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Insects and other arthropods

Chewing insects

Observe the chewing mouthparts of the grasshopper.
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (Claude Pilon)

Insects with sharp, powerful mandibles are classified as “chewing insects.” They are able to cut and chew solid food such as leaves, seeds or other insects.

Grasshoppers, crickets, ants, cockroaches and earwigs are all chewing insects. They have:

Identification of the mouthparts.
  • An upper and lower labrum and labium
  • A large pair of heavy jaws known as mandibles, which they use to cut and crush their food
  • Another pair of jaws, the maxillae, which they use to chew their food
  • A hypopharynx, that corresponds to the bottom, or roof, of the mouth

Sucking-chewing insects

Water beetle larva, Québec, Canada.

Some chewing insects only eat liquid or liquified food, although they have well-developed mandibles. Such insects are called “sucking-chewing insects.” For example, the water beetle larva is a sucking-chewing insect. Each of its hook-shaped mandibles has a narrow conduit, which the larva uses to inject saliva into the body of its prey to liquefy it. A few minutes later, it can suck up its liquefied prey.

Licking-chewing insects

The tongue of the honey bee.

The honeybee is a “licking-chewing insect.” It licks its food with a tongue formed from the fusion of the labium and the maxillae. It uses its mandibles to knead wax and buid wax cells.

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