THE INSECT ORDERS
concept of "insect orders" is important for us backyard naturalists because all
the world's many thousands of insect species can be pigeon-holed in them, and there is
such a small number of orders -- maybe 25 to 35, depending on your expert -- that
our brains can deal with that number. In other words, a good first step in mastering
insect diversity is learning to assign any insect we find anyplace in the world
to one of the orders.
For us backyard naturalists, this challenge is even easier than it seems. That's because about half of the orders are very small ones seldom encountered, or else species included in them appear only in habitats unlikely to occur in backyards. The vast majority of conspicuous insects backyard naturalists are likely to see and identify belong to one of just ten orders -- the "Big Ten." The Big Ten is just a grouping I've always used to help myself keep the orders straight -- it has no scientific status at all.
What follows is a list of insect orders as defined in a popular insect field guide. In the following list, my "Big Ten" are highlighted in red.
Looking over the above list, it's easy to see why so many people "get hooked" on insects. It's simply because insects have so many strange manners of being. When you begin paying attention to insects, it's like going to another world where you find beings totally different from anything you've ever known, or even thought of. Even more mind-expanding is the fact that always, once you've studied what seems to be the insects' weirdness, their cruelty, or even their profound stupidity, you come to see that their manner of being is actually an exquisite adaptation to the ecological niche they occupy.
If you'd like to review some insect field guides available online at Amazon.com, you might take a look at the Golden Nature Guide called Insects : A Guide to Familiar American Insects; The Audubon Society's "First Field Guide" for beginners, called Insects; Audubon's "Pocket Guide" called Familiar Insects and Spiders North America, and; the Peterson Field Guide A Field Guide to Insects: America North of Mexico.
A good way to begin the insect-learning process is to print up our "Key to the Big Ten Insect Orders," go outside with your hand lens, and see if you can assign some insects to their orders.
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Conrad, Jim. Last updated . Page title: . Retrieved from The Backyard Nature Website at .