Are insects animals? And where to find them

7-spot ladybird on leaf
Ever wondered if insects are animals? Find out today! (Photo: Clare Topping/WTML)

Are insects animals

In short, yes. Scientists often use a diagram called the phylogenetic tree, or ‘tree of life’, to show how different living things have evolved from the same ancestors. The trunk of the tree represents the earliest life on Earth and the branches and leaves show all the species that have developed out of this over millions of years.

Infographic of a phytogenetic tree showing that insects are animals as part of the arthropods
This is a simplified phylogenetic tree. For clarity we described chorates as vertebrates and arthropods as invertebrates but these are not exact categories. (Photo: WTML)

Living organisms are divided up into large categories called kingdoms, such as the animal kingdom and plant kingdom. Insects are one of the many groups within the animal kingdom. They are invertebrates, which means they don’t have a backbone, but they’re different from other invertebrates because:

  • they have bodies divided into three sections: head, thorax (chest) and abdomen (tummy)
  • they have six legs with joints in them so they can bend.

Many types of insect have wings too, but not all of them do.

Where to find insects

You can find insects hiding under logs and stones, and in long grass. You’ll also see flying insects feasting on nectar from flowering plants, especially in spring and summer.

Here are some to keep a special eye out for as spring approaches:

7-spot ladybird (Latin name: Coccinella septempunctata)

This ladybird has three spots on each wing case and one at the front of its body. You can find it in lots of places, such as fields, parks, woods and gardens, from late spring.

Seven spot ladybird on leaf
7-spots are really common. You'll be seeing lots of them in spring. (Photo: Christine Martin/WTML)

Green-veined white butterfly (Pieris napi)

Look for a butterfly with white or pale yellow wings, with grey-green lines on the underside and dark tips on the front wings. You’ll see it in meadows, woodland edges and hedgerows from spring.

Green-veined white butterfly feeding on flower
Look out for fluttery butterflies. (Photo: WTML)

Peacock butterfly (Aglais io)

This butterfly has deep red wings with colourful spots that look like the ‘eyes’ on peacock feathers – they help scare off predators. Its wings are dark brown underneath. It can be found in gardens, parks and woodland clearings as early as March.

Peacock butterfly on thistle
Peacock butterflies are a spectacular sight. (Photo: Anthony D Robson/WTML)

Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

The red admiral is dark brown with red bands across its wings and white spots at the ends of its front wings. You can find it almost anywhere. Many red admirals are migrants from the Mediterranean and the earliest visitors start arriving in March.

Red admiral butterfly on flowers
Summertime is perfect for looking out for some of our native species. (Photo: Christine Martin/WTML)

Red-tailed bumblebee queen (Bombus lapidarius)

Remember you’re looking for the queen of this species – she is much bigger than the workers. She has a black, round, hairy body with a red-orange tail, and is 20-22mm long. You can spot her anywhere flowers are growing, usually from May.

Red-Tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus lapidarius) Feeding On Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus)
Spot some tumbling bumbling bees this spring. (Photo: Lisa Geoghegan/WTML)

Tell us when you’ve seen them

The species above are a few of those we track as part of our Nature’s Calendar project. The idea is that everyone logs the first time they see them each year on the website and then scientists can use these records to learn more about the effect climate change is having on wildlife. It’s important work, so get your grown up to help you register so you can start adding your nature spots now!

Which insects have you spotted out and about?

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