Weird and wonderful insects (Orders)

A post inspired by my friend over at Empress Honey!

The five most common insect orders (in terms of diversity and abundance) are Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies (or moths, butterflies, and skippers if you’re pedantic)), Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps), Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), and Hemiptera (the true bugs).  But the actual diversity of insects encompasses not five, but 31 orders!

The other 26 orders include things that are familiar, like Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)

IMG_1218And things that are ubiquitous, but completely unfamiliar to most people, like Collembola (springtails).

The springtails (actually recently reclassified as non insects, but I’m keeping them on the list) are a weird group of flightless hexapods.  They are tiny and they get around by jumping…or more specifically by flinging their bodies into the air via the springlike action of an appendage called a furcula, folded beneath their bodies.

Teeny tiny collembolan I found on a tree branch ~2 mm

Teeny tiny collembolan I found on a tree branch ~2 mm

The twisted wing parasites (Strepsiptera) is another weird order of insects.  The males are only slightly odd looking to a non-entomologist (though to an entomologist they are weird because their front wings have been reduced while their rear wings are intact, the opposite of dipterans).

Adult male strepsiptera, courtesy of wikipedia

Adult male strepsiptera, courtesy of wikipedia

But the female strepsipterans, boy are they weird.  They exist only as parasites within the abdomens of hymenopterans.  I wrote a post about how they manipulate the minds of their hosts, turning them into zombies.

The female in an Andrena (bee) abdomen...she looks unhappy!  But that's actually not her face.  Photo credit: my good friend Ellen Bulger

The female in an Andrena (bee) abdomen…she looks unhappy! But that’s actually not her face. Photo credit: Ellen Bulger

Notoptera is an insect order that was relatively recently discovered. I mentioned one of the families, the Grylloblatidae, in a previous post about snow insects.  The most famous of the notopteran families is Mantophasmatidae.  Found only in Africa, these weird and wonderful insects look somewhat like a cross between a walking stick and a praying mantis.  They are carnivorous, flightless living fossils.

courtesy of wikipedia

courtesy of wikipedia

Another favourite is Mecoptera (scorpion flies).  I love scorpion flies because they are so unexpected.  They have the stinger of a scorpion and long funny looking mouth parts.  They look like something a sci fi author would dream up.

Sort of like a griffin? source

Sort of like a griffin? source

Raphidioptera (snake flies) are also strange looking fly hybrids.  To me they look like an earwig crossed with a cat crossed with a Neuropteran (more about those later).

Snake fly, source

Snake fly, source

And this is just a small sampling of the crazy and amazing diversity of the insect world!  I’ll have more tomorrow!

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6 thoughts on “Weird and wonderful insects (Orders)

  1. Pingback: Weird and wonderful insects (Part 2) | standingoutinmyfield

  2. Very interesting. Love the scorpion fly. Never heard of one before. It’s as if a small scorpion had been granted its wish for a superpower… “I want to be able to sting AND fly”. Please do a simple guide for (intelligent?) idiots to the the order, genus, species thing. You have the power… RH

  3. Pingback: Putting the Family in Order — A brief review of taxonomy | standingoutinmyfield

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