Portal:Insects

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The Insects Portal

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Insects (from Latin insectum, a calque of Greek ἔντομον [éntomon], “cut into sections”) are a class within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae. They are among the most diverse group of animals on the planet and include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms. The number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million, and potentially represent over 90% of the differing metazoan life forms on Earth. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species occur in the oceans, a habitat dominated by another arthropod group, the crustaceans.

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An aphid giving birth to live young
Aphids, also known as plant lice (and in Britain as greenflies), are small plant-eating insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions. About 4,400 species of 10 families are known, varying in length from 1 to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 in). Around 250 species are serious pests for agriculture and forestry as well as an annoyance for gardeners. Natural enemies include predatory lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), hoverfly larvae (Diptera: Syrphidae), parasitic wasps, aphid midge larvae, crab spiders, lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae), and entomopathogenic fungi like Lecanicillium lecanii and the Entomophthorales.

Aphids are distributed worldwide, but are most common in temperate zones. Also, in contrast to many taxa, species diversity is much lower in the tropics than in the temperate zones. They can migrate great distances, mainly through passive dispersal by riding on winds. For example, the currant lettuce aphid (Nasonovia ribisnigri) is believed to have spread from New Zealand to Tasmania in this way. Aphids have also been spread by human transportation of infested plant materials. Aphids are the only animals known to synthesise carotenoids, an ability they gained by coopting the synthetic genes from fungi.

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Gryllotalpa brachyptera is a mole cricket (Orthoptera: Gryllotalpidae), native to Australia. Mole crickets are thick-bodied insects about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) long, with large beady eyes and shovel-like forelimbs highly developed for burrowing and swimming. The adult mole cricket may fly as far as 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) during the mating season, is active most of the year, and spends the winter in hibernation.

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