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Insects

Would you look at that! All them little critters have been hiding in my tank-like body. I thought I could hear some buzzing, clicking, and hissing… I thought I had a few bolts loose!

You might be a little curious about these things. Well, insects are some of the most diverse creatures on Earth! They live in nearly all environments: in and on top of the ground, in the air, underwater, under logs and rocks, inside and outside plants, and even on other animals! They move around by walking, flying, or sometimes swimming.

Nearly all insects hatch from eggs. They then generally have three main body parts: a head, thorax, and abdomen. They also have a skeleton, but this is outside their body instead of inside. It’s called an exoskeleton

The head is small and holds the insect’s brain, eyes, and mouth. Insects also have special feelers called antennae that stick out of the top of their heads. They use their antennae to smell and feel, as they do not have noses and hands like you humans do. Insect eyes are very different from human eyes, too. They are called "compound eyes", with many different lenses that allow them to see rapid movement and things that are very close to them.

The thorax is the middle section, which sits below the head. Insects have six legs that come out of this section. These legs have special joints and tiny barbs on the end instead of toes. A few types of insects have wings, which are also attached to the thorax. Some insects have one pair of wings (like flies and mosquitoes), while others (like butterflies and grasshoppers) have two pairs of wings.

The abdomen is the final section. It is the largest part of the insect's body and contains its stomach and reproductive system. Insects can reproduce very quickly. Most insects reproduce by laying eggs which are very tiny and have soft shells. 

You may think insects are tiny, but they weren't always this way! Huge fossilised insects from over 300 million years ago have been discovered, including giant dragonflies with wingspans of 65 to 70 centimetres (25 to 28 inches). 

I must admit, I'm a big softy for this little legend – but I’m not sure how happy I would be with a 70-centimetre-long dragonfly getting stuck in my cage-head!

GLOSSARY
Barb - ​a sharp point at the end of an insect’s leg. 
Reproductive system  ​- the part of the body that helps humans, animals and plants breed. Wingspan ​- the length of both wings, measured from tip to tip. 
Organism - ​a general term for any animal, plant or other type of life form. 

FACTS
1. There are estimated to be five million insect species in the world, but only around 900,000 have been identified.
2. More than 99.9% of known insect species have wings.
3. Insects make up more than half of all known living organisms.

QUIZ
1. Name three environments where insects can live.
2. Where do insects hatch from?
3. Is an insect’s skeleton inside or outside its body?
4. How many legs do insects have?
5. Butterflies have one pair of wings – true or false?

ACTIVITIES
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