While all creepy crawlies are often referred to by people as insects, this is not actually the case. There are many different types and species to be aware of, and insects are just one of them. Insects have their own characteristics that make them identifiable, which might leave you wondering what they are.

Insects typically have 6 legs, and there is actually a good reason for this, which we will explain in this article, along with the different types of insects. If you are wondering why insects have 6 legs, then keep reading to find out.

What is an Insect?

If you didn’t already know, an insect is considered to be a type of invertebrate animal that does not have a backbone like people. Instead, insects will have a hard exterior body covering that is called an exoskeleton. Insects are arthropods, which are invertebrate animals that have an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages.

An arthropod is a wider category that includes insects, arachnids, and crustaceans. Interestingly, insects represent around 90% of all living beings on Earth. More than a million insect species have been identified around the world, and some scientists estimate that there are as many as 10 million different species of insect.

All of these species are divided into 32 different groups that are called orders, and beetles actually make up the largest group. 

Insect Characteristics

If you were wondering, insects have two antennae, and their body is made up of three different main regions. These three regions are the head, thorax, and abdomen. Additionally, insects will have an exoskeleton that contains sense organs that can be used for sensing things like light, sound, temperature, wind pressure, and even smell. 

Insects are usually known to have four different stages of life, which are egg, larvae/nymph, pupa, and adult. Insects are also known to be cold blooded, and they do not have or need lungs. As well as all of this, there are many insects that have the ability to fly, and many have compound eyes.

Insects are highly adaptable beings that have been able to evolve over time in order to live successfully in different environments. The only place where you will not commonly find insects is in the ocean. 

Why Do Insects Have 6 Legs?

Insects have six legs to allow for locomotion while remaining balanced and supported. There are actually several million species of insects that all have 6 legs, and it is thought that these insects come from other insects that had more legs than this.

One of the main theories that explains why insects have six legs is the tripod gait that comes from having this number of legs. The number of legs that insects had was reduced through evolution, but it did not reduce any further than 6. This is due to the fact that locomotion of smaller animals with a rigid exoskeleton would not be effective with less than 3 pairs of legs. 

Typically, an insect will walk by lifting two outer legs on one side and the middle legs on the other side, which allows them to move forwards. This means that their rigid structure can be supported with a tripod at all times. A tripod is one of the most stable configurations as they do not wobble.

The movement of an insect will take place in two separate phases, which are the stance phase and the swing phase. The stance phase is what pushes the body forwards and the direction that the insect wishes to travel in, while the legs remain on the ground. Three legs will be used in this phase to form a tripod with the front leg and the hind leg on one side of the body and the middle leg on the other side. This is why it is referred to as the tripod gait.

Bigger animals will not need to have as many legs as their balancing systems will have much more time to maintain balance and adjust gait during movement. Due to the fact that insects are so small, their strides will be so quick that the nervous system will not work fast enough to deal with balance and control. This is the reason why insects rely on the tripod gait to prevent any imbalance.

As well as this, the exoskeleton will effectively restrict any small bodily movements in order to control balance. Bigger animals, like mammals, will be able to make small and constant adjustments in their gait in order to remain balanced, but an insect will be less able to do so due to its exoskeleton.

Types of Insects

There are lots of different types and species of insects to learn about, and they are the largest group of animals on Earth. Some types of insects will include ants, butterflies, caterpillars, fleas, bees, ladybugs, and more, and each insect will have its own purpose. 

There are so many different insects that it would be impossible to list them all here, and they will all work differently. Many of the different insects will provide many benefits for humans and the Earth, and we wouldn’t be able to survive without them.

A great example of this is bees, which we rely on to pollinate. Without pollination, we would quickly run out of food to feed the human race and other beings. This is just one of the reasons why insects are so important.

Are Insects Bugs?

While many people will refer to insects as bugs, this is not the case. All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. A true bug can be identified easily due to the fact that they have a mouth that will pierce and suck. This is typically used for them to be able to extract fluid from plants for food. 

Bugs will belong to the Hemiptera order, which also includes insects like ants, aphids, and assassin bugs. This means that other insects like beetles, bees, butterflies, or ladybugs will not be defined as bugs.