SCI-292 - Insects and People

Instructor: Paul Decelles

Title: Insects and People

Number: SCI 292

CRN: 82852

Effective Term: Fall 2015 Tuesday, Thursday 9:30 - 10:45am, GEB 238 

Credit Hours: 3

Contact Hours: 3

Lecture Hours: 3

Lab Hours 0


Prerequisites: Biology 121 or equivalent or Department approval

Description: As a group insects are among the most successful and varied groups of organisms on Earth today. In many terrestrial ecosystems insects are the dominant animals in terms of numbers of species and biomass.  In addition insects have important relationships with other species that are critical for human welfare. Insects are both important agricultural pests and through pollination important agricultural allies. Fungal insect relationships are of critical importance in nutrient cycling in tropical and semitropical. Insects exhibit a wide range of interesting habits and behaviors and the study of insects has provided important insights into fields from genetics to social behavior and communication. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the major groups of insects, their evolution, natural history and complex relationships between insects and people.

Course Fees: None


Eaton Eric, R. and Kenn Kaufman(2007) Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America (Kaufman Field Guides) ISBN-13: 978-0618153107
Eisner, Thomas(2005) For Love of Insects. Belknap Press. ISBN 9780674018273
Berenbaum, May(1995) Bugs in the System: Insects and their impact on human affairs. Perseus Books. ISBN-10: 0201408244

Supplies: Digital camera or cell phone with camera is recommended. Insect repellent that works against chiggers; comfortable hiking shoes, sunscreen.


  1. Describe the general characteristics of insects and the other main groups of Arthropods.
  2. Review the main features of insect evolution as shown in the fossil record.
  3. Compare the main features of insect physiology and anatomy to vertebrates.
  4. Contrast the different types of development found in different groups of insects.
  5. Give examples of insect communication and behavior.
  6. Discuss the types of social behavior found in different insect groups.
  7. Describe the major types of interactions between insects and other organisms in biological communities.
  8. Read and discuss examples of insects in literature and in basic science.
  9. Discuss the major interactions between insects and people.
  10. Identify representatives of the main orders of insects based on key characteristics.
  11. Demonstrate use of common resources for insect identification: people/places print and online resources.
  12. Discuss and give examples of insect conservation efforts.

Content Outline and Competencies:

I. What is an insect anyway?

A. Explain the basic taxonomic categories used in biology today.

B. Describe the main characteristics of the phylum Arthropoda.

C. Discuss the importance of segmentation in the evolution of arthropods.

D. Identify representatives of the commonly seen classes of Arthropods.

E. List the features of the class insecta (insects) that distinguish them from the other arthropods.

II. The evolution of insects.

A. Describe the main events of insect evolution as seen in the fossil record.

B. Explain the concept of a phylogenetic tree and be able to interpret current phylogenetic trees for some major groups of insects.

III. Insect physiology and development.

A. Explain the main features of insect growth and moulting.

B. Compare the processes of respiration, and circulation in insects to vertebrates.

C. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an exoskeleton.

D. Compare the types of metamorphosis found in insects and give examples of insects for each type.

E. Describe the adaptations insects have related to flight.

IV. Insect communication and behavior.

A. Describe the strengths and limitations of the insect nervous system.

B. Give examples of insect use of different sensory modalities (e.g light, chemical, sound and vibration)

C. Define and give examples of different types of chemical signals used by insects.

V. Mating and Social Behavior

A. Describe several different types of mating behavior found in insects.

B. Define social behavior and give examples of social interactions within groups of insects.

C. Describe the key features of eusocial behavior and compare eusocial behavior in ants, termites, bees and wasps.

VI. Interactions with other species.

A. Describe the main types of interactions that occur in biological communities.

B. Describe the main features of insect-flower coevolution.

C. Discuss the role of insects as vectors for various parasites.

D. Give examples of non pollination interactions between insects and plants.

E. Distinguish between parasitoids and parasitic insects.

F. Give examples of social parasites.

VII. Insects and people.

A. Discuss the role of insects as food for humans: Why not eat insects? (samples will be provided)

B. Discuss the role of insects as vectors for parasites and pathogens.

C. Describe the insect - human - parasite relationships in Malaria and their significance in human evolution.

D. Give examples of insect agricultural and household pests.

E. Give examples of insects that get a bad rap.

F. Define what we mean by invasive species and discuss examples of  invasive insects and how they have been changing biological communities.

G. Discuss the love-hate relationship between humans and insects.

VIII. Insect conservation.

A. Discuss the need for insect conservation.

B. Give examples of insect conservation: butterflies and beyond.

IX. Insects and literature.

A. Read and discuss examples of insects as portrayed in semi popular science writing such as by Eisner, Berenbaum and Faubre.

B. Discuss the portrayal of insects in science fiction, both in film and science fiction literature.

C. Give examples of insect biology’s contribution to understanding human biology

X. Insect identification.

A. Identify common representatives of the major orders of insects by sight

B. Practice using keys to identify insects and know what characters are important in insect identification. (we’ll keep this relatively non technical)

C. Demonstrate use of online resources for insect identification.

D. Describe common preservation methods for unknown insects for identification. (Sticking bugs to scotch tape is not it)

E. Take pictures of insects even if all you have is a cell phone.

Method of Evaluation and Competencies:

The grade for the course will be determined by the student’s performance on lecture exams, projects, and homework assignments.  A total of 400 points is possible for the course.  Grades are determined as follows:

300 points        Exams:  Three lecture exams at 100 points each
100 points        Insect Presentation
50 points          Daily discussion of insect news
50 points          Homework:

Grade Criteria Minimum Points Required

A           450-500
B           400-499
C           350-399
D           300-349
F           Less than 300

Caveats:  As weather and time permits we may make some on campus visits to see various insects; old clothes on those days and comfortable walking shoes are required for such trips.

Student Responsibilities: 

Computer use will be required: Students will need basic word processing and Internet searching skills for the completion of projects.  Regular attendance to ensure completion of the projects is expected. Students without computers can use the Science Division’s CASE classroom computers. An ID is required. Students should also be aware that there is a 200 page limit per semester.

All JCCC students are expected to follow the Student Code of Conduct.

Anyone caught cheating (including plagiarizing) will be subject to any or all of the following:  a zero for the work involved; an immediate “F” in the course; referral to college authorities for further discipline. 


If you are a student with a disability, and if you will be requesting accommodations, it is your responsibility to contact Access Services. Access Services will recommend any appropriate accommodations to your professor and his/her director. The professor and director will identify for you which accommodations will be arranged.

JCCC provides a range of services to allow persons with disabilities to participate in educational programs and activities. If you desire support services, contact the office of Access Services for Students With Disabilities (913) 469-8500, ext. 3521 or TDD (913) 469-3885. The Access Services office is located in the Success Center on the second floor of the Student Center.