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Entomology [en-toe-MOL-oh-gee] is the branch of zoology that studies insects. However, the definition is sometimes widened to include the study of other terrestrial arthropods, such as arachnids, and centipedes.

Insects have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth, thus Entomology is an important specialty within biology. An entomologist is a person who studies insects as a hobby, or as an employee of some commercial concern interested in the control or use of insects. Of particular interest to entomologists is the life cycles, behavior, ecology, or diversity of insects. [1]


Carved scarab amulet from 550 BC.

Humans have studied insects since before the 16th century. Traces of insects being studied or used in human culture can be found even early than that. The image to the right is one example of insects being used in culture dating back even before 550 BC. In the 18th century entomologists developed and began to illustrate the more beautiful insects, and began work on classifying insects for the binomial nomenclature. Entomology was further developed to include works on things such as anatomy or life cycles of insects.

[2] Since then entomology has grown more and more. Books have been published about insects and studies of insects such as American Beetles published by Ross H. Arnett, Jr. and Michael C. Thomas. [3]

Hobby of Entomology

Many people have begun to identify insects as a hobby. Generally people catch insects such as butterflies or moths for their brilliant colors or intricate designs. Dragonflies are also very popular among insect collectors. Monographs and identification keys are often used to help identify the different species of insects. [4]

Cultural Entomology

Insects have become a part of our everyday lives. Most people overlook how much insects show up somewhere in culture or anywhere in our lives. Some examples of this are that insects are found as characters in movies like Jiminy Cricket. Movies like ‘Ants’, ‘A Bugs Life’, or ‘The Fly.’ There are also songs referencing or about insects like ‘Flight of The Bumblebee’ or ‘Poor Butterfly’. Many works of literature also include insects as the main character such as The Gold Bug by Edgar Allen Poe. Many insects especially butterflies or metallic beetles are used because of their shapes or colors as all kinds of ornaments. They are also used as designs for many things from ceramics, jewelry, and textiles to ashtrays, montages, and postage stamps.

Insects are also a part of some religious practices. One of the best examples is a cult of Egyptians that worshiped scarabs. Other insects were also gods and goddesses of Aztecs, Babylonians, Greeks, and the Chinese. Also, in the Bible the plagues sent against the pharaoh of Egypt had three plagues that consisted of insects. Two to Three others could also be linked to insects or entomology. [5]

Taxonomy, Organizations, and Museums

The studies of entomologists are sometimes narrowed down to particular groups of insects to be studied usually by taxonomy. Some of the more specific groups of study inside entomology are: Apiology - the study of bees, Coleopterology - the study of beetles, Dipterology - the study of flies, Heteropterology - the study of the true bugs, Lepidopterology - the study of just moths and butterflies, Myrmecology - studying ants, Orthopterology - the study of crickets, grasshoppers, etc., and Trichopterology - the study of caddis flies. [6]

A number of organizations specialize in entomology or specific areas of entomology. Some of these organizations include the Amateur Entomologists' Society, Deutsches Entomologisches Institut, the Entomological Society of Canada, Entomological Society of America, and the Royal Entomological Society of London. [7]

There are many entomology museums all over the world that are filled with great insect collections. These museums generally have hundreds of different kinds of insects from beetles to butterflies, with information about each species. A few different museums in the United States are the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Washington DC’s National Museum of Natural History, Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences, and the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln Nebraska. A few large museums in Europe are the Humboldt Museum in Berlin, the Museum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris, and Swedish Museum of Natural History in Sweden. There are also a few museums in Canada such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the Montreal Insectarium. [8]

Applied Entomology

Transgenic plants - Biotechnology has provided an interesting alternative to traditional insecticides for controlling insects. Plants that are genetically transformed to make a protein lethal to insects have been developed for a number of crops such as cotton, corn, and potatoes.

One commonly used strategy employs the use of the BT endotoxin, which is made by the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. The bacteria is pathogenic for a number of insect pests and its lethal effect is mediated by a protein toxin it produces. Through recombinant DNA methods, the toxin gene can be introduced directly into the genome of the plant where it is expressed and provides protection against insect pests of the plant. [9]

This insect management strategy has been a source of concern for entomologists, as the pollen of transgenic crops can drift onto neighboring plants and kill beneficial or non-pestilence varieties such as the monarch butterfly. These concerns appear to have been answered by research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture supporting that no risk to the monarch exists from the use of BT crops.[10]