The butterfly has four stages in its life cycle. Like all insects the first stage is the egg. After about one week, the egg hatches and the second stage, the larva or caterpillar, begins. After about three weeks and several molts the third stage begins. This third stage is called the chrysalis and is a dormant stage. The caterpillar sheds its skin one last time to form into a chrysalis. After about two weeks, an amazing transformation takes place as the adult butterfly forms inside the chrysalis. Finally the fourth stage, the adult, emerges from the chrysalis, dries its wings and flies away.

Beetles belong to the Coleoptera order and contain the most species of any other insect. There actually is an order of insect called a bug or more appropriately true bug. The technical name for true bugs is Hemiptera and includes water bugs and assassin bugs. Diptera is the technical name for the true flies and include the horse fly and fruit fly often used for experiments. Butterflies and moths belong to the order of Lepidoptera and contain some of the most beautiful insects in the world.

Insects actually have sex legs with three on each side of the body. All six legs are attached to the middle section of their body known as the thorax. Spiders have eight legs but are not insects. Spiders are actually arachnids which also includes scorpions. Upon close inspection, some insects, including butterflies, have almost completely lost two of their legs and appear to have only four legs. Even closer inspection will reveal two stubs in the front their body.

an insect has three main body sections. The first section is the head and contains the antenna, eyes, mouth parts and a rudimentary brain. The second section is called the thorax and handles the motor parts of the insect. These motor parts include the legs and wings. The final part of the insect body is the abdomen. This section handles digestion, breathing, reproduction and in some species, defense. Some forms of defense include stingers and ejectors of noxious chemicals.

The insect skeleton is call the exoskeleton. Unlike vertebrates which have their skeletons on the inside of the bodies, insects actually have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies. Having an exoskeleton has its advantages such as doubling as a strong defensive armor against predators. The main disadvantage of an exoskeleton is the limitation in size. If an insect were to be the size of a small mammal, the weight of the exoskeleton would be prohibitively heavy making movement nearly impossible. This is why most insects are small in size as it is most efficient for them.

Insects actually use their antennae the most for senses. Even though insects do have eyes, they are often primitive and rudimentary. The antennae contain several senses including touch, sensitivity to heat and cold, vibration, air motion, olfactory and gustation. The olfactory sense it is the sense of smell and the gustation sense is the sense of taste. The insect's antennae are vital for finding food, avoiding predators and finding mates.

Insects do not possess lungs, gills or air sacs like many species do. Instead, insects possess spiracles which are tiny openings that run along both sides of the abdomen. These openings contain valves that can quickly be closed to prevent drowning. Oxygen enters the spiracles and passes through trachea directly to the tissues in the body. Oxygen is not carried by the blood as it is in mammals and birds. Carbon dioxide is expelled through the same trachea and spiracles. Some insects will pump their abdomens to speed up this breathing process.

The most beneficial insect known to man is the honeybee. Not only do they produce delicious honey, but they also perform a far more beneficial task. This other vital task is pollination. In order to create honey for their young, honeybees must collect nectar and pollen from the flowers of plants. While doing this, some of the pollen attaches to the outside of their bodies after they leave the flower. When the honeybee approaches the next flower, some of the pollen rubs off and effectively fertilizes the plant. This allows the plant to seed and produce fruit. Without honeybees we would not have any fruit.

The most dangerous insect pest in the world by far is the mosquito. This is because mosquitoes spread a deadly disease called malaria. Malaria is actually a parasite that attacks the red blood cells and can cause death. The mosquito spreads the parasite when it bites one host and then another. Malaria is most common in trouble and subtropical regions as well as densely populated poor areas. The most common region for malaria is Africa.

Bubonic plague was actually spread by fleas and rodents. Whenever there was a major drop in the rodent population, fleas would seek other hosts for their source of blood. This would lead to an increase of bites in humans. The disease actually spread from one infected human, then to a flea, which then bites a rodent infecting it, another flea bites the rodent and then bites another human. Bubonic plague infects the lungs and is very deadly. Many victims died within two days and the mortality rate could be as high as 95%. Bubonic plague is also known as the black death.


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Insects are everywhere! They are the most abundant animal on earth and live on every continent and in every environment. Insects have been found embedded in Arctic ice, underground and even in volcanoes. You can take our insect quiz and learn about the life cycles of insects, how they see and breathe, their anatomy and information on the most beneficial and dangerous insects in the world.

1. What are the stages of a butterfly's lifecycle?

a) Egg, nymph, adult
b) Egg, larva, chrysalis, adult
c) Egg, larva, adult
d) Egg, adult


2. What order of insects are Lepidoptera?

a) Beetles
b) Bugs
c) Flies
d) Butterflies and moths


3. How many legs do insects have?

a) Two
b) Four
c) Six
d) Eight


4. What are the main body sections of an insect?

a) Head, tail
b) Head, thorax, abdomen
c) Head, thorax, tail
d) Head, abdomen


5. What is the insect skeleton called?

a) Armor
b) Shell
c) Exoskeleton
d) Endoskeleton


6. What do insects use the most for senses?

a) Antennae
b) Eyes
c) Nose
d) Mouth


7. What do insects use to get oxygen?

a) Lungs
b) Gills
c) Air sacs
d) Spiracles


8. What is the most beneficial insect known to man?

a) Ants
b) Butterflies
c) Praying mantis
d) Honeybee


9. What is the most dangerous insect pest in the world?

a) Ants
b) Killer bees
c) Mosquitoes
d) Flies


10. What insect was responsible for the bubonic plague?

a) Fleas
b) Mosquitoes
c) Flies
d) Wasps


Your score will appear here.

About the Author

Timothy Sharkey works for Softgame Company, maker of card games, video poker and puzzles.

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