Insect Biology

Module summary

Module code: ZOOL1012
Level: 6
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Sarah Arnold



There are more species of insects than of any other animal group on Earth, playing fundamental roles in almost all terrestrial ecosystems. They are used as models for a variety of wider biological processes, and as indicators within ecosystems. Their interactions with humans may be positive, as pollinators of crops and agents of decomposition, or negative, by vectoring human diseases and damaging agricultural and forestry productivity. This module will draw on the internationally-respected expertise within NRI to introduce the diversity, evolution and biology of insects, discuss applied aspects of entomology and explore ways to study and monitor them.
The module aims to:
• introduce the diversity and taxonomy of insect groups (and other terrestrial arthropods), describing their key features and adaptations
• explore how the anatomy, physiology and behaviour of insects is adapted to their lifestyles and ecology, and how understanding this can be relevant to applied questions
• introduce the genetics and reproductive strategies of insects, and show how this helps make them so successful
• consider examples of how insects interact with humans in positive and negative contexts in food security and human health
• outline ways that insect numbers can be increased or reduced, and the effects of these interventions for conservation and pest control
• demonstrate methods for experimental investigation and for sampling and monitoring insects in the environment

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1. Appreciate the value and limitations of studying insects as a route to understand wider biological systems.
2. Understand and appreciate the diversity in insect physiology, life history and behaviour, as part of a wider ecosystem.
3. Discuss critically the features and adaptations that can account for insects’ global success.
4. Evaluate the role of insects as beneficial and harmful agents in their interactions with humans.
5. Appreciate the complexity involved in devising management strategies to increase and decrease insect numbers.
6. Compare and contrast methods of studying, sampling and monitoring insects, including identification.

Indicative content

• Diversity of insects: identification, evolution and development; major insect groups and their ecology and adaptive strategies
• Insect physiology in the context of ecology and applied entomology, insects as model organisms
• Insect behaviour – mating, learning, foraging, sensory ecology, communication
• Insect-human interactions: disease vectors, urban entomology, insects in agriculture, insects as food
• Insect conservation
• Insect monitoring methodologies