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Insect Terminology

Terms and definitions related to insects.
a data set by NatureLover
created April 8, 2017
TermDefinitionExampleExample Image
AnthecologyThe study of pollination and the relationship between pollinators and flowers.Flowers smell and look attractive to bees and butterflies in order to attract the pollinators to their petals.
Batesian MimicryA harmless species mimics the physical appearance of a noxious species in order to take advantage of specific traits (toxicity) that will help it to survive against predators.The non-venomous Scarlet King Snake mimics the venomous Eastern Coral Snake.
CampodeiformElongated, flat and active form of a larva.The larval form of the Lacewing.
CatalepsyAn insect enters a state of motionlessness, maintained for long periods, feigning death.Walkingstick freezing to avoid being spotted by predators.
ChrysalisA hard casing which protects a butterfly's pupal form after a caterpillar sheds its skin for the final time.The hard casing protecting the common crow butterfly's pupa is nearly metallic.
CoarctateOne of three types of pupae: develop in larval skin.The pupa of a Lucilia fly develops inside the larval skin.
CocoonA silky case created by a larva for protection. The Polyphemus moth attaches its protective covering to a tree or among leaf litter.
Egg/EmbryoThe first stage of insect development.Many insects lay their eggs on leaves near a food source.
ElateriformWireworm-shaped form of a larva.Mealworms, the larval form of the darkling beetle.
EntomologyThe study of insects.Scientists discover ticks have carried pathogens for millions of years through fossilized remains.
EntomophagyThe use of insects as food by humans.Grasshoppers and crickets are common food sources in some areas of the world.
EruciformCaterpillar-shaped form of a larva.The larval form of a Black Swallowtail butterfly.
EusocialCharacterized by cooperative brood care, multi-generational colonies of adults, and division of labor (reproductive and non-reproductive).Bee hives.
ExarateOne of three types of pupae: legs and appendages are free.Long horned borer beetle pupa have appendages that are free.
ExoskeletonAn external skeleton that protects an insect's body. The hard casing enclosing the body of a grasshopper.
HexapodaSubphylum which contains insects as well as wingless arthropods. Hexapods have three pairs of legs.All insects have six legs, their most notable common feature.
HibernationSome insects survive cold temperatures by going into a state of inactivity in a sheltered location.Ladybugs gather in groups to survive the winter.
HolometabolismA form of insect development in which four distinct life stages are present: embryo/egg, larva, pupa, and imago/adult.A butterfly changes from egg, to larva, to pupa, to butterfly.
ImagoThe final, adult stage of an insect in which wings are fully developed and the insect is sexually mature.The adult form of a butterfly is very distinctive, with broad, brightly colored wings that are always visible.
InstarThe phase between moltings of an insect larva.Monarch caterpillars go through five phases of growth and molting before pupation.
InvertebrateAn animal that does not have a backbone.A bee has no spinal column.
LarvaOften very different from the adult form, this stage of development follows the egg/embryo stage.The lady bird's immature form is unrecognizable as the black spotted beetle's younger self, but it will one day transform into the well-known red insect.
MetamorphosisThe transformation from the larval stage to the adult stage.The earwig slowly changes from a larva to an adult.
MoltingThe action of shedding the outer layer of an insect's body.A cicada leaves its old skin behind, still clinging to a tree.
Müllerian MimicryOne species mimics the physical appearance of another species, despite sharing the same useful trait (such as toxicity) in order to maximize survival rates as predators learn to avoid both species despite having encountered only one.The Monarch and Viceroy butterflies, both noxious to predators, share similar looks.
NaiadImmature form of an insect which does not resemble the adult form and lives in the water, breathing through gills.A dragonfly naiad lives under water and breaths through gills.
NymphImmature form of an insect which will undergo metamorphosis before reaching the adult stage. The resemblance of this stage to the adult stage sets it apart from typical larvae.The green stinkbug's immature form has small, underdeveloped wings, but otherwise looks unmistakably like its adult form.
ObtectOne of three types of pupae: compact, all legs and appendages attached and immovable against the body.Most moth and butterfly pupae develop with all appendages pressed tightly against their bodies.
ParasitismRelationship between two species in which one species (the parasite) gains at the expense of the other (the host). The host sometimes, but not always, perishes through this relationship.Mosquito consuming blood from an animal or human host.
ParasitoidAn insect which spends a large part of its life (as a larva) inside or attached to a host (usually another insect) which is eventually killed as the parasitoid insect grows.Wasp depositing eggs on to host caterpillar which will then hatch and use the host as food.
PheromoneA chemical which, when secreted or excreted, triggers a social response in members of the same species.Honeybee exposes its Nasonov's gland to release a pheromone which will entice the swarm into a new hive.
PollinationThe transfer of pollen which allows for fertilization.A bee, covered in pollen, moves from flower to flower, fertilizing plants as he moves.
PollinatorsInsects which move from flower to flower, allowing for pollination and fertilization in plants.Bees and butterflies both pollinate plants as they move from flower to flower collecting nectar.
PupaOnly found in holometabolous insects, this life stage takes different forms. Insects at this stage typically have a hard coating (such as a chrysalis). An immature bee encased in a cell.
ScarabaeiformGrub-shaped form of a larva.The larval form of a Stag beetle
Sexual DimorphismDiffering physical characteristics between the sexes (size or appearance) in addition to differing sex organs.Male dobsonflies have long mandibles which cannot hurt a human. Female dobsonflies have short mandibles that can deliver a nasty pinch.
Tripedal GaitThe use of three legs to walk. Many insects walk with their legs touching the ground in alternating triangles (the two outer legs on one side, the inner leg on the other).Cockroaches have been known to use this form of motion.
VermiformMaggot-shaped form of a larvaThe larval form of the blowfly.
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