Entomology 101 (Online) – The Syllabus

I believe that continuing life-long learning (formal or informal) is important. As I foolishly proposed in an earlier blog post (in an attempt to paint myself into a corner), I am going to begin teaching myself the basics of entomology which I will share in a series of articles. By using a blend of  material from books, websites (yes,  maybe even Wikipedia!!!), blogs and online videos, I hope to have proceeded through a fairly comprehensive introductory entomology course by the summer of 2011.

I reiterate that I have no qualifications to present a course on entomology. Reader beware… I will be relying on a mixture of sources, not all of them up-to-date.  Each post will be link-intensive, and links can go bad. I will do my best to use only legitimate sources, but if I fail, please let me know. I will go ahead with this as a personal self-learning project. As such, it may or may not be vetted by those who actually know what they are talking about. Comments, corrections and added insights are expected. If you know of a better source for information for any section, let me know. This will be an honest attempt on my part, there will be no talk of  luring’ ants and other phantasms (but perhaps Phasmids?) so you need have no fear of embarrassment.¹

Many courses begin by providing  reasons for their existence. My reasons would probably be considered typical by most out there with a penchant for bugs: I want to study insects because they are endlessly fascinating. With a seemingly boundless diversity of forms,  lifestyles and behaviours, the insects (and the related land-based arthropods and crustaceans that fall under the wide umbrella of entomology) offer a mind-boggling subject to take an interest in.  Besides the general knowledge,  I want to know how to properly use dichotomous keys for identification and gain enough background knowledge to help me understand research papers on my personal interests: the behaviour and evolution of insects. Of course, I am hoping the new-found knowledge will help me as a photographer who wants to go beyond chance bug portraits, and perhaps, just maybe, it will help me find a specialization to focus on. (Excuse pun)

I have flitted about the net and perused a few entomology course syllabi, and with a bit of prodding, blending and molding, I have drafted the following (potential) syllabus.

Shall I begin?

Attention ye ranks of weevils! Sound your trumpets snouts rostrums!

Adrian’s Entomology 101 Syllabus

  1. Entomology? What? Why?
  2. Who? (A Brief History of Entomology)
  3. External structure
  4. Locomotion
  5. Feeding
  6. Internal structure
  7. Nervous Systems
  8. Sensory Perception
  9. Reproduction
  10. Life cycles
  11. Diversity
  12. Evolution
  13. Systematics and Classification
  14. Behavior
  15. Pollination
  16. Sociality
  17. Ecology
  18. Defense
  19. Predation
  20. Parasitism
  21. Collecting and Preserving
  22. Identification
  23. Raising
  24. What Next?

The list is flexible – at this point I have no idea on how each section will proceed, and I may shuffle, extend, add or subtract sections as I go along. Most Intro. to Ento. courses also deal with applied entomology, but I don’t believe that  pertains to my approach as an enthusiast and photographer, so it won’t be broached here. On the other hand, if there is anything else I have omitted, or a better way to arrange the sections, please let me know.

And a special note to all blogging entomologists or grad students (should any blunder across this post accidentally) – if you have ever posted information on any of the above sections, please let me know. I will link to you when I get that far. Are you interested in doing a guest post on a section, or any one aspect of a section? My world’s your oyster. If I get in over my head, and say something particularly dim or foolish? Don’t be shy, point it out.

¹Indeed, some entomologists would do well to lurk follow this series – the last thing we need is false information being spread – let’s leave that to the popular media.


This entry was posted in Education, Entomology, Entomology 101 and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. Ted C. MacRae 10 October, 2010 at 1:19 PM #

    This should be good – there are a few others out there with elements of Entomology 101 in their blogs, but this is much better organized and comprehensive. It’ll be good for an old dog like me to follow along and refresh my failing memory on some of these subjects.

    One quibble – “collecting” is too far down on the list (just kidding!).

    • Adrian Thysse 10 October, 2010 at 1:41 PM #

      Hey! I’m the old dog! Judging from your excellent, frequent and detailed blog posts, this venture won’t be much help to your so-called, “…failing memory”! 😉

  2. southafricaninsects 11 October, 2010 at 12:28 AM #

    What a wonderful idea Adrian. I will be following this closely.

  3. Dave 11 October, 2010 at 6:23 PM #

    Well, I once was an entomologist, but it has been a long time. Over the last year I’ve been trying to re-familiarize myself with insects and their identification, mostly on an ad hoc basis and strictly in my spare time. The freely available pdfs of the Insects and Arachnids of Canada series that the Entomological Society of Canada (thanks to Pat Buchard, Paul Fields, and a couple other dedicated souls) has available makes it not impossible to deal with many Canadian insects at the genus and even species level:


    First, though, you need to know the lingo. I wish I was as organized as you. Maybe I’ll take this as inspiration and formalize my re-learning wing venation, instead of punting as I have been doing. When you look at a pterygote insect’s wing, you are looking at a road map to its secret name (if you can read the signs, the wings can usually take you to family and often to genus). Time I re-learned to recognize a subcostal, cubital, radial, and median vein without having to constantly refer back to a figure.

    • Adrian Thysse 11 October, 2010 at 7:43 PM #

      Your experience will be a great help in this venture! I have links to the E.S. of C.’s pdfs up at the page tab marked ‘Bugs on the Web‘ (I’ll have to look for a template that emphasizes the pages better..) Wing venation will have to be part of the course now. And an Intro to Mites…

  4. Joan 12 October, 2010 at 10:29 AM #

    You are brilliant Adrian!! Thank you so much for the info on the eggs.

  5. TGIQ 24 October, 2010 at 7:49 AM #

    This looks like it will be fun!

    • Adrian Thysse 24 October, 2010 at 8:23 AM #

      I hope it will be fun, but not too embarrassing… 🙂

  6. tankerton 29 November, 2010 at 7:24 PM #

    Just what I have been looking for.
    Facinated by insects & want to learn more.
    Thank you look forward to more.

Post a Reply to tankerton

Your email is never published nor shared.