Insect Classification and Taxonomy (DRAFT)

Insect Classification and Taxonomy (DRAFT)


“Insect Classification and Taxonomy”(DRAFT)

Grade Level: / 3-5
Subjects: / Insects, Biological Diversity, Adaptation
Duration: / 50 – 60 minutes
Program Type: / Student Centered, Teacher Led – Active
Setting: / Classroom
Key Terms: / Taxonomy, Orders, Diversity, Insect Classification
Activity Adapted From: / Elizabeth Hill,
Maryland State Standards: / Grade 3- 5: Standard 3.0: Life Science
Grade 3 – 3.0
Grade 4 – 3.0 A 1a-d, D 1 b-c
Grade 5 - 3.0 A 1

Goal: Students will understand that all organisms are classified and grouped by similar traits. Specifically, students will learn to group insects into 7 Orders.

Materials - Per Class(20-30 students):A complete listing of insect orders, 4-6 sets of 35 Insect Order Cards, 4-6 Insect Taxonomy Keys, and 4-6 Insect Taxonomy Answer Keys.

Extension Activity: “Stink Bug ID Comparison Sheet”

Background:Insects are one of the most diverse groups of animals on the planet. They comprise over 50% of all species on Earth. Insects are classified in over 30 Orders, each order representing a diverse member group. Each group has characteristics that can be used in sorting and identifying.


  1. Ask students to name any group of organisms and some members of each. Examples may include:
  2. Birds – hawks, robins, geese, gulls, ducks etc.
  3. Mammals – dogs, raccoons, rodents, etc.
  4. Show students of list of all insects orders and discuss their diversity. Have students name some insects they are familiar with and what insect group they belong to.
  5. Example – Insect: Lady bug, Group – Beetles
  6. Example – Insect: Honey Bee, Group – Bees and Wasps
  7. The 7 most common insect orders are featured in this exercise: Beetles (Coleoptera), Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera), Flies (Diptera), Bees and Wasps (Hymenoptera), True Bugs (Hemiptera), Plant Bugs (Homoptera) and Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids (Orthoptera).


  1. Divide the group/class into 4-6 smaller groups, depending on the number of cards sets available
  2. Give each group 1 set of 35 insect group cards (7 orders, 5 representatives of each order)
  3. Give each group 1 Insect Taxonomy Key
  4. Briefly discuss the traits of all 7 orders discussed on the Insect Taxonomy Key pointing out key characteristics of each order


  1. Allow 10 – 15 minutes for each group to sort their insect cards into the 7 identified orders. They are encouraged to use the taxonomy guide that highlights each Insect Order characteristics.
  2. Give a hint that there are several “trick” examples in the card sets that might look like they belong in one order, but really belong in another. The students must observe the species card carefully.
  3. After the studenthave completed sorting, hand out the Insect Taxonomy Answer Key.
  4. Allow the groups to “correct” any species they identified incorrectly. Point out the trick species and see which groups got identified them correctly.

Optional – A). Time the groups and see how quickly they can group their insect orders B). Record the number correct in each order set. C). Combine both A and B – which group had the fasted time and had the greatest number correct?


  1. Ask the students if it was difficult or easy to group the insects? Which group was hardest/easiest to put together?
  2. What order characteristics stood out that made an order easier to group together? For example, scales on the butterfly and moth wings, large back jumping legs on the grasshopper order or the plant bugs holding their wings like tents.
  3. How can we use the same principals of grouping to other organisms?
  4. Have the students identify the trick species, which groups they belong to, and why they looked like they belonged in another group. Example – the moth that looks like a wasp (mimicry). Why is mimicry a benefit to the moth?
  5. Are their Real World examples of learning to sort insects? For example, see Extension #5


  1. The 7 orders represent both Incomplete and Complete Metamorphosis (change). Look at how insects grow and develop and what type of metamorphosis each Order goes through. Look at the steps of each metamorphosis type (Incomplete or Complete) and how they differ.
  2. Look at additional insects from the 7 orders to see if students can group them with already identified orders.
  3. Look at other less common insect orders like Dragonflies (Odonata), Termite (Isoptera), Fleas (Siphonaptera), Mantids (Mantodea) etc. and discover representatives of these groups.
  4. Have groups pick one of the 7 insect orders and research their significance to humans – disease vectors, pests or beneficials, food, aesthetics, hobbies, etc.
  5. Utilize “Stink Bug ID Comparison Sheet” to show how to tell the difference between the non-native Brown Marmorated Stink Bug pest and 2 native brown stink bugs native to Maryland.
  6. Compare Insect and Human Classification. Handout: Linnaean Taxonomy (Classification) of the Monarch Butterfly and the Human Being

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