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A Phyllium sp., mimicking a leaf LeafInsect.jpg
A Phyllium sp., mimicking a leaf

Entomology (from Ancient Greek ἔντομον (entomon) 'insect',and-λογία (-logia) 'study of' [1] ) is the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology. In the past the term "insect" was vaguer, and historically the definition of entomology included the study of animals in other arthropod groups, such as arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use.


Like several of the other fields that are categorized within zoology, entomology is a taxon-based category; any form of scientific study in which there is a focus on insect-related inquiries is, by definition, entomology. Entomology therefore overlaps with a cross-section of topics as diverse as molecular genetics, behavior, biomechanics, biochemistry, systematics, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, morphology, and paleontology.

At some 1.3 million described species, insects account for more than two-thirds of all known organisms, [2] some dating back around 400 million years. They have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth.


Plate from Transactions of the Entomological Society, 1848. TRES18481.jpg
Plate from Transactions of the Entomological Society, 1848.
These 100 Trigonopterus species were described simultaneously using DNA barcoding. Compilation of 100 Trigonopterus species - 1742-9994-10-15-3.png
These 100 Trigonopterus species were described simultaneously using DNA barcoding.

Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (especially biological control and beekeeping). The natural philosopher Pliny the Elder, (23 - 79 AD) wrote a book on the kinds of Insects, [3] while the scientist of Kufa, Ibn al-A‘rābī (760 - 845 AD) wrote a book on flies, Kitāb al-Dabāb (كتاب الذباب). However scientific study in the modern sense began only as recently as the 16th century. [4]

William Kirby is widely considered as the father of entomology. In collaboration with William Spence, he published a definitive entomological encyclopedia, Introduction to Entomology, regarded as the subject's foundational text. He also helped to found the Royal Entomological Society in London in 1833, one of the earliest such societies in the world; earlier antecedents, such as the Aurelian society date back to the 1740s. [5]

Entomology developed rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was studied by large numbers of people, including such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), [6] and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.

There has also been a history of people becoming entomologists through museum curation and research assistance, [7] such as Sophie Lutterlough at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Insect identification is an increasingly common hobby, with butterflies and dragonflies being the most popular.

Most insects can easily be recognized to order such as Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) or Coleoptera (beetles). However, insects other than Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are typically identifiable to genus or species only through the use of Identification keys and Monographs. Because the class Insecta contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species of beetles alone) and the characteristics separating them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist. This has led to the development of automated species identification systems targeted on insects, for example, Daisy, ABIS, SPIDA and Draw-wing.

In pest control

In 1994, the Entomological Society of America launched a new professional certification program for the pest control industry called the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE). To qualify as a "true entomologist" an individual would normally require an advanced degree, with most entomologists pursuing a PhD. While not true entomologists in the traditional sense, individuals who attain the ACE certification may be referred to as ACEs or Associate Certified Entomologists.

Taxonomic specialization

Example of a collection barcode on a pinned beetle specimen ENTO Museum Barcode.jpeg
Example of a collection barcode on a pinned beetle specimen

Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects, and a number of these subspecialties are given their own informal names, typically (but not always) derived from the scientific name of the group:


US-American entomologists of the 1800s PSM V76 D472 Entomologists.png
US-American entomologists of the 1800s


Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.

Research collection

Here is a list of selected very large insect collections, housed in museums, universities, or research institutes.




The Entomology Research Collection at Lincoln University, New Zealand, with curator John Marris LU Entomology Museum DSC8583.jpeg
The Entomology Research Collection at Lincoln University, New Zealand, with curator John Marris


United States


See also

Related Research Articles

Forensic entomology

Forensic entomology is the scientific study of the invasion of the succession pattern of arthropods with their developmental stages of different species found on the decomposed cadavers during legal investigations. It is the application and study of insect and other arthropod biology to criminal matters. It also involves the application of the study of arthropods, including insects, arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, and crustaceans to criminal or legal cases. It is primarily associated with death investigations; however, it may also be used to detect drugs and poisons, determine the location of an incident, and find the presence and time of the infliction of wounds. Forensic entomology can be divided into three subfields: urban, stored-product and medico-legal/medico-criminal entomology.

Johan Christian Fabricius

Johan Christian Fabricius was a Danish zoologist, specialising in "Insecta", which at that time included all arthropods: insects, arachnids, crustaceans and others. He was a student of Carl Linnaeus, and is considered one of the most important entomologists of the 18th century, having named nearly 10,000 species of animals, and established the basis for the modern insect classification.

George Hudson (entomologist)

George Vernon Hudson FRSNZ was a British-born New Zealand entomologist and astronomer. Hudson is credited with proposing the modern daylight saving time. He was awarded the Hector Memorial Medal in 1923.

Insect collecting

Insect collecting refers to the collection of insects and other arthropods for scientific study or as a hobby. Because most insects are small and the majority cannot be identified without the examination of minute morphological characters, entomologists often make and maintain insect collections. Very large collections are conserved in natural history museums or universities where they are maintained and studied by specialists. Many college courses require students to form small collections. There are also amateur entomologists and collectors who keep collections.

William Kirby (entomologist)

William Kirby was an English entomologist, an original member of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society, as well as a country rector, so that he was an eminent example of the "parson-naturalist". He is considered the "founder of entomology".

Francis Walker (entomologist)

Francis Walker was an English entomologist. He was born in Southgate, London, on 31 July 1809 and died at Wanstead, England on 5 October 1874. He was one of the most prolific authors in entomology, and stirred controversy during his later life as his publications resulted in a huge number of junior synonyms.

Hermann August Hagen

Hermann August Hagen was a German entomologist who specialised in Neuroptera and Odonata. He had established himself as one of Europe's preeminent entomologists by 1867 when he accepted a position at Harvard University to curate the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 1870 he became the first entomologist in the United States to hold the formal title, Professor of Entomology.

Timeline of entomology

Entomology, the scientific study of insects and closely related terrestrial arthropods, has been impelled by the necessity of societies to protect themselves from insect-borne diseases, crop losses to pest insects, and insect-related discomfort, as well as by people's natural curiosity. This timeline article traces the history of entomology.

Invertebrate zoology is the subdiscipline of zoology that consists of the study of invertebrates, animals without a backbone.

Frederick Vincent Theobald English entomologist (1868–1930)

Frederick Vincent Theobald FES was an English entomologist and "distinguished authority on mosquitoes". During his career, he was responsible for the economic zoology section of the Natural History Museum, London, vice-principal of the South-Eastern Agricultural College at Wye, Kent, Professor of Agricultural Zoology at London University, and advisory entomologist to the Board of Agriculture for the South-Eastern district of England. He wrote a five volume monograph and sixty scientific papers on mosquitoes. He was recognised for his work in entomology, tropical medicine, and sanitation; awards for his work include the Imperial Ottoman Order of Osmanieh, the Mary Kingsley Medal, and the Victoria Medal of Honour, as well as honorary fellowships of learned societies.

Joseph Dandridge, was an English silk-pattern designer of Huguenot descent, a natural history illustrator, an amateur naturalist specialising in entomology, and a leading figure in the Society of Aurelians of which he was a founder member.

An insectarium is a live insect zoo, or a museum or exhibit of live insects. Insectariums often display a variety of insects and similar arthropods, such as spiders, beetles, cockroaches, ants, bees, millipedes, centipedes, crickets, grasshoppers, stick insects, scorpions, mantids and crustaceans. Displays can focus on learning about insects, types of insects, their habitats, why they are important, and the work of entomologists, arachnologists, and other scientists that study terrestrial arthropods and similar animals.

Sir Guy Anstruther Knox Marshall FRS, was an Indian-born British entomologist. He was an expert on African and oriental weevils.

James Halliday McDunnough was a Canadian linguist, musician, and entomologist best known for his work with North American Lepidoptera, but who also made important contributions about North American Ephemeroptera.

George McGavin

George C. McGavin is a British entomologist, author, academic, television presenter and explorer.

Melville Harrison Hatch (1898–1988) was an American entomologist who specialized in the study of beetles. His long career at the University of Washington was highlighted by the publication of the seminal, five-volume work Beetles of the Pacific Northwest. Hatch is responsible for the identification and naming of 13 species.

Elizabeth Nesta Marks Australian entomologist

Elizabeth Nesta "Pat" Marks was an Australian entomologist who described 38 new mosquito species, as well as new species of fruit flies, bugs, cockroaches and ticks. She had a PhD in insect physiology from the University of Cambridge and was a member of the Royal Entomological Society of London.

Beverley Holloway New Zealand entomologist

Beverley Anne Holloway is a New Zealand entomologist. Holloway is a preeminent lucanid systematist and was awarded the New Zealand Commemoration Medal in 1990 for services to New Zealand as a scientist. She has also been elected a Fellow of the Entomological Society of New Zealand.

Lincoln University Entomology Research Collection Entomology collection in New Zealand

The Lincoln University Entomology Research Collection is a collection of approximately 500,000 insect, spider, and other arthropod specimens housed in Lincoln University, New Zealand. One of New Zealand's largest insect research collections, it is the only one based in a university.

Judith A. Marshall is an entomologist in the UK, she is an expert in grasshoppers, crickets and related insects (Orthoptera) and is emeritus Curator of Entomology at the Natural History Museum, London.


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  2. Chapman, A. D. (2009). Numbers of living species in Australia and the World (2 ed.). Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Study. pp. 60pp. ISBN   978-0-642-56850-2. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2007-10-26.
  3. Naturalis Historia
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  5. Clark, John F.M. (2009). Bugs and the Victorians. Yale University Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN   0300150911.
  6. "Karl von Frisch – Nobel Lecture: Decoding the Language of the Bee".
  7. Starrs, Siobhan (10 August 2010). "A Scientist and a Tinkerer – A Story in a Frame". National Museum of Natural History Unearthed. National Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 19 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  8. "KwaZulu-Natal Museum".
  9. "Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum".
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 26, 2003. Retrieved 2007-01-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  11. "Home".
  12. "O.U.M.N.H. Homepage".
  13. "Auburn University Museum of Natural History".
  14. "Collections". Archived from the original on 2010-08-24.
  15. NMSU Entomology Plant Pathology; Weed science. "New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum". Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  16. "Enns Entomology Museum, MU".
  17. "Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes – Homepage".
  18. "E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum – Department of Biological Sciences, Studies in Life Sciences".
  19. "Lyman Entomological Museum".
  20. "University of Guelph Insect Collection". uoguelph.ca. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  21. "The Victoria Bug Zoo TM".

Further reading

"I suppose you are an entomologist?" "Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name. No man can be truly called an entomologist, sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Poet at the Breakfast Table