Kids Guide to Bugs & Insects

The insect kingdom is extremely diverse and with over a million different species, very large. Insect species are spread across approximately 30 different orders, which is a type of biological classification that allows scientists to group animals into categories. There are many different shapes, colors and unique behaviors that can be observed. Some insects are carnivorous, meaning that they eat other insects and animals to survive; however, the bulk of insects are herbivorous, consuming a variety of trees, nectar, leaves and other plant matter.

Ants are one of the most widely recognized types of insects, and for good reason, too! There are very few places in the world that don’t have a native population of ants. While ant species differ in color and shape, they all have a large, round head, compound eyes and a body that is segmented into three sections. Even though they aren’t as colorful as many of the other insects are, ants still come in varying shades of red, brown, orange and black.

It’s estimated that there are more species of beetles than any other type of insect. They belong to the Coleoptera order, and they all exhibit a head, thorax and abdomen. The majority of beetles are not segmented in a way that it’s easy to recognize between the three parts without getting up close. There are many different color variations of beetle, including, metallic green, black, red, yellow, orange and purple. Some beetles have wings, which are protected under a hard covering called the elytra.

Like a butterfly, moths start out as caterpillars, too. The easiest way to tell a moth apart from a butterfly is to look at the antennae. If the insect has feathery looking antennae, then it is probably a moth. Although most moths are not as brightly colored as butterflies are, there are some species that have very bright colors. Moths are better left unhandled, because their delicate wings can be damaged very easily.

  • Why are moths attracted to light?
  • The Moths of Southeastern Arizona

Did you know that bees are a close cousin the ant? There are both solitary and communal species of bees, and some even come out during the night. Aside from the normal yellow and black coloration, some bees are actually a metallic green, blue or black. Like many other flying insects, bees drink their meals through an appendage called a proboscis. Although many people refer to stinging insects, like bees and wasps, as poisonous, that’s actually an incorrect way to classify them. Instead, the proper description is venomous, because they inject the venom into whatever they are stinging.

Grasshoppers come in many different sizes and colors, so that they can camouflage with the foliage that they eat, and some grow even larger than your hand. They are characterized by their long, powerful hind legs that allow them to jump such great distances. In addition to jumping, grasshoppers also use their wings to travel around looking for food, shelter and a mate. Sometimes, you can even find them traveling in large swarms, much to the dismay of farmers.

The first thing that comes to mind when most people think about mosquitoes is their unique feeding habits. However, not all mosquitoes suck blood; some drink plant nectar and juices instead. Unfortunately, the ones that do rely on a diet of human and animal blood can be carriers of harmful pathogens. All mosquitoes start out as larvae that live in water.

  • Mosquito Biology
  • Mosquito Information

Unfortunately, Aranae, which is the order spiders belong to, is surrounded by a lot misinformation. They are one of the most feared groups of insects due to their secretive nature, diet and the myths that surround their behavior; however, without spiders, other insects, like flies, mosquitoes and grasshoppers, would quickly overrun the ecosystem. There are many different species that can be found in your own backyard, like jumping spiders and orb weavers.

Most flies can be identified by their large, compound eyes, small bodies and well developed wings; however, there are some flies that have evolved without wings, as well. There are four stages to the fly lifecycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The majority of flies live for less than a week after they reach adulthood. It’s important to remember that true flies, which belong to the order Diptera, are different from other types of flying insects, like dragonflies and whiteflies.


As one of the most coveted orders of insect, butterflies exhibit a huge range of diversity. Although most people automatically associate all butterflies with bold, bright colors and large wings, some actually have a very drab coloration. The longest part of their lifecycle occurs during the larva stage, when they are a caterpillar. Once a butterfly emerges from the cocoon, they only live for a few weeks. A butterfly can usually be distinguished from a moth by their slender, smooth antennae.

Observing insects in their native habitat is one of the best ways to learn about them. It only takes a walk out to the playground to see some of the most common bugs at work, like ants, spiders and some species of beetles. However, if that’s not an option, then there are plenty of suitable insect species that can be observed from inside the classroom through the use of hands on crafts and coloring assignments. Additionally, caterpillars can be raised in well ventilated containers so that children can watch them create a cocoon and emerge as butterflies. Tarantulas in the genus Aphonopelma are also very docile, making them suitable classroom pets, as well.