Insects are by far the most diverse and ecologically important group of animals in land habitats, there are over 24,000 known species of insect in the United Kingdom, with hundreds of species to be found in almost every garden and green space. With so many species to consider and study it is important to group the most similar species together in a way that makes sense. Insects are therefore grouped into Orders and you can find information about the major Orders of insects in this guide.
In spite of what you might think, fewer than one in two hundred are considered to be potential pests. In this guide we pick out some of the insects that you are likely to see, share some of the amazing facts that entomologists have uncovered about them, and suggest ways that you can help maintain insect biodiversity in your garden.
Types of insect (Orders)
Bees, ants & wasps
ORDER: HYMENOPTERA (Ancient Greek - hymen = membrane ; pteron = wing) Critically important pollinators in every garden, many small wasps are parasitic, others induce galls on plants. Some show very complex social behaviours.
ORDER: COLEOPTERA (Ancient Greek - koleos = sheath ; pteron = wing) The most diverse group of organisms on Earth, some are important predators of garden pests.
Butterflies & moths
ORDER: LEPIDOPTERA (Ancient Greek - lepis = scale ; pteron = wing) The most easily recognised garden insects, herbivorous larvae (caterpillars) feed on plants, adult feed on nectar through a long proboscis
Crickets & grasshoppers
ORDER: ORTHOPTERA (Ancient Greek - ortho = sheath ; pteron = wing) Often found in larger gardens where grass and native trees are allowed to go a little wild, feed on plants.
Dragonflies & damselflies
ORDER: ODONATA (Ancient Greek - odontos = tooth) Acrobatic aerial predators, and very large, grasping "raptorial" jaws to capture prey
ORDER: DERMAPTERA (Ancient Greek - derma = skin ; pteron = wing) Found under rocks in most gardens, elongate and dorso-ventrally flattened
ORDER: NEUROPTERA (Ancient Greek - neuron = nerve ; pteron = wing) Common predators of other insects, including aphids, relatively large wings
ORDER: EPHEMEROPTERA (Ancient Greek - short-lived = sheath ; pteron = wing) Mainly aquatic, found near rivers and ponds, large wings, three "tails", large compound eyes
Silverfish & firebrats
ORDER: ZYGENTOMA (Ancient Greek - zyg = bridge ; entoma = insect) Wingless primitive insects up to 20mm long. More common in damp sheds than in the garden, medium sized, flattened, silvery scaled.
ORDER: PLECOPTERA (Ancient Greek - pleco = folded or braided ; pteron = wing) Aquatic insects that live in running water as larvae.
ORDER: HEMIPTERA (Ancient Greek - hemi = half ; pteron = wing) Feed on plant sap, using their specialised piercing, sucking mouthparts, can be large
ORDER: DIPTERA (Ancient Greek - di = sheath ; pteron = wing) Recognised by having just one pair wings, the second pair are modified into halteres, which act as balancing organs