Insects of a wide variety of types can make for fascinating pets for people of all ages, and keeping a terrarium or tank of a carefully selected and chosen insect species within the home can be highly educational for children. Many people have only the most rudimentary understanding of what insects actually are, or what makes an insect and insect and the traits they do and do not share.
There is a lot of confusion among the lay public about insects in general, and various tales and “facts” that do the rounds are in reality, not true at all! Whether you are simply seeking to expand your own knowledge, or if you want to make sure that you can answer any questions that your children might have correctly, read on for our list of ten of the most commonly held misconceptions about insects that are repeated time and time again!
It is a common misconception that insects only live on land, but several different types of insects actually live naturally either within the water of lakes, ponds and streams, or around the edges of the water and sometimes on the surface. For instance, the rove beetle lives on the seashore, and sea skaters live within the sea itself. Midges, damselflies, dragonflies and mayflies all live around the water, and some species lay their larvae on the water or on the banks of the water prior to its hatching into adult insects!
It is often thought that insects, while obviously not vegetable or mineral, are somehow not animals, or that they are something separate to what we usually think of as being animals. This is incorrect, and for many people, when they say “insects are not animals” what they really mean is that “insects are not mammals,” which is correct.
With their signature long legs and vaguely spider-like appearance, people often assume that the daddy longlegs is simply a spider with wings! This idea understandably horrifies the arachnophobics of the world, but is also completely untrue. The daddy longlegs is a completely different animal to the spider, and is correctly called a crane fly. They are also not giant mosquitoes either!
Children are often told that counting up the number of spots on a ladybird will tell you its age, and it is easy to see why this story is appealing. However, it is not at all true! By the time the ladybird reaches adulthood, all of the spots it will attain for its lifetime are already present. The ladybird only lives for one year at a maximum!
Many people think that everything that is small, many-legged and rather unusual looking falls into the category of insects, but the spider is not in fact an insect at all. Spiders have two body segments rather than the normal three that insects have, and eight legs rather than six. The spider is classed as an arachnid, a different designation to “insect” entirely.
Just to confuse matters further, not everything that has eight legs is a spider! All spiders have eight legs, but many eight legged animals (such as the crab, the scorpion, the tick and the harvestman) are not spiders. Eight legged creatures like this all fall under the arachnid family (like spiders) but spiders are just one sub section of the arachnid family.
By now you have probably gotten the picture that you cannot tell what order or group something belongs to simply by counting the number of its legs, but it is true to say that all adult insects have six legs. This means that animals like moths and butterflies are insects, but centipedes and millipedes are not! The legs of insects are also attached to the thorax, not the abdomen, the thorax being the middle of the three body sections of the insect.
Are you confused yet? You could be forgiven if you were! The terms “bug” and “insect” are often used interchangeably, but not all insects are bugs! The word “bug” describes a very specific type of insects from the Hemiptera order, which includes cicadas ad aphids. The beetle is not a bug, although this is probably the animal most likely to be labelled as such!
It is perfectly natural to assume that a spider, bug or insect found in the sink or the bath has climbed its way up through the drainage system to get there, but this is highly unlikely to be true! The most common explanation for spiders or insects finding their way into the plughole is that they have dropped there from the ceiling or wall, or deliberately crawled there from elsewhere. Insects and spiders require a degree of humidity to thrive, which they are unlikely to be able to find within most homes in the UK other than in the bathroom or near to water. This makes sinks and basins appealing to them, and can cause them to climb or fall in and then be unable to scale the high, smooth sides to get back out.
Seeing a very small flying bug or insect with wings often leads people to believe that the animal in question is a baby or juvenile of the species, and that they will later grow into their adult guise. However this is incorrect; by the time an insect has grown its wings it has already metamorphosised into its adult form, and acquiring the wings occurs in the final moult of the larvae or nymph in order to take them into adulthood.