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Meet the Insects

Insects have been divided into thirty separate orders based on characteristics of mouthparts, wings, and development.

All thirty insect orders are listed in the table below. We have included more detailed information on a few species in selected orders; check them out immediately following this table.

Insect Orders

  • Archaeognatha (bristletails)
  • Psocoptera (barklice or booklice)
  • Zygentoma or Thysanura (silverfish)
  • Phthiraptera (lice)
  • Ephemeroptera (mayflies)
  • Thysanoptera (thrips)
  • Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies)
  • Plecoptera (stoneflies)
  • Neuroptera (lacewings, antlions)
  • Megaloptera (dobsonflies)
  • Raphidioptera (snakeflies)
  • Grylloblattodea (rock crawlers or ice crawlers)
  • Strepsiptera (strepsipterans)
  • Mantophasmatodea (heel walkers)
  • Diptera (flies)
  • Mecoptera (scorpionflies)
  • Embiidina (embiids, webspinners)
  • Siphonaptera (fleas)
  • Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids)
  • Trichoptera (caddisflies)
  • Dermaptera (earwigs)
  • Lepidoptera (moths, butterflies)
  • Zoraptera (zorapterans)

Here are some of our favorite insects:

Order Isoptera

  • Pacific Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis angusticollis)

The Pacific dampwood termite is the largest and the most significant dampwood termite in the United States. With colonies as large as 4,000 individuals, these termites prefer wet wood and require a source of moisture to survive. Termites utilize bacteria in their digestive tract to break down wood and other cellulose material into absorbable compounds. This species of termite has no worker caste, only soldiers and 3 reproductive forms; fertile males, "first form" queens, and secondary reproductives. The young termites serve as workers.

  • Range: West of the Rocky Mountains from northern California to British Columbia
  • Habitat: Cool and humid areas in tree stumps and fallen tree branches
  • Food: Damp or rotting wood


Order Blattodea

  • Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)

The hissing cockroach gets its name from the hissing sound they make to fend off attackers. Males will also hiss during courtship and while defending their territory. The hissing sound is made by air being passed through holes (spiracles) in the side of their bodies. The males are slightly larger than the females and have two horn-like protrusions on top of their thorax which they use to fight other males.

  • Range: Madagascar
  • Habitat: Forest floor
  • Adult Lifespan: Up to 2 years in captivity
  • Food: Plant material
  • South American Giant Cockroach (Blaberus giganteus)

Also known as the Giant cave cockroach, the South American giant cockroach is known to be one of the worlds largest type of cockroach. This is a winged species of cockroach but is generally unable to fly due to the overall weight of its body. This species will grow as large as or larger than 4 inches.

  • Range: Panama, West Indies, and northern South America
  • Habitat: Dark, humid caves
  • Lifespan: About 2 years
  • Food: Wide ranging diet; Omnivorous


Order Mantodea

  • African Mantis (Sphodromantis lineola)

The African mantis is from West Africa south of the Sahara desert. This praying mantis has an average size of 80-100mm (3.15 – 3.94 in). Because of its size and ease of keeping, the African mantis is kept worldwide as a pet. Females of this species are larger than males and can be identified by the total number of segments on its abdomen, females will have 6 segments compared to a males 8 segmented abdomen. An egg case or ootheca of this species often produces up to 300 individuals when it hatches.

  • Range: West Africa
  • Habitat: Forest floor
  • Adult Lifespan: 2-4 months
  • Food: Other insects
  • Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis)

The Chinese mantis will grow as long as 4.3 inches! The Chinese mantis was introduced into the United States around 1896 as a beneficial insect, and is now well established in North America.

  • Range: China, North America
  • Habitat: Open grasslands
  • Adult Lifespan: Usually 1 year
  • Food: Other insects
  • Malaysian Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus)

The Malaysian orchid mantis is an expert at catching flying insects and prefers catching these over ground dwelling insects. Orchid mantis adults grow to be 30-60 mm (1.18-2.36in) and are colored white with pink and brown areas; this is a very beautiful species.

  • Range: Indonesia, Malaysia and Sumatra
  • Habitat: Highland rainforests hiding between large pink and white flowers
  • Adult Lifespan: About 2 months
  • Food: Other insects but prefers flies, moths, butterflies, and bees


Order Phasmatodea

  • Giant Prickly Stick Insect or Macleay’s Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum)

The Giant prickly stick insect is one of the most common stick insects observed and most kept as a pet worldwide. Adults have an average body size of 127mm (5 in) but can grow as large as 200 mm (8in).

  • Range: New Guinea and coastal regions of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia
  • Habitat: Tropical rainforest, temperate rainforest, grasslands
  • Adult Lifespan: Females can live 0.5 – 1.5 years; males have a shorter lifespan
  • Food: Bramble, Eucalyptus, Hawthorn, Oak, Pyracantha, Raspberry, Rose
  • New Guinea Land Lobster (Eurycantha calcarata)

The New Guinea land lobster is also known as the Spiny devil. The males of this species have huge spines on their back legs, which they use to defend themselves against an attack or during competition with other males. If threatened, they will raise up their abdomen and spread their hind legs as a warning before striking out with their spines.

  • Range: Papua New Guinea
  • Habitat: Tropical rainforest; hollow tree stumps and logs
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years
  • Food: Fig and wild raspberry foliage


Order Hemiptera

  • White Spot Assassin Bug (Platymeris biguttatus)

The White spot assassin bug ranges in size from 10-40mm (0.4-1.6"), it is a predatory insect feeding on other insects including other assassin bugs. Assassin bugs will lie in wait until a prey item appears. They have mouthparts shaped into a long beak that enables the Assassin bug to pierce its prey and stick its beak inside to feed while the prey item is still alive!

  • Range: West Africa
  • Habitat: Savanna and forest habitats.
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Food: Insects, other invertebrates
  • Ferocious Water Bug (Abedus spp.)

The Ferocious water bug is a fierce predator and ambush hunter. It lurks on the muddy bottoms of ponds and streams, ready to grab insects and small fish with its raptorial front legs. They have the ability to stay under water for fairly long periods of time. At the water’s surface, they trap an air bubble under their wings and they are able to “breath” from this bubble while under water.

  • Range: Mexico to central California and Arizona
  • Habitat: Streams and ponds
  • Lifespan: 1+ years
  • Food: Insects, small fish, tadpoles, and salamanders


Order Coleoptera

  • Sunburst Diving Beetle (Thermonectus marmoratus)

Photo by Lynette Schimming

The Sunburst diving beetle is a winged beetle that lives in almost any type of water. Their black bodies are covered with bright yellow spots that make them look like a miniature turtle. They are powerful swimmers, and are able to stay under water for extended periods of time because they collect an air bubble under their wings that can bee seen at the tip of their abdomen when they dive.

  • Range: Western Texas to California
  • Habitat: C lear freshwater ponds and streams
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Food: Feeds on a variety of aquatic organisms, including larvae and small fish
  • Desert Skunk Beetle (Eleodus suturalis)

The Desert skunk beetle is a flightless ground dwelling beetle that is gigantic when compared to other beetles in the Tenebrionidae family. The species gets its common name, Desert skunk beetle, from a chemical defense it uses to deter predators. If threatened, the beetle will lower its head and raise its abdomen to release a noxious chemical substance in the face or onto a predator.

  • Range: Midwest and southwest U.S. into Mexico
  • Habitat: Arid sandy areas
  • Food: Plant material
  • Blue Death Feigning Beetle (Cryptoglossa verrucosus)

Blue death-feigning beetles are herbivores, and tend to eat decaying plant material and seeds. They inhabit the desert lands of the Sonoran Desert. As their name implies, they feign death to avoid predators. If a beetle feels threatened, it will roll over on its back and its body will become rigid, until the threat has passed. This behavior is extremely convincing.

  • Range: Southwest U.S.
  • Habitat: Dry, desert areas
  • Food: Decaying plant material


Order Hymenoptera

  • Thatching ants (Formica obscuripes)

Thatching ants are sometimes called mound ants because their nests are constructed into mounds made of small sticks, grass stems, leaves, and conifer needles. The nests contains several fertile queen ants and up to 500,000 workers. These ants are mostly beneficial in that they eat other insects. Thatching ants “herd” or tend colonies of aphids to feed on their sweet honeydew secretions. The mounds created by this species are very unique in that they provide homes for many other species of insects.

  • Range: North America
  • Habitat: Fields and the edge of forests
  • Food: Dead insects as well as live prey if they can immobilize it; excretions of honeydew producing insects

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