The Manduca Project



So many insects

    About the MP

Eggs & Diet

World of Insects
     Life without them
So many of them
    Secrets of their success
    Family tree
    Major insect order
Insect Anatomy

World of Manduca
    In research
    Life cycle
The egg

    The larva
    The pupa
    The adult

Rearing Manducas
    What you need
   Care and Feeding
Building larva box
Constructing rearing box
Preparing diet

    Lesson plans
    Coloring book (English)
Coloring book (Spanish)

    English/Spanish vocab.
    Web resources

Print Manual

A billion billion? (1,000,000,000,000,000,000)

In terms of both number of species and number of individuals, insects are a dominant form of life on Earth. There are somewhere between 800,000 and 1,000,000 insect species known–that's more than all other animals combined! What's more, scientists estimate that with those insect species yet to be discovered, there are between 80 and 100 million species of insects sharing the planet with us.

The sheer number of individual insects is even more staggering. It is estimated that at any given moment, Earth is home to a billion billion insects. Spread out evenly over the land surface, this would be nearly 8,000 insects per square meter! (About 750 per square foot, five per square inch, or almost one per square centimeter.) With six billion humans in the world, this works out to 170 million insects per person. picture of termites

To break it down another way, consider a single group of insects, the termites. If you weighed all of the termites in Africa, their combined weight would be more than that of all of the elephants in Africa! Certainly, problems of poaching and habitat destruction have taken their toll on the numbers of elephants, but even the idea of enough termites to outweigh one elephant is mind-boggling!

They're everywhere!

photograph of river borders by treesNot only are insects incredibly numerous, they successfully occupy nearly every conceivable environment, and are constantly adapting to new ones. Habitats range from the Arctic tundra and glaciers, where you can find types of insects that are so cold-adapted they will actually die of the heat if you hold them in your hand, to the most scorching deserts.

Insects have adapted to life in pools of crude oil in California and the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where the water is six times saltier than the ocean. Some can be totally dried out for months at a time, only to "come back to life" when it rains. Insects thrive in cities and rural areas, on land, in water, and in the air. If you can imagine a habitat, chances are that there will be at least one species of insect making use of it.


World of Insects

Life without | So many of them | Secrets of their success | Family Tree | Insect orders | Anatomy

The Manduca Project
The University of Arizona
Revised: July 27, 2001

All contents copyright © 2000-01.
All rights reserved.