BioImages: The Virtual Field-Guide (UK)

INSECTA (true insects)

Subtaxa (ie subgroups of this Class)

Suggested Literature

Identification Works

British Insects discussion group: British Insects discussion group
Insects & Spiders from Finland
Insects & Spiders from Finland
Brock, P.D., 2014 A Comprehensive Guide to Insects of Britain and Ireland
Chinery, M., 2005 Complete British Insects
Photos of Insects: Photos of Insects
Imms, A.D., 1957 General Textbook of Entomology
Linssen, E.F. & Newman, L.H., 1964 The Observer's Book of Insects
Lepidoptera and some other life forms: Lepidoptera and some other life forms


Macan, T.T., 1959 (esp. larvae) A Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates

Keys to orders

A quick key to the adults of the major Orders of Insects: A quick key to the adults of the major Orders of Insects


Macan, T.T., 1959 A Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates


Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (eds), 1990 The Marine Fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe
Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (eds), 1996 (littoral and sublittoral fauna) Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe

Plant galls

Houard, C., 1908 Les zoocécidies des plantes d'Europe et du bassin de la Méditerranée: Description des galles

BioInfo BioInfo ( has 960 general literature references to INSECTA (true insects)

INSECTA may also be covered by literature listed under:

(living things)
(insects and other 6-legged organisms)

BioInfo BioInfo ( has 17082 feeding and other relationships of INSECTA (true insects)

Further Information

Notes (MWS) Insects are characterised by having six legs. Of course there are exceptions: many larvae have no or additional legs (but these are stumpy and obviously different); some adults, especially parasitic forms, have reduced legs. Finally not everything with six legs is an insect: juvenile mites and copepods are both six-legged.

Insects have a chitin exoskeleton. Because this is impermeable to gases, they have a system of branching internal breathing tubes (trachaea) connecting to the outside through paired openings (spiracles) on each segment (generally). Because the exoskeleton is stiff, it is shed (ecdysis) regularly during growth; the number of moults is usually constant for a given species, and the stages between are called instars.

Insects are the most species-rich group of organisms on the planet.
Diagnostic features Almost all insects have six-legs, at least when adult.

Almost all organisms with six legs are insects - the exceptions are very tiny, although spiders and harvestmen can lose two legs, so care needs to be taken.

Any cold-blooded organism with wings (ie not bird or bat) is an insect.
Curation Hard-bodied insects are generally pinned (the exception being beetles which are usually carded, and very small species.) Either way they often need to be relaxed after killing, unless you catch them just right.

Soft-bodied species and larvae are best preserved specimen tubes in 90% alcohol. Use tubes with flat sealing caps ("alcohol tubes") rather than the 3-finned caps which aren't vapour-proof. To reduce evaporation, store the tubes in a sealed jar (jam jar or kilner jar) which itself contains a few cm of alcohol.
Lab. techniques RELAXING
Insects are best relaxed in a jar with a few drops of vinegar on a piece of kitchen towel in the bottom. Use a squat jar such as those sold containing savoury spreads. Small insects will relax overnight, larger or stiffer ones might require a couple of days. Beware that the acetic acid will turn copper or brass-headed pins green.

Insects or insect parts can be softened in 10% KOH. This generally means heating in a water bath for 5 or 10 minutes (depending on size) or leaving overnight at room temperature.

This is the usual method of preparing microscope slides, eg for genitalia preps.
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