Investigating Insects

A  WebQuest for Grades  8-12, WebQuest Agricultural Series by Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri State University


You can find insects everywhere; whether in your backyard, in between the walls of your house, or in the movies. Many of you have probably seen A Bug's Life or Ants. Insects are even used in forensics to determine when a creature has died.  In fact, there are over a million different species of insects in the world. Since there are so many species there are some insects that have not even been discovered yet. Insects are the most abundant animal on the earth.

Your task is to learn about the important role that insects play in our everyday lives. You will  be able to identify insects and know whether they are beneficial or not. Students will be asked to complete an insect collection and describe the ecosystem that the insects belong in.  Also, you may have heard some insects while you were outside.

Step 1: Questions

1. What is the definition of an insect?

2. Since you now know the definition of an insect can you name some insects?

3. You have named several insects, now can you tell me if they are good or bad? Are they beneficial insects or pests?
                        - Animals Behaving Badly Video

 4. Why would people want to study insects?

Step 2:  Identification
              There are lots of different species and orders of insects but we are going to review the most common.


  • Coleoptera- beetles

  • Hemiptera- true bugs

  • Lepidoptera- butterflies and moths

  • Hymenoptera- stinging insects

Evaluate the differences between insect orders
Identify three main body parts
Identify lifecycles

Step 3: Complete the following assignments

Assignment 1:  Start an insect collection. Gather 5 insects from each of the following orders: Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, and Hymenoptera. Catch the insects in a jar. A clean baby food jar works well. To kill the insects, you may place them in the freezer while still in the jar or place a cotton ball that has fingernail polish on it in the jar. It is also important to have a good supply of straight pins to pin the insects. Use an old cigar box, school box, or any box that measures approximately 5" x 10" to store the insects. Place a thin piece of Styrofoam in bottom of box so pin will stay in place.

           Tips On Pinning Insects:
                    - Mounting Insects
                    - Pinning Insects

Assignment 2:  Identify the insects that you have collected. Magnifying glasses may be used for smaller insects.  Fill out Activity Sheet for each insect.  The website can really help in identifying insects.

Step 4:  Show pictures from this web site in class and have students identify the insect or order of the insect. Here is another web site for practicing identification (it may be slow to load, but its a good one.)

Step 5: Fun Activities
                    - If you are daring, the students can try their own insect recipe at home.

You are now an amateur entomologist. Use the skills that you have learned to help others when insects are a problem.


Rubric for Assignments


25 pts.

20 pts.

15 pts.

10 pts.

5 pts.

0 pts.

Insect Collection

5 insects collected from each order

4 insects from each order 3 insects from each order 2 insects from each order 1 insect from each order 0 insects from each order


5 insects pinned properly 4 insects pinned properly 3 insects pinned properly 2 insects from each order 1 insect from each order 0 insects pinned properly

Activity Sheets

5 insects identified properly using 5 activity sheets 4 insects identified properly using 4 activity sheets 3 insects identified properly using 3 activity sheets 2 insects identified properly using 2 activity sheets 1 insect identified properly using  activity sheet 0 insects identified properly using 0 activity sheets

Photo credits: USDA ARS Archives, USDA Agricultural Research Service

This WebQuest was created by teachers participating in Missouri's Agriculture in the Classroom program at Missouri State University through a USDA grant.  The template on this site was adapted from a template from The WebQuest Page and the original was designed by Dr. Lyndon Irwin.  Assistance for this project was provided by Mrs. Barbara Irwin, M.S. and Mrs. Diane Olson, M.S.

Teachers are encouraged to adapt this lesson for classroom use only.  No part of this publication may be transmitted, stored, recorded or published in any form without written permission from Missouri Farm Bureau.

This page was developed by Ashley Noblitt, reviewed by Lyndon and the late Barbara Irwin and is maintained by Missouri Farm Bureau. Please address questions to Diane Olson at Missouri Farm Bureau