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Entomology Background...

Entomology branch of zoology dealing with the scientific study of insects. The Greek word entomon, meaning "notched," refers to the segmented body plan of the insect. The zoological categories of taxonomy, morphology, physiology, and ecology are included in this field of study. Also included are the applied aspects of economic entomology, which encompasses the harmful and beneficial impact of insects on humans and their activities.

Throughout history the study of insects has intrigued great scientific minds. In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle provided descriptions of insect anatomy, establishing the groundwork for modern entomology. Pliny the Elder added to Aristotle's list of species. The Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi published a major treatise, De Animalibus insectis . . . ("Of Insect Animals") in 1602. With the aid of the newly developed microscope, the Dutch naturalist was able to observe the minute structures of many insect species. Modern insect classification began in the 18th century. The French biologist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur published the first of six volumes of Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des insectes ("Memoirs Serving as a History of Insects") in 1734. Carolus Linnaeus , in Systema Naturae (10th ed., 1758), applied his system of binomial nomenclature to organize the classification of insect species. Entomology emerged as a distinct field of study in the early 19th century, with the publication of such works as the 8-volume British Entomology (1824-39), by John Curtis, and the founding of entomological societies in Paris and London.

The body of knowledge gleaned from the study of insects has enabled modern economic entomologists to develop methods for controlling insect pests . Some insects are perceived as threats to humans, both as agents of crop destruction and as disseminators of disease. Methods of integrating pest management--which combine chemical, biological, cultural, and sanitation strategies--have been devised to control the damage done by insects to agricultural products. Data collected by entomologists has benefited not only pest-management practices; genetics research using the vinegar fly ( Drosophila melanogaster) has been extremely fruitful. Insects also have been used in biochemical, developmental, and behavioral studies. The many functions that insects perform in the ecosystem--such as the pest control that dragonflies and mantises provide as predators of other insects or the decomposition of organic matter that scavenger insects accelerate--also have been elucidated by entomological study.


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