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INTRODUCTION

Entomology is the study of insects, the most abundant form of animal life on earth. Three quarters of a million species of insect have already been described and estimates for the number of species awaiting discovery range from 1 million to 30 million. So for any budding entomologists out there, you have an excellent chance of discovering a new species!

Given that there are so many species of insect, it follows that insects are a major component of the earth's biodiversity. They inhabit every terrestrial and freshwater ecosystem and by studying the ecological roles insects play we can have a better understanding of how those ecosystems function. Insects have important roles as plant consumers and herbivores, a food source for other organisms, scavengers and detritivores, predators and parasites. Insects also directly affect human welfare by competing with us for food and transmitting diseases. However, not all insects are detrimental to human welfare. For example, bees are used to produce honey, silkworms to produce silk and many predatory species are used to control crop pests.

Insects have incredibly diverse morphological, physiological, and behavioural adaptations to their surroundings which makes the study of insects a fascinating subject. Many features of insect biology also make them ideal to use as model biological systems. Their abundance, short life cycle, reproductive potential and small size allow scientific experiments to be set up, monitored and duplicated with relative ease in almost any location. Much of our basic understanding of genetics, population ecology, and evolution has resulted from experimentation with insects.

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