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Insect Orders

Last updated almost 5 years ago

Entomologists have classified insects in 30 different orders, some of them, like beetles or flies, are familiar to everyone, but others are more obscure. Follow the links below to find out more about each order.

Also have a look at our Insect Orders Pinterest Board

Want a fun way to practice recognizing insect orders? Play the Insect Orders Memory Game

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    Jumping Bristletails

    Bristletails (Archaeognatha) are wingless insects that hide under bark, in litter, and in rock crevices. They feed on algae, lichens, and plant debris.

    Sort value: Insecta

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    Silverfish and Firebrats

    Silverfish and firebrats (Thysanura or Zygentoma) often live in people's houses, but are also found in habitats such as caves and nests of other animals, including ant colonies.

    Sort value: Insecta

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    Dragonflies and Damselflies

    Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) are charismatic insects that have captured the imagination of naturalists and artists across cultures. Juveniles are voracious underwater predators, while the winged adults are fierce aerial hunters.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota

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    Ice Crawlers

    Rock crawlers (Grylloblattodea) are extremophilic insects that thrive in near-freezing temperatures. Some entomologists treat Grylloblattodea as a suborder of the order Notoptera, which also includes the Mantophasmatodea.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Earwigs (Dermaptera) have a pair of forceps-like cerci at the tip of their abdomen. They are used to open the wings, to capture prey, and for defense.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Zorapterans are minute insects that live in small colonies in the crevices or under dead bark of moist, decaying logs. Fungal hyphae and spores are their principal food, but they can also be general scavengers or predators, victimizing nematodes, mites, or other tiny arthropods.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Gladiators (Mantophasmatodea) are an enigmatic group of insects that was only recently discovered in southwest Africa. Some entomologists treat Mantophasmatodea as a suborder of the order Notoptera, which also includes the Grylloblattodea.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Adult stoneflies (Plecoptera) are terrestrial, but the nymphs live in the benthic zone of well-oxygenated lakes and streams. All species of Plecoptera are intolerant of water pollution and their presence in a stream or still water is usually an indicator of good or excellent water quality.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Webspinners (Embioptera) use silk glands on their enlarged forelimbs to weave silk tunnels and chambers on rocks, the bark of trees, or in leaf litter.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Bark Flies

    Barklice, barkflies, or booklice (Psocoptera) are minute insects that live hidden away under bark, in leaf litter, or sometimes in your old books.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Lice (Phthiraptera) are small, wingless insects, permanently parasitic on mammals and birds.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Thrips (Thysanoptera) are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They feed on a variety of sources, both plant and animal, by puncturing them and sucking up the contents. A large number of thrips species are considered pests, because they feed on plants with commercial value.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera

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    Cockroaches are mostly nocturnal insect, with biting mouthparts and legs that are adapted for swift running. The body is oval and dorsoventrally flattened, allowing the animals to hide in narrow spaces, for example under bark or in crevices of trees and rocks.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Dictyoptera

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    Alderflies, Fishflies and Dobsonflies

    Alderflies, fishflies and dobsonflies (Megaloptera) are associated with a variety of freshwater habitats. The winged, short-lived adults are terrestrial, while the larvae live as generalist predators in ponds, lakes, streams, and swamps.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Endopterygota

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    The larvae and adults of Snakeflies (Raphidioptera) are active, terrestrial predators. The short-lived adults have a long prothorax that gives them a snake-like appeareance. The larvae live for several years under the bark of trees and shrubs or in soil detritus.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Endopterygota

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    Twisted-wing Parasites

    The Strepsiptera (twisted-wing parasites) are obligate parasites of other insects. They have extreme sexual dimorphism. The short-lived males are free-living and winged, while females are wingless and resemble larvae.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Endopterygota

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    Scorpion Flies

    Mecopterans range from 3-30 mm in length and have caterpillar-like larvae. Adults are mostly carnivorous on smaller insects, but will also eat some plant parts. Males court females by attracting them with pheromones and offering a food gift.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Endopterygota

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    Fleas are obligate ectoparasites of mammals and birds. Both males and females use piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on the blood of their host. Some species are vectors of human disease including plague (Yersinia pestis) and murine typhus (Rickettsia typhi).

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Endopterygota

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    Adult caddisflies (Trichoptera) are small, terrestrial, moth-like insects. The larvae, with very few exceptions, are aquatic and use silk to construct nets or tubes. Many build various types of portable cases, often incorporating sand and small pebbles, or bits of leaves and twigs.

    Sort value: Insecta:Pterygota:Neoptera:Endopterygota