For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Future of Food Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Insects are the most diverse group of animals that are found in most environments. In the Animal kingdom, Insects are in the Phylum Arthropoda; Arthropods have an exoskeleton of chitin that they shed as they grow; they also have segmented bodies and jointed appendages. In addition to the Class Insecta, the Arthropoda also includes the arachnids (spiders and mites), myriapods (ex. centipedes), and crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, etc.). Insectsare distinguished from the other Arthropod classes by the following features:
- As adults and in some species in the juvenile stages, insects have three body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Although in some insect species, some of the three body parts are fused together and may be difficult to distinguish. See this website for images and more discussion of insect anatomy: Purdue University, College of Agriculture, Department of Entomology, 4-H and Youth: Insect Anatomy
- The adults have antennae on their heads that they use to sense their environment, and they have three pairs of legs or six legs.
- Most insects undergo a morphological change that occurs between the time they hatch from eggs and develop into adults. The morphological change is called either complete metamorphosis orincomplete metamorphosis referring to how significantly the insect's appearance changes from the early stage of development to the adult stage. Go to these links to see images of the types of metamorphosis and read more about insect metamorphosis: ASU School of Life Sciences: Metamorphosis
Check Your Understanding
Question - Multiple Select
Browse the following websites for two major agricultural crop pests. What kind of organisms are they? In what stage of their lifecycle do they cause the most damage to the crop plants?
Insects may be herbivores or omnivores. Herbivorous insects may eat plants by directly feeding on plant tissues such as leaves or roots. Herbivorous insects include caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and ants. Some insects pierce plants and suck plant nutrients from the plant vascular system, typically the phloem, (the cells that transport plant carbohydrates and amino acids); although some insects feed on the xylem, the vascular cells that transport water and nutrients. Examples of piercing-sucking insects include aphids and mosquitoes. By contrast, butterflies and moths have siphoning mouthparts for drinking nectar. Omnivore insectsconsume multiple kinds of food including other insect prey and plant tissues such as leaves and/or nectar and pollen.
Although insect pests are major agronomic pests, only about1% of insect species are agricultural pests. Insects also contribute to important ecosystem processes, including: i. pollination, ii. predation and parasitism (ex. lady beetles, lacewings, praying mantis, parasitic wasps); iii. decomposition of organic materials such as crop residues and manure (Ex. dung beetles) iv. providing food for other organisms, such as fish and birds. Review the photos below for some categories of beneficial insects, and some of their characteristics here: National Pesticide Information Center
Credit: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Heidi Myer
Credit: Arthur Hower, PSU
Credit: Jason Neuswanger, Troutnut