How to recognise an insect!
An insect is a small creature with three body parts (head, thorax and abdomen) and three pairs of legs. Many have wings. Most of them undergo complete changes of shape during their lifecycles.
Several 'creepy-crawlies' common in the garden are wrongly known as insects: centipedes, millipedes, woodlice, spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, ticks and mites are all from the family Arthropoda. All insects are arthropods, but not all arthropods are insects.
- All wasps die in winter, except the queen.
- Only bumblebees and honeybees live together in colonies. Most species of bees live on their own, some in holes in the ground.
- Grasshoppers sing by rubbing their hind legs against their front wings; crickets sing by rubbing their front wings together.
- Some plants eat insects! They do this by catching them and dissolving their bodies, then they absorb the juice. This gives them nitrogen, which normal plants get from the soil - but these plants live in places where there isn't any.
- Most beetles can fly, but the ground beetles you may find in your soil have lost the ability to fly - they scuttle everywhere very fast instead.
- The largest moth in the world is the Atlas Moth. It has a wingspan of 30cm (1ft) and is so big it is often mistaken for a bird!
- Caterpillars shed their skin four or five times before they turn into chrysalises. Have a look at our Home-grown project. Be a caterpillar collector and see for yourself how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.