Glossary of entomology terms

Glossary of entomology terms
Parts of an adult butterfly

This glossary describes the terms used in the formal descriptions of insect species, jargon used mostly by professionals or entomologist.


A – C

  • abdomen: Body of the insect, toward the posterior of the thorax.
  • admarginal (adjective): Along the margin.
  • acaricide: A chemical employed to kill and control mites and ticks.*acariphagous: feeding on mites (and parasitoids of mites)
  • acetyl choline:
  • accessory gland: Any secondary gland of the glandular system.
  • acrostichal bristles: The two rows of hairs or bristles lying one on either side of the mid-line of the thorax of a true fly.
  • active space: The space within which the concentration of a pheromone or other behaviorally active substance is concentrated enough to generate the required response, remembering that like light and sound pheromones become more dilute the further they radiate out from their source.
  • accessory pulsatile organs: (APOs) Small muscular pumps and the veins that accompany them that pump hemolymph into the wings.
  • aculeate: (Hymenoptera) Any member of a group of families that include the familiar singing ants, bees, and social and hunting wasp.
  • acuminate: Tapering to a long point.
  • acylurea: A class of insect growth regulators.
  • adipocytes: A major cell type of insects that stores fat body and reserves nutrients.
  • adeagus: The part of the male genitalia which is inserted into the female during copulation and which carries the sperm into the female. Its shape is often important in separating closely related species.
  • adecticous: Of pupa: referring to the state in which the pupa does not posses movable mandibles, the opposite being Decticous.
  • aedeagus: The sclerotized terminal portion of the male genital tract that is inserted into the female during insemination.
  • aestivation: Summer dormancy, entered into when conditions are unfavourable for active life i.e. it is too hot or too dry.
  • age polyethism: The regular changing of roles of colony members as they get older.
  • air sac: A dilated portion of a trachea
  • alar squama:The middle of three flap-like outgrowths at the base of the wing in various flies.
  • alary muscles: muscles along the dorsal diaphragm that may perform circulation.
  • alata: the parthenogenetic winged morph of vividae, specialized for migration.
  • alate: Winged; having wings.
  • aldrin:(common name). A synthetic insecticide; a chlorinated hydrocarbon of not less than 95 per cent 1,2,3,4,10,10-hexachloro-1,4,4a,5,8,8a-hexahydro-1,4:5,8-dimethanonaphthalene; moderately toxic to mammals, acute oral LD,, for rats 44 mg/kg; phytotoxicity: none when properly formulated, but some crops are sensitive to solvents in certain formulations.
  • algophagy: feeding on algae
  • alitrunk: Name given to the thorax and propodeum of 'wasp-waisted' hymenopterans.
  • alloparental: When individuals other than the parent assist in the caring for that parents offspring.
  • allopatric: Two or more forms of a species having essentially separate distributions.
  • aliphatic: A term applied to the "open chain" or fatty series of hydrocarbons.
  • alternating generations: When two generations are produced within a life cycle each producing individuals of only one sex, either male first and then female or visa-versa.
  • altruistic: Self-destructive. or potentially self-destructive behavior performed for the benefit of others.
  • alula: In insects (not birds) the outermost of the three flap-like outgrowths at the base of the wing in various flies: really a part of the wing membrane.
  • ambrosia: The fungus cultivated by wood-boring beetles of the family Scolytidae
  • ametabola: The insects which develop without metamorphosis, namely the Protura, Thysanura, and Collembola.
  • amide: Compound derived from carboxylic acids by replacing the hydroxyl of the -COOH by the amino group, -NH2-.
  • amine: An organic compound containing nitrogen, derived from ammonia, NH3, by replacing one or more hydrogen atoms by as many hydrocarbon radicals.
  • amino acid: Organic compounds that contain the amino (NH,) group and the carboxyl (COOH) group. Amino acids are the "building stones" of proteins.
  • ammonia: A colorless alkaline gas, NH3, soluble in water.
  • anal: Pertaining to last abdominal segment which bears the anus.
  • anal angle: The posterior corner of the wing (same as tornus).
  • anal fold: A fold in the inner margin of the hindwing.
  • anal valves: Exposed claspers at the end of the abdomen.
  • anaplasmosis: Infection with Anaplasma, a genus of Sporozoa that infests red blood cells.
  • anasa wilt: A wilt disease of cucurbits caused solely by the feeding of the squash bug, no parasitic microorganism involved.
  • androconia: (singula = Androconium) In male butterflies, specialised wing scales (often called scent scales) possessing special glands which produce a chemical attractive to females.
  • anemic: Deficient in blood quantity or quality.
  • androconium or androconia (plural): Specialised microscopic scales on the wings of male butterflies, believed to be scent scales for attracting the female.
  • annulate: Formed in ring-like segments or with ring-like markings.
  • antennae: The long feelers situated on the head and close to the eyes. They are however not tactile but used for detecting airborne scents and currents.
Butterfly antennae shapes
    • In Papilionoidea the antennae end in bulging tips called clubs.
    • In Hesperioidea they have hooked tips and the club is found just before the tip.
    • In some Lycaenidae like the genus Liphyra the antenna tapers gradually.
  • antennation: Touching with the antenna
  • anterior: in front of or after the aforementioned structure.
  • antenodal veins: Small cross-veins at the front of the dragonfly or damselfly wing, between the wing base and the nodus.
  • anthophagy: feeding on flowers
  • antibiosis: An association between two or more organisms that is detrimental to one or more of them.
  • anticoagulin: A substance antagonistic to the coagulation of blood.
  • anus: The posterior opening of the digestive tract.
  • apex / apical area: The anterior corner of the wing.
  • aphidophagy: feeding on aphids (and parasitoids of aphids)
  • apitherapy: Medicinal use of the honey bee or its products.
  • arculus: A crossvein between the radius and cubitus near the base of the wing in certain insects.
  • base / basal area of wing: Region close to the point of attachment to the thorax.
  • brand: Raised area on the wing surface, circular, ovate, or elongated, which is covered with special scent scales or androconia, found in males of some species. Also called sex mark.
  • bryophagy: feeding on moss
Terms associated with the wings
  • catenulate: Markings consisting of rings connected together like a chain. Catenulated antennae: Antennae with ringed appearance.
  • cell: The central area surrounded by veins. It can be closed by veins or open.
    • The vein forming the boundary of the cell along the costal margin is known as the subcostal vein.
    • The vein forming the lower boundary towards the dorsum is called the median vein.
    • In the case of butterflies, the cell is closed by a vein connecting the origins of veins 6 to 4 along the top of the cell which is known as discocellular vein.
  • ceratophagy: feeding on cornified tissues and hair of animals
  • cervix (Anatomical feature): the structure defining the neck of the insect.
  • cilia: Fine hairs along the edges of the wing.
  • clypeus (Anatomical feature): a sclerite structure below the frons, circumposed by the mandibles and above the labrum.
  • coccidophagy: feeding on scale insects (and parasitoids of scale insects)
  • copromycetophagy: inhabiting feces and consuming mycetes growing inside or cultivating them for feeding.
  • coprophagy: feeding on the excrements of animals
  • carpophagy: feeding on fruits and seeds
  • costa / costal area: The leading edge of the wing.
  • coronal suture (Anatomical feature): an anterior suture line of the head between the compound eyes, below the median ocellus.
  • coxa: first leg segment, between body and trochanter.
  • clasper or clasp: A structure in male insects that is used to hold the female during copulation.
  • cremaster: most butterfly pupae are attached to a surface by a silken pad spun by the caterpillar and a set of hooks (cremaster) at the tip of the pupal abdomen.
  • crenulate: Term used to describe the outer edge of the wing, when it is scallopped, i.e., convex at the end of each vein, and, concave in between.

D - F

  • dentate: As for crenulate but with the projections at the end of each wing being toothlike.
  • decticous: Functional mandibles absent in pupal state.
  • dendrophagy: feeding on trees
  • detritophagy: feeding on ground remains of plants and animals
  • disc / discal area: The central band passing through the cell.
  • dorsum / dorsal area: Referring to the trailing edge or hind-margin of the wing, extending from the base to the tornus. Dorsal alternately, also refers to the back, i.e. the upper part of the body, from above.
  • ectognathous (Anatomical feature): having exterior mouthparts, or exposed. A defining feature of insects.
  • encapsulation: the immuno response by plasmatocytes to the presence of parasitoid egg or larvae which results in the formation of a multilayered capsule that causes the parasitoid to sufficate or starve.
  • entomonecrophagy: feeding on dead arthropods
  • entomophagy: feeding on other insects
  • epicranius (Anatomical feature): the top of the anterior structure of the head, or forehead.
  • erect: Referring to the palpi when vertical, i.e. the axis of the palpi is at right angles to the axis of the body.
  • eyespot or ocelli: Spots resembling mammalian eyes. Can also be used to refer to simple eyes.
  • fascia (plural fasciae): Refers to a color pattern with a broad band.
  • femur: third leg segment, between trochanter and tibia.
  • foramen magnum (Anatomical feature): the posterior opening of the head capsule, covered by the cervix
  • frontal sutures (Anatomical feature): suture lines that meet with the coroanl sutures to form an inverted Y.
  • frons (Anatomical feature): The frontal area of an insect's head. It covers the upper part of the face above the clypeus and below and between the antennae. It supports the pharyngeal dilator muscles and usually bears an ocellus.

G - L

Diagram of an insect leg
  • girdle: a strand of silk used to prop up the pupa. Found especially in the Papilionidae.
  • gena (Anatomical feature): the area below the compound eyes, the insect equivalent to human cheeks.
  • herbiphagy: feeding on herbaceous plants
  • helminthophagy: feeding on worms classified with helminths (including parasitoids of helminths)
  • hemocoel: the interior of the insects anatomy, including all organs and hemocyte.
  • hemocyte or haemolymph: , is a fluid in the circulatory system of insects containing nutrients, fat, water, etc.
  • hemophagy: feeding on blood.
  • hyaline: transparent, like glass.
  • hypognathous: having mouthparts that are ventrad of a vertically oriented head, or having an "under bit".
  • interspace: The region between adjacent veins.
  • irrorated or irroration: Old term used usually to indicate a sprinkling of scales interspersed among scales typically of a different color.
  • idiobiont: a form of parasitism where the parasitoid paralyzes or leaves the host unable to continue development at oviposition.
  • koinobiont: A form of parasitism where the parasitoid lives inside the host while allowing it to live after oviposition.
  • labrum (Anatomical feature): the anterior structure below the clypeus covering some of the mouthparts, sometimes called the "upper lip"
  • lines of weakness (Anatomical feature): a term defining the suture lines where the integument will split to allow for molting.
  • lichenophagy: feeding on lichens
  • lunule: Crescent marks usually found along the margin.

M - O

  • macrochaete: a term used for large bristles and scales.[1]
  • malacophagy: feeding on mollusks (and parasitoids of mollusks)
  • mesothorax: the last segment of the thorax, after the metathorax.
  • metathorax: The second segment of the thorax after the prothorax, and posterior to the mesothorax.
  • mixomycetophagy: feeding on myxomycetes fungus
  • myiasis: Infestation of fly larvae on or in a vertebrate host.
  • mycetophagy: feeding on fungus
  • necrophagy: consuming of dead animals and their remains
  • nervure: Older term for vein. adnervural is used to describe for instance lines running adjacent and alongside the veins.
  • nodus: (of Odonata ) A prominent cross-vein near the center of the leading edge of a wing.
  • occipital suture (Anatomical feature): the structure that defines the occiput.
  • occiput (Anatomical feature): the region posterior to the vertex on the head.
  • ocular structure (Anatomical feature): the structure of the head containing the ocelli.
  • obtect: Appendages fused or glued to the body.
  • osmeterium: fleshy structure on some larvae, often discharging odorous chemicals.
  • onisciform: A woodlouse shaped, flattened platyform appearance of a larva.[2]
  • oophagy: feeding on eggs
  • opisthognathous: with receding mouthparts, or having mouthparts that slope backward or face backward.
  • oviposition: the act of laying eggs

P - R

  • parasitoid: In parasitism, the participant that benefits, rather than the one that is being parasitized.
  • pedipalp (or labial palpi or palpi): Comparatively large processes that originate from below the head and curve forward in front of the face that sometimes appear like a beak.(lp on the figure right
  • palynophagy: feeding on pollen
  • phleophagy: feeding on bark
  • phyllophagy: feeding on leaves
  • phytophagy: feeding on plants
  • porrect: Referring to the palpi when horizontally projecting in front of the face. In this case, the aixis of the palpi is parallel to the axis of the body.
  • proboscis: tubular feeding and sucking organ
  • prognathous: having mouth parts dorsad of a dorsally oriented head, or "over bite".
  • proleg: fleshy leg like structures arising from the abdominal segments of caterpillars. These prolegs have crochets or curved hooks.
  • prothorax: The first segment on the thorax posterior to the metathorax.
  • posterior: in a position behind or below the aforementioned.
  • postoccipital suture (Anatomical feature): the structure posterior to the occipital suture, surrounding foramen magnum or occipital magnum.
  • pollinophagy: feeding on pollen
  • rhizophagy: feeding on roots

S - Z

  • sarconecrophagy: feeding on dead bodies of vertebrates
  • sapromycetophagy:inhabiting decaying matter and consuming mycetes growing inside or cultivating them for feeding.
  • saprophagy: feeding on decaying organic matter
  • saltatorial: adapted for leaping of jumping
  • sequestering: The process of animals accumulating poisonous compounds from the food they are eating in order to become poisonous themselves for their predators. Pyrrolizidine alkaloid sequestration refers to the sequestration of one such class of poisonous compounds.
  • schisophagy: feeding on ground remains of plants and animals
  • spiracle: Respiratory openings on the thorax and abdomen that allow air to enter the trachea.
  • sporophagy: feeding on mycet spores
  • stigma (plural Stigmata): Prominent cells on the forewings of some moths. Their size, shape and colour can be useful in identifying some species.
  • strigae: Refer patterns with thin lines.
  • subgenal suture (Anatomical feature): suture lines below the gena.
  • synapomorphy: a advanced defining feature
  • synovigenic: a form of reproduction in which the female continues to produce and to mature eggs throughout its life cycle.
  • tarsus: fifth (last) leg segment, the part that touches the surface.
  • terminal and marginal: Along the margin.
  • termen: The edge of the wing most distant from the body
  • thorax: The part of the body that lies between the head and the abdomen. It has three parts - prothorax, metathorax and mesothorax.
  • tibia: fourth leg segment, between femur and tarsus.
  • tornus / tornal area: The posterior corner of the wing (same as tornus).
  • trochanter: second leg segment, between coxa and femur
  • xylomycetophagy: inhabiting wood and consuming mycetes growing in wood or cultivating them for feeding
  • xylophagy: feeding on wood
  • vein: Hollow structures formed from the coupling of the upper and lower walls of the wing. They provide both rigidity and flexibility to the wing.

(See also Comstock-Needham system)

  • vertex (Anatomical feature): The apex of the head, usually containing ocelli.
  • zoomycetophagy: feeding on fungus found on other animals
  • zoophagy: feeding on animals, and/or animal matter.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Simpson, P; Marcellini, S (2006). "The origin and evolution of stereotyped patterns of macrochaetes on the nota of cyclorraphous Diptera". Heredity 97 (3): 148–156. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6800874. Retrieved 08 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Glossary - Integrated Pest Management Resource Centre [1].
  • Gordh G. and D.H. Headrick. A Dictionary of Entomology. Cabi 2001.
  • Romoser, William S. The Science of Entomology, pp. 26–49. Collier-MacMillan 1973.
  • Wallace, Robert L. et al. Beck and Braithwaite’s Invertebrate Zoology, 4th Ed., pp. 248–250. MacMillan 1989.
  • Resh, Vincent H. and R. T. Cardé, Eds. Encyclopedia of Insects, pp. 15–19, 750-755. Elsevier 2003.
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