Entomology What kind of an insect is this See below

Colored copper engraving by Maria Sibylla Merian Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, Plate LX, 1705.

The Entomology (from lat.insecare, PPP: insec (a) tum "The incised") or entomology (from Greek έντομον, "insect", actually "the incised", PPP from ἐντέμνειν, cut in, and λόγος "word, speech, meaning, doctrine") is the branch of zoology that deals with insects (Insecta), the most species-rich group of living things.


  • Systematics and taxonomy of insects
  • applied entomology (insects as beneficials or pests)
  • Faunistics
  • Insect physiology

Disciplines that are dedicated to specific groups of animals within insects:

Popular view

The preoccupation with insects in the course of human history has usually focused on a few species that are of immediate concern to humans. The most important example is the honey bee, which has been kept as a livestock for thousands of years. Other examples are insects of religious and mythological importance, such as the scarab, which was already depicted in ancient Egypt.

In addition, insects are often viewed with suspicion or ignored, in contrast to mammals and birds. This attitude did not change fundamentally, neither with the beginning of scientific preoccupation with insects in antiquity, nor with the abundance of new knowledge, thanks to the invention of the microscope or the introduction of general science education. Insects are often viewed across the board as pests, superstitious ideas persist, and entomologists are met with reservations. Jean Henri Fabre found, for example, that simple farmers use precise names even for the most inconspicuous herbs, but only use a few general terms to name the huge number of insects.

On the other hand, it happens again and again that through attentive observations and vivid descriptions, ignorance turns into curiosity, interest and ultimately even fascination with a previously unknown world. At times, collecting insects, especially butterflies, was a widespread and popular hobby. In recent times it is the possibilities of macro photography given by photography, especially digital cameras, that give many an access to the world of insects.

History of entomology


The work of Aristotle: Historia animalium is regarded as the starting point of the occidental systematic preoccupation with the animal world. It represents the first known attempt to classify and describe living things and, alongside the Naturalis historia Pliny the Elder (Volume 11 of the original volume deals with insects, in the Leipzig edition, Volume 6), it formed an important basis for scientific work up to modern times. Aristotle presented the insects as a "genus" of the "bloodless" animals and essentially included insects, arachnids, millipedes and worms. Insects were characterized by a body substance that is a cross between a hard skeleton and soft flesh. The metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the butterfly was already known to Aristotle, but on the other hand he taught the theory of spontaneous generation, i.e. that insects often arise from inanimate matter, from rotting flesh or in the body of vertebrates. The spontaneous generation remained scientific doctrine for a long time, was at times even considered a characteristic feature of insects, and was only experimentally refuted by Francesco Redi ("Experienze intorno agla generatione degl 'Insetti", Florence, 1668).

In the scientific consideration and treatment of insects, Pliny the Elder followed a long pause in the first century of Christian calendar until Ulisse Aldrovandi, who did not take up this topic of insects again until 1602.

middle Ages

In the Western Middle Ages, natural history was viewed as a branch of philosophy, according to the conviction of Christian science, animate and inanimate nature as God's creation was the image of divine will and activity. The focus of the scientists was not on the representation of nature observations, but on the exploration of the will of God, which, according to the general conviction, was revealed even in the smallest and most inconspicuous parts of nature. The Physiologus, an animal book from early Christian antiquity, in which natural history and mythology mix and which was popular in the Middle Ages, is to be interpreted in this sense. Insects only play a secondary role, as in Hrabanus Maurus' “De rerum naturis”, a collection of all knowledge about the universe, and the later nature encyclopedias by Thomas von Cantimpré (“Liber de natura rerum”, 1241), Albertus Magnus (“De animalibus”), Jacob von Maerlant (“Der naturen bloeme”, around 1270) and Konrad von Megenberg (“Book of Nature”, 1348). Even if the results of my own observations have increasingly flowed into these works, the lessons to be learned from them are still in the foreground. In his “Bonum universale de apibus”, Thomas von Cantimpré sees the bee state as the model for the ideal human community.

16th Century

With the significantly improved dissemination and accessibility of knowledge through the printing press and a more global view of the world through the exploration of foreign regions, science has also changed fundamentally since the beginning of modern times. Natural science was increasingly seen as an independent discipline, research was carried out to gain scientific knowledge and the works of earlier authors were increasingly questioned. The establishment of zoology as an independent science and no longer as part of a philosophical description of the world is generally attributed to Conrad Gesner and his Historia animalium (1551–1558), the sixth volume of which ("Thomas Moufeti Londinens, opera sumptibusque maximis conc.", London, 1634) dealt with insects and was able to fall back on Ulisse Aldrovandi "de animalibus Insectis", Bologna, 1602, the main work of entomology of his time, which contained everything that had been written about insects to date.

17th century

After the important, first observation of the origin and reproduction of insects by Francesco Redi ("Experienze intorno agla generatione degl 'Insetti", Florence, 1668, and "experimenta circa generationem Insectorum", 1686, and "opuscula", Amstel, 1686) the development of entomology closely related to the development of the available technical possibilities. In particular, the invention of the microscope made entomology possible for the first time according to today's understanding. While the previous research on insects could only be incomplete, a more precise study of the morphology and an ever better differentiation of the species was now possible.

Pioneering knowledge in the field of insect morphology was achieved through the use of the microscope in the 17th century Marcello Malpighi ("dissertatio de Bombyce", London, 1669) and Swammerdam ("Bybel der Natuure, of Historie der Insecten", Ludg. Batav., 1738) . For the first time, trachea breathing and the digestive system of insects were examined.

John Hill used the microscopic examinations in his work "a decade of curios insects", London, 1773, to depict curiously invented insects made up of fantastically diverse individuals, probably to fool his colleagues and to check their expertise, which he succeeded in doing . Quote from Johann Christian Fabricius "systema Eleutheratorum", Kiel, 1801, praef. pag. IX: "Damnandae vero memoriae John Hill at Louis Reinhard, qui Insecta fieta proposuere". But he was not entirely wrong, what opened up to him through the microscope was a fantastic new world that was previously hidden to the naked eye.

18th century

With the refutation of the theory of spontaneous generation, the way was clear for the formulation of a biological concept of species on the basis of a reproductive community. This step was taken at the beginning of the 18th century. Done by John Ray ("method. Insectorum", London, 1705 and "historia Insector", London, 1710). The insect species were now also viewed as fixed species that had existed unchanged since the creation of the world, and their diversity was no longer seen as varieties due to their individual origin. With the teaching of the constancy of species, the description of ever new species and the search for ways to differentiate them began, i.e. systematic entomology. Ray was the first author to have a reasonably realistic view of the abundance of insect species, even if the estimate of 10,000–20,000 species worldwide was several orders of magnitude lower than today's estimates, which is primarily attributable to the then virtually unknown tropical insect fauna.

The observation of live insects was another branch of entomology, which took off from the 17th century. Important works in this area are by Maria Sibylla Merian (The caterpillars' miraculous transformation and flower food, Nuremberg, 1st volume 1679, 2nd volume 1683, and Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, Amsterdam, 1705, and De European Insects naauwkeurig onderzogt, Amsterdam, 1730), René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur ("mémoires pour servir a l'histoire des Insectes", Paris, 1734–1742), August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof ("AJRösel's insect amusements", Nuremberg, 1746–1755) and above all Charles de Geer ("mémoires pur serviir à l'histoire des Insectes", Holm, 1752–1778 and "genera et species Insectorum", Lips, 1783), who are also characterized by the very exact and detailed pictorial representations.

In the 18th century, science in general experienced a remarkable surge in popularity. Many nobles, who are known today as scientific pioneers, pursued natural research as a pastime, princes regarded it as a question of prestige to promote scholars and to be able to present rich natural history cabinets, including insect collections. In addition, there was an increasing influx of exotic exhibits from all parts of the world. With the Age of Enlightenment, the understanding of science changed again. Religious references were quite common for authors of the 18th century, entomologists interpreted the diversity of species and forms as evidence of the creative power of Almighty God.

Thus, since Ulisse Aldrovandi in 1602, the period of apparent nature observation of individual individuals had ended and the number of species had become confusing, so that an attempt was made to gain an overview again by means of suitable systematizations of the most varied of kinds. The systematics of the insects actually originated from Carl von Linné in his "systema naturae", Ludg. Batav., 1735, systematized according to the wings. Charles de Geer's attempts to systematize ("mémoires pur serviir à l'histoire des Insectes", Holm, 1752–1778 and "genera et species Insectorum", Lips, 1783) were viewed extremely against nature and did not last long. After that, the systematic predominated initially only according to individual external body characteristics (wings, legs, mouth parts) and was always inadequately solved and criticized and criticized again and again. With his work "Systema entomologiae sistens insectorum classes", Leipzig, 1775, Johann Christian Fabricius is regarded as the founder of entomology (insect science) as an independent science, his systematics was based primarily on the body characteristic of the mouth parts and lasted only half a century. The 18th century marked the stormy development phase of the insect systematics in its beginnings, but it was far from over and is still a long way from being today.

19th century

In the work of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck ("système de animaux sans Vertèbres", Paris, 1801, and "histoire naturelle des animaux sans Vertèbres", Paris, 1815-1822), Georges Cuvier ("tableau élémentaire d'histoire naturelle" , Paris, 1798, and "le règne animal distribué d'après son organization", Paris, 1817-1818) and William Elford Leach ("familles naturelles du règne animal", Paris, 1825 and "The zoological miscellany", E. Nodder & Son, London, 1814–17) for the first time the group of insects is largely understood in the sense that is still valid today, i.e. separated from arachnids, millipedes and crustaceans, which have thus been removed from the insect system.

With the demand of the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling for a holistic view of nature at the turn of the century, on the other hand, a sober, scientific view, mainly focused on evolutionary development and relationships, prevailed, which Hermann Burmeister in his systematics "Manual of Entomology ", Berlin, 1832–1855, for the first time consistently pursued and implemented, whereby he was able to rely essentially on much anatomical preparatory work since the introduction of microscopy into entomology and, in turn, summarized all knowledge of his time and predecessors critically assessed. Another characteristic of the 19th century after Burmeister is the increasing specialization of research. Systematically working entomologists now mostly dealt exclusively with a single order of insects, more and more critical revisions attempted to stabilize the species descriptions of earlier authors, to merge synonyms and to describe previously unrecognized species.

In the field of insect morphology, the advanced microscope technology produced many new discoveries, in this area the extensive work of Dufour is particularly worth mentioning. Insect embryology was added as a new research area in the second half of the 19th century.

The work of Charles Darwin had a significant impact. The establishment of a system was no longer solely an orderly character, but had to be measured against the claim to describe the relationship more intensely from the course of evolution by highlighting and comparing the entire anatomical body structure, its similarities and differences.

20th century

Due to technical progress, the focus of biological research shifted in the 20th century. The description and research of individual species, i.e. the classic disciplines of biology, which also includes entomology, will become marginal areas of this science at the end of the century in terms of curricula and research projects at universities. Nevertheless, the biologist Willi Hennig was able to develop the theory of phylogenetic systematics (cladistics), which is still recognized today and also used in genetics, through his entomological studies. With his work on evolution and systematics, he revolutionized the view of the natural order of living beings. Since the 1980s, in addition to morphological and anatomical studies, procedural techniques from genetics have also been used in entomology.

Despite the intensive research that has now been carried out in all regions of the world, the identification of the species has not even been completed to some extent. The currently approximately 1.5–1.75 million known species are compared to an estimated total number of several million.

With the ongoing destruction of natural habitats, however, it can be foreseen that many of today's species will be extinct before they can be scientifically recorded. This is not the only reason why an important trend in 20th century entomology is the increasing focus on the protection of species. Many entomologists today deal with the recording of the species inventory of different biotopes, for example in the context of intervention regulation or biotope mapping, because the insect fauna plays a key role in the preservation of biodiversity. The concept of biodiversity was also particularly coined by the entomologist Edward O. Wilson in 1986.

Insects in nature conservation

Insects react quickly to changes in the landscape. This is why the number of insect species found in an area is a good indicator of a landscape's worthy of protection. For this purpose, however, groups of insects that especially react sensitively to changes - these are butterflies, for example, as they have special demands on food both as caterpillars and as adults.

Entomologist / Entomologist

  • Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605) (summarized the state of knowledge at the time)
  • Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) (entomologist, artist)
  • Carl von Linné (1707–1778) (systematist, taxonomist)
  • Johan Christian Fabricius (1745–1808) (systematist, founder of entomology as an independent science)
  • Johann Karl Wilhelm Illiger (1775-1813)
  • Julius Theodor Christian Ratzeburg (1801–1871) (founder of forest entomology)
  • Johann Heinrich Kaltenbach (1807–1876) (co-founder of applied entomology)
  • Hermann Burmeister (1807-1892) (systematist and taxonomist)
  • Jean-Henri Fabre (1823–1915) (ethologist)
  • John Henry Comstock (1849-1931)
  • Otto Taschenberg (1854–1922)
  • Heinrich Friese (1860–1948)
  • William Morton Wheeler (1865–1937) (taxonomist, ethologist)
  • Richard Heymons (1867-1943) (former director of the Agricultural Institute for Zoology, Berlin) [1]
  • Karl Escherich (1871–1951) (co-founder of applied entomology)
  • Hans Höppner (1873–1946) (entomologist, botanist and teacher)
  • Ernst Jünger (1895–1998) (writer, see Subtile Hunting)
  • Leopoldo Richter (1896-1984) (entomologist, artist, ceramist)
  • Hermann August Eidmann (1897–1949) (entomologist, ecologist)
  • Fritz Schwerdtfeger (1905-1986) (forest entomologist, ecologist)
  • Karl Gößwald (1907–1996) (myrmecologist)
  • Willi Hennig (1913–1976) (Dipterologist, founder of the phylogenetic system)
  • Wolfgang Schwenke (1921-2006) (forest entomologist)
  • Edward O. Wilson (* 1929) (evolutionary biologist)
  • Bert Hölldobler (* 1936) (ethologist)
  • Çetin Şengonca (* 1941) (entomologist, specialist in pest control and crop protection)
  • Karl Werner (entomologist) (1956–2007) (coleopterologist - specialist in tiger beetles)

Catching insects

Glass winged birds on pheromone trap

Insects are persecuted as pests in agriculture and hunted by humans as pests. In the past, creating collections of insects was a popular hobby for aesthetic reasons.

In science, catching insects is used to answer numerous basic biological questions. Insect collections are an important tool for entomologists: as a database for scientific studies (e.g. faunistic, but also genetic), as a reference collection for identification and as a memory for types.[2] Insect hunting is usually selective and the specimen copies collected by entomologists do not pose any threat to the local populations. Insects are almost exclusively endangered by the decline in suitable habitats. Nevertheless, the trapping of insects represents an intervention in the natural balance and must therefore not be carried out arbitrarily.

Most groups of insects may only be collected for scientific purposes in Germany with special permission from the nature conservation authorities. This is not just for protection, but for data backup.

Generally, insects are caught with nets (catchers), as most of them can fly very quickly and so you can proceed selectively. In addition, numerous other tools are used to catch:

  • Active fishing methodswhere the entomologist is actively collecting
    • Cashers
    • "Search" includes all activities that are carried out on the ground or on vegetation. On the ground, stones or wood are often turned over or decayed wood residues are dismantled and searched with fingers or a tool. Pupae and caterpillars can be found on the vegetation. Digging abandoned mouse or bird nests can also provide information about the parasitic insects that live there.
    • Light catching: Here a black light lamp and a white sheet are set up and at night you wait for insects to appear. This gives the entomologist a good overview of which species are in the catchment area. The species can be counted and individual specimens can be taken. Trapping can be very effective and can attract so many butterflies that they interfere with your work. Light catching at lakes often leads to the accumulation of an extremely large number of mosquitoes, which have to be swept from the cloth with a broom. The light catcher is often used for a sociable nightly get-together in the light of the lamp. Away from power sources, a generator set is often placed out of earshot.
    • Knocking: Knocking is a fishing method in which a stretched white cloth is held under a branch and then the branch is tapped briefly and vigorously several times with a stick. Almost all species that are on this branch fall into the cloth and can be counted. You can search for specific tree species by tapping.
    • Car arrestor: Another form of net catching, whereby a arrestor is placed on a vehicle. Here, too, there is no selective collection.
    • Exhaustor catch: This catch method uses an exhaustor and one's own breath. In principle, it is suitable for collecting all small animals. Beware of smelly animals such as some bed bugs.
    • Baiting: In this method, a bait is applied to trees and checked at certain, short intervals to see which species are present. There are different recipes for preparing the bait. Fruit esters are often added.
  • Passive fishing methodswhere the entomologist sets up a device and waits for the insects to enter by themselves
    • Barber traps: vessels buried in the ground, the edge of which is level with the environment. In particular, animals living on the ground (including vertebrates such as shrews) are caught. This method is not selective and must be under constant control.
    • Malaise traps
    • Scent traps: For example, sexual attractants (pheromones) are used to catch numerous insects, but even a piece of plum cake can attract numerous species of wasps.

Benefit assessment

“Insects are our most important partners in creating life on earth because they often take the lead in creating terrestrial ecosystems. About a third of our food is directly derived from insect pollination. In the United States alone, this pollination is worth more than $ 9 billion annually. Without insects there would be no oranges in Florida, no cheese in Wisconsin, no peaches in Georgia and no potatoes in Idaho. " May R. Berenbaum 2004

Entomology provides important information for numerous other sub-disciplines of biology (ecology, systematics, taxonomy, genetics, physiology, phylogeny, etc.). Therefore, not only because of the high biodiversity, entomologists are used in almost all disciplines.

See also


  • Prof.Dr.phil.Heymons "Brehms Tierleben", anno 1915, edition volume II "DieVielfüßler, insects and Spinnenkerfe" revised with the collaboration of his wife Helene Heymons.
  • May R. Berenbaum: Bloodsuckers, founders of the state, silk manufacturers. The ambivalent relationship between humans and insects. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8274-1519-5
  • Holger H. Dathe (Ed.): Insecta. Textbook of special zoology part 5. 2nd edition Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 3-8274-0930-6
  • Konrad Dettner (Ed.): Entomology textbook. 2nd edition Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 3-8274-1102-5
  • Wolfgang Schwenke (Ed.) Inter alia: The forest pests of Europe. A manual in 5 volumes
  • H. Bellmann, K. Honomichl: Insect biology and ecology. CD-ROM lexicon, Stuttgart, Jena and New York 1996 (ISBN 3-437-25020-5)
  • Cedric Gillot: Entomology. Second Edition, Plenum Press, New York / London 1995, ISBN 0-306-44967-6

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ http: //www2.hu-berlin.de/biologie/zoologie/Lehrsammlung.htm teaching collection of the Zoological Institute of the Berlin University
  2. ^ Friedrich von Hartig: About some practical collection methods for biocenotic research in lepidopterology. In: Pest indicator = Journal of Pest Science, Vol. 4 (1928), No. 5, pp. 67-71, ISSN 1436-5693.

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