The study of insects is called entomology. Entomology is a sub-section of biology and is one of the oldest
sciences. Man has studied the habits of insects, usually with a view to eradicating them, since the first plague of
locusts landed on early farmers' crops tens of thousands of years ago. However, entomology was not really
recognized and studied as a science until the Sixteenth Century.
Entomology has had many famous devotees but the most famous was Charles Darwin. More recent entomologists are
Karl von Frisch the Nobel Prize winner for medicine in 1973 and E. O. Wilson the two time Pulitzer prize
Entomologists are also often credited with helping solve
murders by studying the insects that are found on and in the dead body. This is quite possible and not just a
device used in Hollywood films.
The first thing to realise is that not all creepy crawlies are insects. For example, spiders are not insects,
but many entomologists are not so strict and have an interest in arachnids (spiders), worms, slugs and snails.
All insects pass through several stages of life, but there are two types of insect development 'simple
metamorphosis' and 'complete metamorphosis'.
The first type includes most beetles and bugs like bed bugs. They are born as eggs and hatch into larvae
(nymphs), which, while not perfect replicas of their parents do look a bit like them
The second type are also born as eggs, also hatch into larvae, but they look nothing like their parents - so
different in fact that if you do not know what they are, you could not guess. The larva then becomes a pupa when it
appears to be dormant, this is not true though, there is plenty going on and when it emerges from the pupal stage
it is unrecognizable. Butterflies are like this.
If you want to study insects, you have to focus because there are at least 1.3 million species of insects that
we have discovered so far and there are plenty more to name and classify.
You would be forgiven for thinking that these unknown insects, worms, slugs and beetles et cetera are all in
remotest Africa or in deep jungles, but last year a carnivorous slug was discovered in a garden in the middle of
Cardiff in the UK.
In order to study insects, you usually have to catch them without killing them. This means nets and traps. it is
easy enough to get a butterfly net (or fishing net) and you can make your own pitfall traps for ground beetles. You
will also need a good book to help you identify your find and a magnifying glass to be able to better see it.
One word of caution though: you may think that there are too many insects and that no one really cares about
them, but this is not true. There are many insects in every country that are protected and you will be breaking the
law by capturing them or hurting them, so the first thing to do is learn which ones you may study and which ones it
is better to leave alone.