Portal:Insects

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The Insects Portal

Anthidium February 2008-1.jpg

Insects (from Latin insectum, a calque of Greek ἔντομον [éntomon], “cut into sections”) are a class within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae. They are among the most diverse group of animals on the planet and include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms. The number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million, and potentially represent over 90% of the differing metazoan life forms on Earth. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species occur in the oceans, a habitat dominated by another arthropod group, the crustaceans.

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Illustration of the cochineal insect from the 1881 Household Cyclopedia
Cochineal is the name of both a crimson or carmine dye and of the cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus), a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the dye is derived. There are other species in the genus Dactylopius which can be used to produce cochineal extract, but they are difficult to distinguish from D. coccus. The primary biological distinctions between species are minor differences in host plant preferences, in addition to very different geographic distributions. D. coccus itself is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico.

This type of insect, a primarily sessile parasite, lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on moisture and nutrients in the cacti. The insect produces carminic acid which deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid can be extracted from the insect's body and eggs to make the dye. Cochineal is primarily used as a food colouring and for cosmetics.

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Cetonia-aurata.jpg
Cscr-featured.svg Credit: Chrumps

The rose chafer Cetonia aurata (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) is a beetle, 20 mm (¾ in) long, that has metallic green coloration.

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