Introduction to insects

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More than 1 million species of insects have been identified worldwide, representing more than half of all known species. Life began in the sea but, in terms of numbers, insects dominate the land and wthout them many higher forms of animal life would not survive. Most birds, for example, are insectivorous, and an average brood of great tit chicks will eat tens of thousands of caterpillars before leaving the nest. And, of course, the vast majority of flowering plants depend on pollination by insects to reproduce.

Most insects are so small and/or so inconspicuous that only an entomologist or an enthusiastic amateur naturalist is likely to notice them, and here we concentrate on the small minority of larger, more noticeable insects. These include some of the most attractive and spectacular of all animals, such as for example the peacock butterfly or the stag beetle.

As well as butterflies, dragonflies and some beetles, we cover day-flying%20moths.html">day-flying moths (a tiny minority among the moths as a whole);bees, wasps and ants, which play an important ecological role; grasshoppers and crickets, heard more often than they are seen; and the flies, including in particular the hoverflies.html">hoverflies, among the most attractive of the flies, and also the most beneficial to man.

© Tony Gunton

More information

'A comprehensive guide to the Insects of Britain and Ireland' by Paul D. Brock.