“I have a black bug. What is it?” That question can only be answered by “it depends.”
Entomologist, scientist who study insects, estimate that there are over 1.5 million different kinds of insects. Nearly one million kinds have been identified and given names and nearly one thousand of them are black bugs.
There are ways that the average homeowner can identify insects by looking at the different parts of the insect body and body structure. Homeowners should not worry about the scientific names of these parts, but rather by the way they look.
Identifying insects depend upon recognizing general characteristics of the different insects. These characteristics include the three body divisions – head, thorax and abdomen; three pairs of legs borne on the thorax; usually two pair of wings attached to the thorax; compound or simple eyes; one pair of antennae; and the mouth parts.
The head is the front region of the insect that bears the mouth parts, antenna, and eyes. Insect mouth parts are usually classified into four general types: chewing, piercing-sucking, sponging and siphoning.
Chewing mouth parts are common to insects that chew off and grind their foods such as grasshoppers, ants and caterpillars. Piercing-sucking mouthparts are modified slender beaks that puncture tissue and suck fluids from the host, such as mosquitoes, greenbugs, aphids and sucking lice. Sponging mouth parts are simply those that have a sponging tip that suck up liquids. This mouth part is common in houseflies, fruit flies and blowflies. The siphoning mouth parts are simple modified into a long tube for sucking up fluid as found in butterflies and moths.
There are two types of eyes of insect eyes, simple and compound. The simple eyes consist of a single eye unit. The compound eyes are usually very large and are composed of many six-sided lenses. Flies are the insects most used when studying compound eyes.
Insects have one pair of antennae, often called “feelers,” located on the front of the head. Insect antennae can vary greatly, and because of their varied shape are often used in identification.
The second body region, or thorax, is composed of three segments. The three segments of the thorax each have one pair of legs attached to them. When wings are present, they are attached to the last segments of the thorax.
Insects usually have two pair of wings; however, the exceptions are flies and mosquitoes, which have lost the second pair. Beetles have four wings, but the front pair is modified into hard shell-like covers. The grasshopper families of insects have forewings that are leathery and straight while the hind wings are folded fan-like beneath the forewings.
The legs of insects vary according to their habit of movement. They may be short and stout for digging, or long and muscular for running and jumping.
The third body regions or abdomen consist of a series of segments that bear spiracles and the external reproductive organs. Spiracles are the external openings of the insect’s breathing system, and many insects have a pair on each abdominal segment.
The reproductive organs are normally located on the last abdominal segment. Insects usually have a pair of tail-like structures on the last abdominal segment that may be used for reproduction, movement or defense.
Like most animals, reproduction starts with the fertilization of an egg. Once the free-living insect is hatched the insect may be similar to its parents or have an entirely different form. The immature insect is a virtual “feeding machine” at this point. The feeding behavior results in substantial growth in size of the insect called metamorphosis.
The stages of development are egg, young or larvae, pupa and adult. Each insect group will have three or more stages of development with the larvae stage being the most destructive of the stages.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton.