Introduction to Insects
Entomology is the science of insects and their relatives. Insects are the most numerous and diverse life forms on the planet with over one million named species. They are found in every habitat on earth. Texas has more insect species than any other state with over 30,000 species. Plants are the base for all life on the planet either directly or indirectly. Insects play an important role with their interactions with plant life in providing necessary services. Without insects as pollinators, decomposers, and food sources, our planet would eventually become uninhabitable.
Insects are identified by their body structure. Adults have three segments; a head, a mid-region (thorax), and a hind region (abdomen). Most adult insects have three pairs of segmented legs and one or two pairs of wings, all attached to the thorax. Spiders, ticks, millipedes, and scorpions are not insects. Insects do not have a skeleton of bones but a tough outer skin called exoskeleton.
Metamorphosis is the change an insect will go through during its life cycle. During this cycle is when insects develop wings and reproductive organs and can look very different from their adult versions. There are two types; gradual and complete. “Gradual” change is when an insect emerges from an egg as a nymph, looking similar to an adult. The nymph will shed its outer skin several times as it grows into an adult. “Complete” change is when an embryo emerges from an egg in the form as a larva, resembling a worm. The larva will also shed its skin several times as it grows. The outer skin will start to harden, covering itself with a protective material, and the insect will become a pupa or chrysalis. During this stage, the insect transforms itself completely and emerges as an adult. An example of this type change is the life cycle of a butterfly or moth.
Insect species feed on a variety of foods. Some are plant eaters while others are predators feeding on other insects and mammals. Some feed on plant juices or blood. A butterfly is one insect that will change its food habits during its life cycle. As a caterpillar, it feeds on plant leaves and when it emerges as an adult butterfly, it will feed on plant nectar.
Crescent Bend is filled with insects year-around because of its diverse habitats. Most are very visible during the spring and summer months when they are breeding and feeding. During the winter, many insects survive the cold as eggs, hidden in the plants or underground, waiting for warmer days of spring to hatch.
Visit the following galleries to view photos of the many insect species found at the park.