Entomology, a branch of arthropodology, is the study of insects. In the past, the term insect was used to refer to species from other phyla or groups including arachnids, slugs, and earthworms. This view of entomology is still used in informal settings today. Entomology extends through cross sections of science including paleontology, biochemistry, and nutrition, among many others. There are 1.3 million species of insects throughout the world, so entomology covers a large base of research points. The study of insects is thought to have begun when humans began practicing agriculture, with activities including beekeeping and biological control, but the scientific study of insects did not begin until the sixteenth century. There have been many famous entomologists since this time, including Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, and E. O. Wilson.
Many entomologists specialize in one family or group of insects, and names have developed to fit these branches if entomology. These branches include Vespology, the study of wasps, Dipterology, the study of flies, and Coleopterology, the study of beetles. Entomology also occurs in popular culture, with characters like Jack Hodgins from the television show Bones and Sir Joseph Blaine and Dr. Stephen Maturin, two entomologists and spies in the Aubrey–Maturin sea novels written by Patrick O’Brian.
Most insects are easily identifiable as being in the Coleoptera order or the Hymenoptera order, but others, such as those in the Lepidoptera order, must be identified by using Monographs or Identification keys. Automated species identification has become a popular way to help identify those insects with minute or nearly invisible differences, like the Daisy system.
Entomology has many groups dedicated to it throughout the world, including the Amateur Entomologists’ Society, the Entomological Society of Japan, the Royal Entomological Society of London, and the Kansas Entomological Society. Many museums hold large collections of insects including the Bugworld Experience in Liverpool, England, the Natural History Museum in Sweden, the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska in America, and the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Ontario.
Image Caption: Collage showing the diversity of insect species. Credit: Bugboy52.40/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)