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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2001

Intriguing Insects!

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

Quick—name some insects! That shouldn’t be too hard, since over 800,000 species have been documented so far. Scientists estimate there may be as many as 5,000,000 (7,000 new species are discovered each year!). Bees, ants, cockroaches, ladybugs, fireflies, termites, houseflies, walking sticks, silverfish, grasshoppers, lice, and crickets are all insects. Insects represent about three-fourths of all the animals on Earth.

What separates insects from other living organisms? They have segmented bodies, jointed legs, and (when one is present) a skeleton on the outside of their body (known as an "exoskeleton," it is made of an element called "chitin," which is something like plastic). An insect’s body has three sections: (1) the head, which houses the mouth, eyes, and a pair of antennae; (2) the thorax, which usually has three pairs of legs and one or two pairs of wings; and (3) the many-segmented abdomen, which contains the digestive system and other important things.

Insects live almost everywhere—from snow-capped mountains to blistering hot deserts. They have been found deep within caves, and even floating high up in the atmosphere. About the only place they don’t generally live is in the oceans and seas of the world.

Sometimes insects annoy us. They bite, they infect us with disease, they eat our crops, they damage our property, and they cause our animals to become sick and die. At other times, however, insects are our friends. They cross-pollinate our crops, manufacture honey, make silk, help in the breakdown of organic matter, and in some cultures serve as food (John the Baptist ate locusts; Matthew 3:4).

Insects come in all sizes and shapes. Some (like parasitic wasps) are microscopic, while others are huge (the Goliath beetle weighs over a quarter of a pound!). They are among the most intriguing animals on Earth. They have no voices, yet can make sounds heard over a mile away. Some have no eyes, while others have five or more. Some hear by means of hairs on their bodies, and some have "ears" on their legs. And some have enormous strength. An ant can lift a weight 50 times as heavy as its own body (if a 175-pound man could do that, he would be able to lift more than 4 tons!). Little wonder that the writer of the book of Proverbs said: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise" (6:6).

Insects carry out the same tasks that we do They build bridges and "apartment houses," raise crops, and work as carpenters. There are insect nurses, guards, soldiers, hunters, trappers, and even undertakers! When God created the insects, He showed us His amazing power and wisdom. We should learn that lesson well.

Copyright © 2001 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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