Insects are amazingly versatile and durable creatures. In spite of their small size when compared to the other creatures of the world, insects have prospered for at least 350 million years in more species than all other forms of life combined.
Insects are protected by a special lightweight type of armor, called cuticle, which is secreted by their bodies’ skin and which also lines their digestive systems. After it is secreted, the cuticle is hardened into tough plates by a fiberglass like substance called chitin, named by the ancient Greeks after the armor worn by their warriors. Insects have joints between every section of their bodies, giving them flexibility between their armor plates. The bodies of insects are divided into three main parts: the head, an upper torso which itself is divided into three sections, and a segmented abdomen. A pair of antennae extend from the heads of insects through which they derive their dominant sense. Although these antennae are often referred to as "feelers," they provide insects with their dominant sense of smell! Insects have compound eyes, consisting of a large number of identical facets, each having its own lens. Each facet registers light from a slightly different angle, allowing insects to be extremely sensitive to detecting movement, as anyone who has tried to swat a fly or catch a butterfly knows! All insects have six legs, distinguishing them from spiders, which have eight legs.
Depending upon their species, insects can fly, hop, crawl or swim. Dragonflies have four separate wings that can be controlled independently, allowing dragonflies to have an amazing ability to change direction at virtually any angle, whether forward or backward or even to hover. Insect legs can be very powerful. It is fascinating to watch a column of ants carrying objects many times their size and weight.
Insects help nature by pollinating flowering plants, enabling them to spread from forest and swamps to prairies, mountains and deserts.