Do you want to know all about the kind of insects that might be crawling around in your home? Are you curious about the different types of insects you see wandering around in your garden? Are you worried about the pests that may damage your property? We have just the guide for you so that you can identify the most common insects on the planet. Whether you want to get rid of them or are just interested in them, the first step is to learn about all the different types of insects that exist on this planet.
Insects are hexapod invertebrates which have a three-part body type. This includes the head, thorax and abdomen, as well as compound eyes, a pair of antennae, and three pairs of jointed legs. There are more than a million different species of insects on the planet; it is estimated that there are nearly 6-10 million number of extant species of insects. Over 90% of all life forms on the planet are actually insects. Insects are commonly found in any and all environments from underwater to the land. We have outlined some of the most common ones for easier identification.
Table of Contents
Ants belong to the Formicidae family and have evolved from wasp-like ancestors. They have been on the planet for an estimated 140 million years, and there are over 12,500 classified species of ants. They have a node-like structure, slender waists, and elbowed antennae. They have huge organized colonies and form territories with millions of individuals which include workers, soldiers, and other specialized groups. Some species also live in smaller natural cavities.
Most ant colonies have drone ants which are fertile males and one or more fertile females which are the Queens. They operate as a unified entity and work together to keep the colony functioning. They have a system of division of labor, ability to solve complex problems, and communicate with each other. Ants are all over the world and thrive in most ecosystems.
Mosquitoes have 3,500 known species from the order of the Diptera. They have a pair of wings, segmented bodies, three pairs of legs, elongated mouths, and feathery antennae. They have been recorded to be on this planet since 90 million old. They lay eggs on the surface of the water to reproduce.
They have tube-like mouths which they use to pierce the skin of their host. Mosquitoes suck on the blood as a source of protein and iron. While biting the host, they transmit some of their saliva to the host. This can result in itching or a rash. Some species of the mosquito also play a huge role in the transmission of diseases like dengue fever, Zika virus, malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and many others. They are responsible for over 700,000 deaths annually, which is more than any other animal.
Flies have a pair of functional wings and use vestigial hindwings to balance themselves. They have around 125,000 classified species including the commonly known housefly and horse fly. They have been on this planet for around 240 million years. They have a pair of compound eyes, a pair of wings, antennae, mobile heads, and mouthparts designed to suck or pierce. Their halteres are responsible for the high-speed sensors that allow them advanced aerobatics and rotational movement.
They have short life-cycles and undergo metamorphosis from when they hatch to adulthood. They are the second most important pollinators after bees since they survive on liquefied foods like nectar. Houseflies are often responsible for food-borne illnesses and can be a huge annoyance.
Fleas have over 2,500 species and survive as external parasites on birds and mammals. They survive on blood or hematophagy that they collect from their hosts. They are usually brown in color and have narrow or flat bodies. They have really strong claws that they use to hang on to the skin of the host. Their hind legs are used for jumping, and they have mouthparts that are used to suck blood and pierce the skin.
Termites shared common ancestors with those of cockroaches and are part of the epifamily Termitoidae. There are around 3,106 species of termites and were once called ‘white ants.’ They work on a system of division of labor like ants and bees. They have fertile Kings and Queens, as well as sterile workers and soldiers. They feed on cellulose and dead plant material like animal dung, wood, and soil. They help to recycle wood and plant matter and are found mainly in tropical and subtropical regions. Termites are an invasive species and can cause harm to house structures, furniture, books, and documents.
Beetles are part of the order of Coleoptera and have around 400,000 species. They make up around 40% of all insects, and new species are discovered regularly. They live in almost every habitat on the planet except for the poles and the sea. They often feed on fungi and plants but can also be found eating other invertebrates, animals, and plant debris. They have a hard exoskeleton and are endopterygotes. This means that they go through a metamorphosis from when they hatch till adulthood. Different species have different colors and patterns which allows them to camouflage or warn toxicity.
They have been part of human culture since the ancient Egyptian civilization that turned them into sacred scarabs. Over 300 species of beetles are even used as food, especially in their larval form. They can have a huge impact on forestry and agriculture since they can help to control pests.
Bees are closely related to ants and wasps and belong to the Apoidea family. They are flying insects that have a huge role in the pollination process. The most known species of the bee is the Western Honey Bee which makes beeswax and honey. They are found on almost every continent except Antarctica and thrive in almost every habitat.
They are social creatures, and most live in colonies. They feed on pollen and nectar which is their primary energy source. There has been a steady decline in the number of wild bees which has impacted the pollination process. Efforts are being made to protect bees since they play a crucial role in the dissemination of flowers and vegetation.
One of the worst home-invading insects are bed bugs because they bite, are gross (verging on frightening) and disturb our sleep. They’re difficult to get rid of and can make your home pretty much uninhabitable because who wants to get attached while sleeping.
Bedbugs feed on human blood and are nocturnal creatures. Their bite causes a lot of health concerns such as psychological effects, allergic symptoms, and skin rashes. The area of the skin they bite forms blisters and symptoms and may take a few days to appear. Some people may feel lethargic or develop a fever along with itchiness. While they do not transmit infectious diseases, they can be quite an annoyance.
They breed in high-density areas, and infestations usually occur from lack of hygiene. It is really hard to eliminate bedbugs from the house since they can survive up to a year without any food source. Homeowners may need to increase the heat, wash clothes at high temperatures, use pesticides, and frequently vacuum altogether to get rid of the bugs.
There’s much to know and learn about this disgusting insect. We put together an epic bed bug guide – check it out:
Butterflies are part of the Lepidoptera order which includes moths. They have big, brightly colored wings and have a fluttering flight. They have been estimated to be on the planet for almost 56 million years. They have a typical four-stage life cycle and reproduce by laying eggs. They are usually found in tropical regions, but some species also survive in cold locations. They are polymorphic creatures, which means that different species have different colors and patterns. They use this to evade predators by camouflage, aposematism, and mimicry.
Ladybugs are part of the beetle family and are scientifically known as Coccinellidae. They are useful insects since they prey on invasive species like scale insects of aphids which are agricultural pests. However, some species like the Mexican bean beetle can also feed on potatoes, beans, grain, and other crops. They increase in number very fast, especially if their natural predators are scarce in their living enviornment. Ladybugs are mainly found in tropical and temperate regions of the world. They are red, yellow, or orange in color with small black spots on the cover of their wings.
Crickets come from the family of the Gryllidae. They have round heads, long antennae, and cylindrical bodies. Their hind legs have enlarged thighs which are used for powerful jumps. Most species are flightless, but some do have hind wings that can be folded. There are more than 900 species of crickets that live around the world but thrive in tropical regions. Crickets are usually nocturnal, and most species have males that chirp loud and persistently to attract females.
Crickets are often characters in literature and poetry like The Cricket on the Hearth, The Adventures of Pinocchio, James and the Giant Peach, and Mulan. In Brazil, crickets are considered as omens in folktales. They are even kept as pets in some European countries and China. They are eaten as food in some regions in Southeast Asia after deep-frying for snacks.
Earwigs are part of the Dermaptera order. They have around 2,000 species and are found on all continents except Antarctica. They have a pair of forceps-like pincers, cerci, membranous wings, and forewings. They are usually nocturnal and live in moist, small crevices during the day. They become really active at night when they feed on plants and other insects. They can damage crops, flowers, and foliage, which make them an invasive species of insects. Earwigs have five molts a year and display maternal care behavior which is rare for insects.
Dragonflies belong to the order of Odonata and are known for their unequal sized wings. Their hind wings are broader than their forewings, and they have multi-faced eyes as well as elongated bodies. Sometimes they can be seen with colored patches and can be found in brilliant metallic or iridescent colorations. Their eyes have nearly 24,000 ommatidia each. Dragonfly ancestors have been present on earth for more than 325 million years ago when their wings used to be 30 in wide. Dragonflies have around 3,000 species around the world.
Most dragonflies are found in tropical regions, but some species live in temperate regions. They are predatory creatures, even in their aquatic larval stage. They are really agile and fast fliers, with some even crossing oceans in migration seasons. Due to the loss of wetland habitats, the number of dragonflies has fallen.
Common names for the Psocoptera include booklice, barkflies, and barklice. They first appeared on earth almost 300 million years ago. There are almost 5,500 species of booklice most of whom have been documented recently. Booklice grow up to 1–10 millimeters in length. They gained their name because they were commonly found in old books since they feed on the paste used for binding books. Barklice usually feed on lichen or algae and live in trees.
Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order. They have a common ancestor with the Bee and the Ant. They are paraphyletic but do not form clades like ants and bees. Some wasp species are pollinators while others are predators. The most common wasps’ species are yellowjackets and hornets, which are part of the Vespidae family. They live together as non-reproducing workers under a fertile Queen. Majority of wasps species are solitary creatures that live and breed separately. Solitary wasps are usually parasitoidal which means that they lay their eggs in or on other insects. The wasp larvae usually kill the host unlike other parasites
The wasps first appeared in the Jurassic times and currently have spread to every region on the planet except the poles. They have thousands of classified species like the Asian giant hornet, tarantula hawks, and solitary chalcid wasps.
Cockroaches are part of the same order as termites called the Blattodea. There are 4,600 species of cockroaches, out of which 30 species are associated with humans. 4 species of 4,600 species are actually well-known as common pests. The world often depicts them as dirty pests, but most of the cockroach species live all over the world as non-destructive insects.
Cockroaches have been around since ancient times dating back to almost 320 million years ago but didn’t have the internal ovipositors that modern roaches have now. They are the most primitive living neopteran insects since they don’t have any special adaptations. Some species like the gregarious German cockroach have elaborate social structures with kin recognition, information transfer, social dependence, and common shelters. They have chewing mouthparts and are hardy insects. They can survive in tropical heat and even the Arctic cold. Tropical roaches are bigger than the species that live in temperate zones.
Grasshoppers belong to the suborder of Caelifera and have been around since 250 million years. They are the oldest living group among herbivorous insects who chew their food. They have powerful hind legs that help them escape threats by leaping in the air. They are ground-dwelling insects who can have really high population densities, depending on climate and environmental conditions.
Some species of grasshoppers can change their behavior and color when in swarms, and this is when they are commonly known as locusts. They usually survive on plants but can eat vegetable, crops, pasture, and cereals when they swarm. Locusts can destroy complete crops over wide areas since they group together in millions to swarm. Swarms can cause devastating effects and even result in famine. Even in small numbers, they are considered pests.
They protect themselves from predators through camouflage or even startle them with a tactic called wing-flash while jumping in the air. Some species like the rainbow grasshopper have warning coloration which warms predators of potential toxicity. They can get affected by parasites and different diseases; even their eggs are at risk. In some regions like Indonesia and Mexico, they are eaten as food.
Silkworms are the caterpillar or larva of the silkmoth. They are important insects since they are the biggest producers of silk. They feed on white mulberry leaves and osage orange. They are dependent on humans for reproduction due to generations of selective breeding.
Wild silkworms aren’t viable options for the production of silk and are different from selectively bred silkworms. Silkworms have actually been bred for at least 5,000 years in China for the production of raw silk. This practice spread to South Asia, Japan, Korea, and the West. These breeds have lost their ability to fly, as well as their color pigments.
Fireflies are called Lampyridae and are part of the Coleoptera. They have wings and are soft-bodied beetles. They are commonly recognized due to their use bioluminescence which helps them attract prey and mates. In many regions over the world, they are called ‘glow worms’. They produce a cold light that has no ultraviolet or infrared frequencies. The light is produced through a chemical reaction in the lower abdomen region and may be pale red, green, or yellow. Some species in the Eastern United States also emit seemingly blue light.
There are around 2,100 species of the fireflies that live in tropical and temperate climates. They live in habitats like marshes or wet, wooded areas and lay eggs where food is in abundance. Some species lay eggs that also emit light.
Moths belong to the order of Lepidoptera and are closely related to butterflies. There are over 160,000 species of moths, and most of them are nocturnal, unlike butterflies. They have huge wings, and many species have beautiful colors and patterns on them. They have antennae that look like little feathers, and their wings are closely held flat on the backs when they aren’t flying. They are attracted to light, which could be because they use the light of the moon to guide them while flying.
Three in every four organisms on earth is an insect. They form a huge portion of living creatures on the planet and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, and live in every habitat on the planet. So, its time we learn a little bit about the creatures that we are sharing this earth with.
Silverfish get their name due to their fish-like movements and silvery light grey color. They are a wingless insect that belongs to the order of Zygentoma. The silverfish survives on a diet of sugars and starches, which is where its scientific name ‘L. Saccharina’ comes from.
They are usually 13–25 mm long and their tapered abdomens give them a fish-like appearance. When they are newly-hatched, they are white in color but develop a grey-blue color with a metallic shine when they become adults. They avoid light and are agile creatures that can outrun their predators with ease.
Three in every four organisms on earth is an insect. They form a huge portion of living creatures on the planet and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, and live in every habitat on the planet. So, it’s time we learn a little bit about the creatures that we are sharing this earth with.
What about spiders?
While spiders are commonly found in and around the home, they aren’t an insect. They are technically an arachnid (just like scorpions). But, I get your point, the spirit of such an article should include spiders seeing as they are a similar nuisance… except that they help reduce insects in your home.