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Entomology facts for kids

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A Phyllium sp., mimicking a leaf

Entomology (from Ancient Greek [ἔντομον (entomon)] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help), meaning 'insect', and [-λογία (-logia)] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help), meaning 'study') is the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology. In the past the term insect was less specific, and historically the definition of entomology would also include the study of animals in other arthropod groups, such as arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use.

Like several of the other fields that are categorized within zoology, entomology is a taxon-based category; any form of scientific study in which there is a focus on insect-related inquiries is, by definition, entomology. Entomology, therefore, overlaps with a cross-section of topics as diverse as molecular genetics, behavior, neuroscience, biomechanics, biochemistry, systematics, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, morphology, and paleontology.

Over 1.3 million insect species have been described, more than two-thirds of all known species. Some insect species date back to around 400 million years ago. They have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on Earth.


Plate from Transactions of the Entomological Society, 1848.
Compilation of 100 Trigonopterus species - 1742-9994-10-15-3
These 100 Trigonopterus species were described simultaneously using DNA barcoding.

Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (especially biological control and beekeeping). The natural philosopher Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) wrote a book on the kinds of insects, while the scientist of Kufa, Ibn al-A'rābī (760–845 CE) wrote a book on flies, Kitāb al-Dabāb (كتاب الذباب). However scientific study in the modern sense began only relatively recently, in the 16th century. Ulisse Aldrovandi's De Animalibus Insectis (Concerning Insect Animals) was published in 1602. Microscopist Jan Swammerdam published History of Insects, correctly describing the reproductive organs of insects and metamorphosis. In 1705, Maria Sibylla Merian published the book Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium about the tropical insects of Dutch Surinam.

Early entomological works associated with the naming and classification of species followed the practice of maintaining cabinets of curiosity, predominantly in Europe. This collecting fashion led to the formation of natural history societies, exhibitions of private collections, and journals for recording communications and the documentation of new species. Many of the collectors tended to be from the aristocracy, and there developed a trade involving collectors around the world and traders. This has been called the "era of heroic entomology." William Kirby is widely considered as the father of entomology in England. In collaboration with William Spence, he published a definitive entomological encyclopedia, Introduction to Entomology, regarded as the subject's foundational text. He also helped found the Royal Entomological Society in London in 1833, one of the earliest such societies in the world; earlier antecedents, such as the Aurelian society date back to the 1740s. In the late 19th century, the growth of agriculture, and colonial trade spawned the "era of economic entomology" which created the professional entomologist associated with the rise of the university and training in the field of biology.

Entomology developed rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries and was studied by large numbers of people, including such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), and twice Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.

There has also been a history of people becoming entomologists through museum curation and research assistance, such as Sophie Lutterlough at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Insect identification is an increasingly common hobby, with butterflies and dragonflies being the most popular.

Most insects can easily be allocated to order, such as Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) or Coleoptera (beetles). However, identifying to genus or species is usually only possible through the use of identification keys and monographs. Because the class Insecta contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species of beetles alone) and the characteristics distinguishing them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist. This has led to the development of automated species identification systems targeted on insects, for example, Daisy, ABIS, SPIDA and Draw-wing.

In pest control

In 1994, the Entomological Society of America launched a new professional certification program for the pest control industry called the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE). To qualify as a "true entomologist" an individual would normally require an advanced degree, with most entomologists pursuing a PhD. While not true entomologists in the traditional sense, individuals who attain the ACE certification may be referred to as ACEs or Associate Certified Entomologists.


ENTO Museum Barcode
Example of a collection barcode on a pinned beetle specimen

Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects, and a number of these subspecialties are given their own informal names, typically (but not always) derived from the scientific name of the group:


PSM V76 D472 Entomologists
Several prominent American entomologists of the 1800s


Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.

  • Amateur Entomologists' Society
  • Entomological Society of America
  • Entomological Society of Canada
  • Entomological Society of Japan
  • Entomologischer Verein Krefeld
  • Entomological Society of India
  • International Union for the Study of Social Insects
  • Netherlands Entomological Society
  • Royal Belgian Entomological Society
  • Royal Entomological Society of London
  • Russian Entomological Society
  • Senckenberg Deutsches Entomologisches Institut
  • Société entomologique de France
  • Australian Entomological Society
  • Entomological Society of New Zealand

Research collection

Here is a list of selected very large insect collections, housed in museums, universities, or research institutes.


  • Zoological Survey of India
  • Insect Museum, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
  • National Pusa Collection, Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India
  • Pakistan Museum of Natural History Garden Avenue, Shakarparian, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, Indonesia



LU Entomology Museum DSC8583
The Entomology Research Collection at Lincoln University, New Zealand, with curator John Marris


United States


See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Entomología para niños

  • Arachnology
  • Carcinology
  • Cultural entomology
  • Ethnoentomology
  • Forensic entomology
  • Forensic entomologist
  • Forensic entomology and the law
  • Insect thermoregulation
  • Insects on stamps
  • List of entomological journals
  • Medical entomology
  • Myriapodology
  • Timeline of entomology – 1800–1850
  • Timeline of entomology – 1850–1900
  • Timeline of entomology since 1900
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