Entomology (from Ancient Greek ἔντομον (entomon) 'insect', and -λογία (-logia) 'study of'[1]) is the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology. In the past the term "insect" was less specific, and historically the definition of entomology would also include the study of animals in other arthropod groups, such as arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use.

A Phyllium sp., mimicking a leaf

Like several of the other fields that are categorized within zoology, entomology is a taxon-based category; any form of scientific study in which there is a focus on insect-related inquiries is, by definition, entomology. Entomology therefore overlaps with a cross-section of topics as diverse as molecular genetics, behavior, neuroscience, biomechanics, biochemistry, systematics, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, morphology, and paleontology.

Over 1.3 million insect species have been described, more than two-thirds all of known species.[2] Some insect species date back to around 400 million years ago. They have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on Earth.


Plate from Transactions of the Entomological Society, 1848.
These 100 Trigonopterus species were described simultaneously using DNA barcoding.

Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (especially biological control and beekeeping). The natural philosopher Pliny the Elder, (23 - 79 AD) wrote a book on the kinds of Insects,[3] while the scientist of Kufa, Ibn al-A‘rābī (760 - 845 AD) wrote a book on flies, Kitāb al-Dabāb (كتاب الذباب). However scientific study in the modern sense began only relatively recently, in the 16th century.[4]

Early entomological works associated with the naming and classification of species followed the practice of maintaining cabinets of curiosity, predominantly in Europe. This collecting fashion led to the formation of natural history societies, exhibitions of private collections, and journals for recording communications and the documentation of new species. Many of the collectors tended to be from the aristocracy and it spawned off a trade involving collectors around the world and traders. This has been called the "era of heroic entomology." William Kirby is widely considered as the father of entomology in England. In collaboration with William Spence, he published a definitive entomological encyclopedia, Introduction to Entomology, regarded as the subject's foundational text. He also helped to found the Royal Entomological Society in London in 1833, one of the earliest such societies in the world; earlier antecedents, such as the Aurelian society date back to the 1740s. In the late 19th century, the growth of agriculture, and colonial trade, spawned off the "era of economic entomology" which created the professional entomologist associated with the rise of the university and training in the field of biology.[5][6]

Entomology developed rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was studied by large numbers of people, including such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine),[7] and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.

There has also been a history of people becoming entomologists through museum curation and research assistance,[8] such as Sophie Lutterlough at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Insect identification is an increasingly common hobby, with butterflies and dragonflies being the most popular.

Most insects can easily be recognized to order such as Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) or Coleoptera (beetles). However, insects other than Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are typically identifiable to genus or species only through the use of Identification keys and Monographs. Because the class Insecta contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species of beetles alone) and the characteristics separating them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist. This has led to the development of automated species identification systems targeted on insects, for example, Daisy, ABIS, SPIDA and Draw-wing.

In pest control

In 1994, the Entomological Society of America launched a new professional certification program for the pest control industry called the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE). To qualify as a "true entomologist" an individual would normally require an advanced degree, with most entomologists pursuing a PhD. While not true entomologists in the traditional sense, individuals who attain the ACE certification may be referred to as ACEs or Associate Certified Entomologists.

Taxonomic specialization

Example of a collection barcode on a pinned beetle specimen

Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects, and a number of these subspecialties are given their own informal names, typically (but not always) derived from the scientific name of the group:


Several prominent American entomologists of the 1800s


Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.

  • Amateur Entomologists' Society
  • Deutsches Entomologisches Institut
  • Entomological Society of America
  • Entomological Society of Canada
  • Entomological Society of Japan
  • Entomologischer Verein Krefeld
  • Entomological Society of India
  • International Union for the Study of Social Insects
  • Netherlands Entomological Society
  • Royal Belgian Entomological Society
  • Royal Entomological Society of London
  • Russian Entomological Society
  • Société entomologique de France
  • Australian Entomological Society
  • Entomological Society of New Zealand

Research collection

Here is a list of selected very large insect collections, housed in museums, universities, or research institutes.


  • Zoological Survey of India
  • National Pusa Collection, Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India
  • Pakistan Museum of Natural History Garden Avenue, Shakarparian, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, Indonesia



The Entomology Research Collection at Lincoln University, New Zealand, with curator John Marris
  • Lincoln University Entomology Research Collection, Lincoln, New Zealand
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
  • New Zealand Arthropod Collection, Landcare Research Manaaki Whenua, Auckland, New Zealand


United States


See also

  • Arachnology
  • Carcinology
  • Cultural entomology
  • Ethnoentomology
  • Forensic entomology
  • Forensic entomologist
  • Forensic entomology and the law
  • Insect thermoregulation
  • Insects on stamps
  • List of entomological journals
  • Medical entomology
  • Myriapodology
  • Timeline of entomology – 1800–1850
  • Timeline of entomology – 1850–1900
  • Timeline of entomology since 1900


  1. Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4.
  2. Chapman, A. D. (2009). Numbers of living species in Australia and the World (2 ed.). Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Study. pp. 60pp. ISBN 978-0-642-56850-2. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2007-10-26.
  3. Naturalis Historia
  4. Antonio Saltini, Storia delle scienze agrarie, 4 vols, Bologna 1984–89, ISBN 88-206-2412-5, ISBN 88-206-2413-3, ISBN 88-206-2414-1, ISBN 88-206-2415-X
  5. Elias, Scott A. (2014). "A Brief History of the Changing Occupations and Demographics of Coleopterists from the 18th Through the 20th Century". Journal of the History of Biology. 47 (2): 213–242. JSTOR 43863376.
  6. Clark, John F.M. (2009). Bugs and the Victorians. Yale University Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0300150911.
  7. "Karl von Frisch – Nobel Lecture: Decoding the Language of the Bee".
  8. Starrs, Siobhan (10 August 2010). "A Scientist and a Tinkerer – A Story in a Frame". National Museum of Natural History Unearthed. National Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 19 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  9. "KwaZulu-Natal Museum".
  10. "Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum".
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 26, 2003. Retrieved 2007-01-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. "Home".
  13. "O.U.M.N.H. Homepage".
  14. "Auburn University Museum of Natural History".
  15. "Collections". Archived from the original on 2010-08-24.
  16. NMSU Entomology Plant Pathology; Weed science. "New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum". Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  17. "Enns Entomology Museum, MU".
  18. "Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes – Homepage".
  19. "E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum – Department of Biological Sciences, Studies in Life Sciences".
  20. "Lyman Entomological Museum".
  21. "University of Guelph Insect Collection". uoguelph.ca. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  22. "The Victoria Bug Zoo TM".

Further reading

"I suppose you are an entomologist?" "Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name. No man can be truly called an entomologist, sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Poet at the Breakfast Table

  • Chiang, H.C. and G. C. Jahn 1996. Entomology in the Cambodia-IRRI-Australia Project. (in Chinese) Chinese Entomol. Soc. Newsltr. (Taiwan) 3: 9–11.
  • Davidson, E. 2006. Big Fleas Have Little Fleas: How Discoveries of Invertebrate Diseases Are Advancing Modern Science University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 208 pages, ISBN 0-8165-2544-7.
  • Cedric Gillot: Entomology. Second Edition, Plenum Press, New York, NY / London 1995, ISBN 0-306-44967-6.
  • Triplehorn, Charles A. and Norman F. Johnson (2005-05-19). Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th edition, Thomas Brooks/Cole. ISBN 0-03-096835-6. — a classic textbook in North America.
  • Grimaldi, D. & Engel, M.S. (2005). Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82149-5.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Capinera, JL (editor). 2008. Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd Edition. Springer. ISBN 1-4020-6242-7.
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