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Insects and other arthropods

Classification of insects

Acheta domesticus, Québec, Canada.
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (Mélanie Riverin)
Acheta domesticus, Québec, Canada.
  • Acheta domesticus, Québec, Canada.
  • Dolichovespula arenaria, Québec, Canada.
  • Apis mellifera, Québec, Canada.
  • Bombus terricola, Québec, Canada.
  • Bombus impatiens, Québec, Canada.

For an entomologist, classifying an insect consists of placing it in different taxonomical categories that correspond to different degrees of precision. In general, the most commonly used categories are phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. These categories are hierarchical, which means they are divided into groups that are increasingly specific. Phyla are composed of several classes, classes are composed of several orders, orders are composed of several families, families are composed of several genera and genera are composed of several species.

Every living being belongs to several classification categories. Human beings belong to the Chordata phylum (vertebrate animals) and the Mammifera class.

The example of the bumblebee

The spider (1), cricket (2), social wasp (3), honeybee (4) and two bumblebees (5-6) all have segmented bodies and articulated legs. They all belong to the Arthropoda phylum.

Among arthropods, those with three pairs of legs and a body that is divided into three parts are insects and belong to the Insecta class. Spiders belong to the Arachnida class.

Because the social wasp, honeybee and bumblebees have two pairs of membranous wings with tiny hooks that link them together for flight, these insects belong to the Hymenoptera order. The cricket belongs to the Orthoptera order.

Bumblebees and honeybees have back legs that are adapted to collect and transport pollen. They belong to the Apidae family. Social wasps belong to the Vespidae family.

The two bumblebees belong to the Bombus genus because, unlike honeybees, they have hairs on their compound eyes and spikes on their back legs. Honeybees are part of the Apis genus.

Finally, because one of the bumblebees has a first abdominal segment that is yellow, it belongs to the impatiens species.

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