Insect orders

There are generally thought to be around 29 insect orders, though this is under review. Click here to return to main insect page.

Subclass Apterygota (wingless insects)

Thysanura silverfish

Small, long bodies covered with scales, usually compound eyes, long antennae, biting mouthparts, three terminal abdominal filaments. Found mostly in damp, dark places.

Diplura bristletails

Similar to Thysanura, but with paler soft bodies, usually no eyes, and only two terminal abdominal filaments, usually less than 10 mm long. Found mostly in soil in damp environments.


Minute, 1.0 - 1.5 mm long, colourless, eyeless, no antennae or terminal filaments. Found in damp soil.

Collembola springtails

Small, short bodied, often covered with scales, biting mouthparts, short antennae, small or no eyes, terminal forked springing organ (furcula) folded up under the body when at rest. Found mostly in damp places.

Subclass Pterygota (winged insects)

Division Hemimetabola/Exopterygota, insects without a specialised larval form, at each moult they get more and more like the adult form. The less specialised orders.

Ephemeroptera mayflies

Soft bodies, large eyes, minute antennae, atrophied mouthparts in the adult, hindwings much smaller than fore wings, or may be absent, 2 or 3 terminal abdominal filaments. Nymphs aquatic, long lived, adults ephemeral.

Odonata dragonflies, damselflies

Large, long bodies, large eyes, minute antennae, specialised mouthparts strong teeth, two pairs of similar wings finely veined. Both adult and nymph are predators. Nymphs aquatic and long lived.

Plecoptera stoneflies

Soft bodied, usually long filamentous antennae, pair of anal cerci, both pairs of wings similar and membranous, mouthparts biting. Weak fliers. Nymphs aquatic with 2 slender tails.


Rare crickets, wingless, reduced eyes or no eyes, long antennae, biting mouthparts. 6 species worldwide.

Orthoptera grasshoppers, locusts, crickets

Robust with large, jumping legs, biting mouthparts, antennae medium to long, forewings modified and hardened as wing covers, specialised stridulatory and auditory apparatus. Mature females usually have a well-developed ovipositor.

Phasmida stick insects

Large, usually wingless, frequently elongated and stick-like or leaf-like, biting mouthparts. Mostly tropical, but a few species have been introduced to the UK and survive in hot-houses. Often kept as pets.

Dermaptera earwigs

Forewings reduced to small wing covers, hindwings large and complexly folded, biting mouthparts, abdomen terminated by forceps.

Embioptera web spinners

Elongated bodies, 2 pairs of similar wings in males, females wingless, large silk gland on anterior legs, biting mouthparts. Gregarious, living together in silk tunnels under stones and bark.

Dictyoptera cockroaches mantids

Robust, antennae and cerci many segmented, biting mouthparts, forewings thickened to wing covers, wings folded flat over abdomen, pronotum shield-like. Cockroaches are mainly nocturnal and omnivorous. Mantids are mainly tropical.

Isoptera termites

Soft bodied, biting mouthparts, either two pairs of similar wings (soon shed) or wingless. Many specialised morphological forms. Social.


Minute (around 2.5 mm), winged and wingless, biting mouthparts, colonial. Similar to Psocoptera and Isoptera. Very rare, tropical. Found below bark, in rotten wood or humus.

Psocoptera booklice

Minute, winged and wingless, biting mouthparts, large clypeus, look similar to termites. Gregarious. Wide habitat range.

Mallophaga biting lice

Body flattened, wingless, poorly-developed eyes, chewing mouthparts, head broader than long. All ectoparasitic upon birds and sometimes mammals at all stages.

Anuplura sucking lice

Body flattened, wingless, piercing/sucking mouthparts usually retractable, thoracic segments fused, head longer than broad. All ectoparasitic on mammals at all stages. About 500 species worldwide, 50 in Europe.

Hemiptera bugs, aphids, cicadas, leaf-hoppers

Specialised piercing mouthparts forming a proboscis/stylets, large eyes, wings with simple venation, sometimes wingless.

Thysanoptera thrips

Minute, slender bodies, short antennae, mouthparts stylet-like, wings narrow with long hair fringes, legs terminate in adhesive pads.

Division Holometabola/Endopterygota. Usually with a highly specialised larval form with necessitates the provision of a reconstructional (pupal) stage before the adult can appear.

Neuroptera lacewings ant-lions

Soft-bodies, often with mobile head on narrow neck, biting mouthparts, antennae well developed, 2 pairs of membranous wings with complex venation. Larvae predatory aquatic and terrestrial.

Mecoptera scorpion flies

Soft, elongated body, large eyes, 2 pairs of long wings, head prolonged into a beak with biting mouthparts. Male has scorpion-like tail. Larvae chiefly subterranean, pupae in earthen cells.

Lepidoptera butterflies, moths

Small to very large, clothed with scales often of bright colours, suctorial proboscis. Larvae phytophagous and polypodus. Pupae usually in cocoons.

Trichoptera caddis flies

Moth-like with body and wings covered in fine hairs, antennae long, mouthparts reduced. Adults weak fliers, mostly nocturnal. Larvae aquatic, case builders. Pupae aquatic.

Diptera flies

Single pair of membranous wings, hind wings reduced to club-like balancing organs (halteres), mouthparts usually sucking or piercing. Larvae vermiform, often with specialised head structure. Pupae in puparium, usually no cocoon.

Siphonaptera fleas

Very small, wingless, laterally compressed, adults ectoparasites of warm-bodied animals, hind legs specialised for jumping, piercing/sucking mouthparts. Larvae vermiform. Pupae in silk cocoons.

Hymenoptera Bees, wasps, ants, saw-flies

Hard-bodies, smaller hind wing linked to fore wing by hooks (hamulae), venation specialised, mouthparts biting/sucking, some with complex behaviour, some social, many parasitic. Larvae polypodus or apodus. Pupae generally in cocoons.

Coleoptera beetles

Forewings horny elytra meeting midline down the back, hind wings membranous and covered by elytra or absent, biting mouthparts. Larvae diverse. "If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles." —J.B.S. Haldane, 1951.

Strepsiptera stylops

Minute and bizarre, male with club-like forewings and fan shaped hind wings, female maggot-like. Endoparasite of insects.