Insects

Information

Kingdom - animal
Phylum – arthropoda
Class -  hexapoda

Most of the creatures encountered in organic gardening, at least above the ground, are insects.

Insects are arthropods along with arachnids, crustaceans and myriapods. The features these have in common are hard exoskeletons, segmented bodies and jointed legs. The word “arthropod” actually means “joint foot” in Greek.

Arthropods are invertebrates which means they have no backbone.

The features these have in common:

Lady Bug

Segmented bodies

Insects such as ants and bugs have three body segments (head, thorax and abdomen) whereas spiders have two (head and thorax)

Ant
Twenty-six spot lady beetles hatching from eggs
Spider

Jointed legs

Insects have six legs, connected at the thorax. Each leg is jointed: made up of five separate parts. 
The assassin bug has six jointed legs whereas the millipede has many.

Assassin bug
Assassin bug
Millipede

Exoskeletons

The skeletons are external and although quite soft when the arthropod is first born, or immediately after one has been shed, they harden very quickly. As they grow the exoskeleton is shed and a new one forms.

Grasshopper
Grasshopper skeleton
Cicada moulting

Cold blooded

Arthropods depend entirely on the temperature of their environment to regulate their body temperature.

Insects start their life in eggs, with the exception of a couple of species such as aphids where the female can give birth to live young without needing to mate with a male.

An aphid giving birth to live young
Twenty-six spot lady beetles hatching from eggs
Spiders just hatched

The young of some insects such as flies, beetles and butterflies are larvae which grow bigger until they reach a stage where they pupate, emerging as adults. The larvae are grub-like and look nothing like the adult.

An adult fig tree beetle and a larva
Fig tree beetle larva
Fig tree beetle larva

Other insects, such as the “true bugs” pass through a series of instars, shedding their exoskeletons as they grow. These nymphs are more like smaller versions of the adult.

An adult assassin bug
Assassin bug nymph

Assassin bug nymph

In organic gardening, we tend to think of insects in two groups: “pest” species and “beneficial” species. Pests are those that eat or otherwise damage the plants we grow, while beneficials are generally predatory species that eat the pests.

Pest: the pod sucker bug
Beneficial: the fungus-eating lady beetle

Our aim is to help you control the pests and attract the beneficials in ways that are healthiest for you and the environment.