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A juvenile male Damselfly

Insects are arthropods with six legs and a body consisting of three sections: the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have an exoskeleton composed of chitin, and segmented eyes. Many, but not all, insect species are winged.

There are an enormous number of insect species on earth, including flies, beetles, and ants. Some are notably mentioned in the sacred texts of some religions, such as locusts, in the Egyptian plagues, and rules regarding their consumption in the following Scripture passages:

Leviticus 11:20-23 (KJV): All fowls that creep, going upon [all] four, [shall be] an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon [all] four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; [Even] these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. But all [other] flying creeping things, which have four feet, [shall be] an abomination unto you.
Deuteronomy 14:19 (KJV): And every creeping thing that flieth [is] unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.

Many insects undergo complete metamorphosis, meaning that their life cycle involves several stages, during each of which the creature has a distinctly different appearance. These are:

  • Egg
  • Larva - a feeding stage. Some insect larvae are very familiar, such as caterpillars and maggots.
  • Pupa - a dormant stage during which the next form develops inside a protective casing - the butterfly chrysalis being the most familiar example.
  • Adult - the form we recognize as the "insect", with its defining characteristics as listed above.

Other insects undergo incomplete metamorphosis, in which the egg hatches into a nymph, which resembles a small adult (except without wings).