Entomology

Entomology

Entomology (from Greek ἔντομος, entomos, "that which is cut in pieces or engraved/segmented", hence "insect"; and -λογία, -logia) is the scientific study of insects, a branch of arthropodology. At some 1.3 million described species, insects account for more than two-thirds of all known organisms, date back some 400 million years, and have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth. It is a specialty within the field of biology. Though technically incorrect, the definition is sometimes widened to include the study of terrestrial animals in other arthropod groups or other phyla, such as arachnids, myriapods, earthworms, land snails, and slugs.

Like several of the other fields that are categorized within zoology, entomology is a taxon-based category; any form of scientific study in which there is a focus on insect related inquiries is, by definition, entomology. Entomology therefore includes a cross-section of topics as diverse as molecular genetics, behavior, biomechanics, biochemistry, systematics, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, morphology, paleontology, anthropology, robotics, agriculture, nutrition, forensic science, and more.

History of entomology

Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (especially biological control and beekeeping), but scientific study began only as recently as the 16th century.

The list of entomologists is very small, and includes such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,) and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.

Entomology in popular culture

Gil Grissom on the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV show is an entomologist, who is played by actor William Petersen. Similarly, entomologist Jack Hodgins of Bones, portrayed by TJ Thyne, helps his team by analyzing insects (such as Hydrotaea) and "particulates" near to or attached to decomposed victims, often identifying the precise location a murder originally occurred; he is also an expert in botany and mineralogy.

In Arthur Conan Doyle's story, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the villain is a naturalist who collects butterflies, making him an "evil" entomologist.

The Aubrey–Maturin sea novels of Patrick O'Brian have frequent appearances by Sir Joseph Blaine, a Royal Navy intelligence official who is also an avid entomologist. He recruits Dr. Stephen Maturin, one of the principal characters, as a spy. Their conferences on espionage activities invariably make room for their shared interest in naturalist studies.

There are numerous science fiction books which have plots based on humans becoming smaller and having to deal with insects at their level. Some examples are The Insect Warriors by Rex Dean Levie, Atta by Francis Rufus Bellamy, Bug Park by James P. Hogan, The Micronauts series by Gordon Williams, and The Forgotten Planet by Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planets plot is twisted in that the insects are the size of men (or larger) on a planet "seeded" to prepare it for human habitation. Robert Asprin wrote The Bug Wars, a novel about war between reptiles and insects on an interplanetary scale.

There are quite a few films about insects, or at least prominently featuring them. Widespread attitudes of revulsion and fear toward insects are often exploited by Horror and Science Fiction films through insect/insect-like monsters (Them! is a famous early example), or by showing humans transformed into (The Fly) or attacked by insects. Another more positive type of insect film is animation with anthropomorphized insects as characters.

Identification of insects

Most insects can easily be recognized to order such as Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) or Coleoptera (beetles). However, insects other than Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are typically identifiable to genus or species only through the use of Identification keys and Monographs. Because the class Insecta contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species of beetles alone) and the characteristics separating them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist.

Insect identification is an increasingly common hobby, with butterflies and dragonflies being the most popular.

Taxonomic specialization

Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects, and a number of these subspecialties are given their own informal names, typically (but not always) derived from the scientific name of the group:

  • Apiology (or melittology) - bees
  • Coleopterology - beetles
  • Dipterology - flies
  • Hemipterology - true bugs
  • Lepidopterology - moths and butterflies
  • Myrmecology - ants
  • Orthopterology - grasshoppers, crickets, etc.
  • Trichopterology - caddis flies
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Organizations

Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.

  • Amateur Entomologists' Society
  • Deutsches Entomologisches Institut
  • Entomological Society of America
  • Entomological Society of Canada
  • Entomological Society of Japan
  • International Union for the Study of Social Insects
  • Netherlands Entomological Society
  • Royal Belgian Entomological Society
  • Royal Entomological Society of London
  • Société Entomologique de France

Museums

Here is a list of selected museums which contain very large insect collections.

Africa

  • Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Europe

  • World Museum Liverpool
  • The Bugworld Experience, Liverpool
  • Natural History Museum, London Natural History Museum
  • Natural History Museum, Vienna Naturhistorisches Museum
  • Natural History Museum, Paris Muséum national d'histoire naturelle
  • Natural History Museum, Berlin Humboldt Museum
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa, Brussels Royal Museum for Central Africa
  • Natural History Museum, Leiden Natural History Museum, Leiden
  • Natural History Museum, Sweden Swedish Museum of Natural History
  • Natural History Museum, St. Petersburg Zoological Collection of the Russian Academy of Science
  • Natural History Museum, Geneva
  • The Bavarian State Collection of Zoology Zoologische Staatssammlung München
  • Natural History Museum, Budapest Hungarian Natural History Museum

United States

  • Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • American Museum of Natural History, New York City, New York
  • Auburn University Entomological Museum, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
  • Audubon Insectarium, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Bohart Museum of Entomology, Davis, California
  • California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California
  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Essig Museum, Berkeley, California
  • Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois
  • Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California
  • National Museum of Natural History, Washington, District of Columbia
  • North Carolina State University Insect Museum, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Lawrence, Kansas
  • University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • University of Missouri Enns Entomology Museum, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

Canada

  • Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, Ottawa, Ontario
  • E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Lyman Entomological Museum, Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec
  • Montreal Insectarium, Montreal, Quebec
  • Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario
  • Newfoundland Insectarium, Reidville, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • University of Guelph Insect Collection, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
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