Frequently Asked Questions on Entomology

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Each year, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) receives from the public hundreds of questions on insects and entomology that cannot be answered by ESA staff. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below have been created to assist you in finding the information you seek. If the information you need is not included here, then ESA does not have the resources to provide it; please check with other sources.

For media, law enforcement agencies, law firms, and pest control companies seeking expert information, please click here.


General Entomology

Where can I get information on a specific insect?

Where can I get an insect identified?

Where can I find literature on entomological research?

Where can I get photos or graphics of insects?

Where can I purchase insect specimens (live or preserved) or entomological supplies?

Where can I get information on importing and/or exporting insects?

Where can I get information on rearing and caring for insects?

Where can I get information about insects as human food?

Are there any Internet indexes on entomology?

Pest Control

Where can I get help regarding a pest problem in my home, office building, etc?

Where can I get an insect pest identified?

Where can I get information about a certain pesticide?

Where can I find a certified entomologist to help me with my pest problem?

Medical Issues

I was bitten by an insect, mite, or spider. Where can I find a specialist on it?

What is delusory parasitosis and where can I get information about it?

Education & Careers

What educational materials does ESA offer?

Where can I get a copy of the brochure Discover Entomology?

Where can I get information on careers in entomology?

Which colleges or universities are best for an entomology education?

How many entomologists are there in the world?

Insect Trivia

How many insects are there in the world? And how many different species of insects are there?

What is the largest insect? What is the smallest insect? Etc.

Are there any poisonous insects?

What is the difference between an insect and a bug?

Is it illegal to kill a praying mantis?

Are spiders insects?

Does the United States have a national insect?


General Information

Where can I get information on a specific insect?

A wide variety of resources exist on the Internet and at libraries. You may want to check out Entomological Internet Resources, indexes of entomological web sites, as well as our list of societies devoted to specific insects or specific subjects within the science of entomology.

For information on an insect specific to your state, contact your local Extension Service office; click here to locate the extension office nearest you. Or you can check out a Department of Entomology at a university in your state (click here for our listing), or your state's entomological society (click here for a listing).

Where can I get an insect identified?

There are several resources for insect identification. You can locate insect identification keys in books at your local library or on the Internet. You can also contact your local Extension Service office; click here to locate the extension office nearest you. 

For insect infestations that are causing serious medical or economic problems, you may try the Systematic Entomology Laboratory with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, or for medical-related infestations, see the Centers for Disease Control's Identification and Diagnosis of Parasites of Public Health Concern or the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Computerized Disease Vector Identification Keys.

For information on pest control, please visit our FAQs on pest control.

Where can I find literature on entomological research?

ESA publishes four journals that are available on its web site for subscribers: Annals of the Entomological Society of America, Environmental Entomology, the Journal of Economic Entomology, and the Journal of Medical Entomology. Some of the articles are available for free via the web site, but others require a subscription or a reprint purchase. To access the journal, click here.

BIOSIS is a non-profit organization that offers an online database containing a large collection of abstracts and bibliographic references to worldwide biological and medical literature. Another resource, AGRICOLA, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library, is a bibliographic database of citations to agricultural and related literature, including entomology.

Where can I get photos or graphics of insects?

ESA does not offer photos or graphics of insects. However, there are a variety of sources on the Internet. Hosted by the University of Georgia, the Bugwood Network offers a wealth of photos. In addition to their Insect Images collection, Bugwood also provides images related to forestry, invasive and exotic species, and agriculture (through the integrated pest management section).

There are also listings of image galleries offered through Iowa State University's Entomology Index of Internet Resources.

Other sources include image search engines offered by web sites such as Google's Image Search and Ditto, university departments of entomology, and federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery and the agency's Office of Communications Photo Library.

Where can I purchase insect specimens (live or preserved) or entomological supplies?

Check out our online Buyer's Guide. For particular species of live insects, if the Buyer's Guide does not cover the species for which you are looking, search the Internet for institutions where that insect is being studied, and ask the researchers there where they acquired the insects.

Where can I get information on importing and/or exporting insects?

There are a variety of resources on the Internet about importing and exporting insects into and out of the United States and other countries. They include:

Where can I get information on rearing and caring for insects?

There are books and web sites devoted to keeping insects and arachnids. On the Web, check out Insecthobbyist.com and Petbugs.com. You may also want to search the Internet for insect "care sheets." 

Where can I get information about insects as human food?

The act of humans eating insects is called entomophagy. The Food Insects Newsletter offers articles, information on entomophagical books, and a listing of food insect links.

Are there any Internet indexes on entomology?

Yes, there are several Entomological Internet Resources. Use them when looking for answers to entomological questions not included in our FAQs. These indexes include Colorado State University's Entomology on the WWW, the Electronic Zoo's Invertebrate page, the Illinois State Academy of Science Links of Interest in Entomology, Iowa State University's Entomology Index of Internet Resources, Texas A&M University's Insect Lnks, and Virginia Tech's Insects on the WWW.

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Pest Control

Where can I get help regarding a pest problem in my home, office building, etc?

ESA offers for sale the Handbook of Household and Structural Insect Pests, an easy-to-understand manual on the different types of insects pests infesting structures, how to identify them, and what pest control methods work best. You also may view sample pages of the handbook via the above link.

Also, check out the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Their Consumer Information section on their web site provides FAQs on common insect pests, as well as tips on preventing pests and on selecting a pest control professional. NPMA also offers a consumer message board where a pest expert will answer your questions, as well as a professional referral service, should you need a professional.

Where can I get an insect pest identified?

Click here for information on getting an insect identified.

Where can I get information about a certain pesticide?

ESA offers Arthropod Management Tests, a annual publication containing short reports on preliminary and routine screening tests for management of beneficial and harmful arthropods. The pest management methods reported in this publication include the use of chemical pesticides, as well as other materials such as insect growth regulators, semiochemicals (pheromones, kairomones, etc.), traps, biological control agents, pest-resistant plants, and animals. Subscription information is available via the above link.

Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Pesticide Product Information System contains information on all pesticide products registered in the United States. The files are presented in ASCII so they may be used in a variety of database and spreadsheet software. EPA also offers the Pesticide Product Label System, a collection of images of  pesticide labels that have been approved by EPA.

Where can I find a certified entomologist to help me with my pest control problem or contract?

ESA offers a certification program for entomologists as well as pest control operators. Rosters for these certified entomologists are available on our website.

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Medical Issues

I was bitten by a spider, mite, or insect. Where can I find a specialist on it?

First, consider seeking medical attention. You may also consider contacting your local, county, or state department of public health. For additional information on spiders, check out the American Arachnological Society or the University of California-Riverside. For mites, check out the Acarological Society of America. For a listing of web sites related to spiders, mites, and other arthropods of medical importance to humans, check out the Arachnology web site. For pest identification, click here

What is delusory parasitosis and where can I get information about it?

Delusional parasitosis is a mistaken belief that someone is being infested by parasites such as mites, lice, and other organisms. For information on this psychological condition, read this American Entomologist article.

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Education & Careers

What educational materials does ESA offer?

ESA offer a small amount of materials that educate high school and undergraduate students on the role entomology plays in the world and careers in entomology. For details, please click here. For educational materials for younger students, please visit the Entomological Foundation's educational resources.

Where can I get a copy of the brochure Discover Entomology?

Click here to view a PDF version of the brochure and to print it, or you can request printed copies of the brochure by e-mailing rlevine@entsoc.org

Where can I get information on careers in entomology?

The science of entomology offers a wide array of career choices. There is no stereotypical or average work environment, pay range, duties, and education. For more information on entomology as a career, click here. Another source is the Young Entomologists' Society's Careers in Entomology.

For job opportunities in entomology currently available in the United States, check out our online listing.

Which colleges or universities are best for an entomology education?

ESA does not rate educational institutions. However, we do offer a listing of North American universities and colleges where entomology can be studied. For opinions on certain institutions, you may want to contact a university's student entomology club and ask current students for their opinions; click here for a listing.

How many entomologists are there in the world?

There are a large number of careers that closely relate to entomology, so a number of professionals who work closely with insects may not necessarily identify themselves as entomologists. No study has ever been done on this, but ESA has more than 6,000 members. 

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Insect Trivia

How many insects are there in the world? And how many different species of insects are there?

According to ESA member and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. E.O. Wilson of Harvard University, there are nearly 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 (10 quintillion) insects in the world.

More than one million different species of insects have been identified, but some experts believe that there may be as many as 30 million insect species in the world that have yet to be discovered and identified.

What is the largest insect? What is the smallest insect? Etc.

The University of Florida offers an ever-growing collection of articles documenting insect records in the Book of Insect Records.

Are there any poisonous insects?

There are many insects that deliver a venomous bite, but the harvester ant is considered to be among the most poisonous of all insects. For information on other poisonous insects, check out ThinkQuest's Poisonous Plants and Animals web site. 

What is the difference between an insect and a bug?

All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. A bug, which has incorrectly become synonymous with insects is a specific type of insect. These are called true bugs and are part of the Order Heteroptera, which includes stink bugs, water striders, and bed bugs. For information on heteroptera, visit the International Heteropterists' Society.

Is it illegal to kill a praying mantis?

There seem to be no federal laws regarding the protection of praying mantids. While states may have laws pertaining to these insects, ESA is unaware of any such laws that exist. You may want to check with your local Department of Agriculture or your Extension Service for information specific to state laws.

Are spiders insects?

No, spiders are arachnids. A key difference between insects and spiders is that all insects have six legs, and all spiders have eight.

Does the United States have a national insect?

No, the United States does not have a designated national insect. However, Congress did consider the Monarch butterfly as the national insect, but the legislation did not pass. Some U.S. states have "state insects," which are usually noted on state government web sites.

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Last updated July 26, 2010