepers as environmental guardians
Angelina Jolie embraces bees—and female beekeepers as environmental guardians
Ant 'portraits' reveal how beautiful these insects are
Ant 'portraits' reveal how beautiful these insects are
Trillions of cicadas are arriving soon—and that’s a good thing
Trillions of cicadas are arriving soon—and that’s a good thing
Many animals play dead—and not just to avoid getting eaten
Many animals play dead—and not just to avoid getting eaten
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