Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Insect Adaptations

 by Carolyn Nixon


Insects are the most adaptable group of animals on earth.  They are adapted to almost every type of habitat, and there are more species of insects than all other types of animals combined.  Look at the pictures shown to the right and below and see if you can match them with the behaviors described on the left.


  1.  I hop.

  2.  I’m a predator that grasps its prey.

  3.  I burrow in the ground.

  4.  I sit in vegetation under the water, but breath air from a snorkel.

  5.  I swim through the water, much like a rowboat.

  6.  I have a soft body, so I build a protective case.

  7.  I drill a hole into wood to lay my eggs.

  8.  I lay flat against the surface of rocks under water.

  9.  I bury my body at the bottom of a pit in the sand and capture insects that fall into my jaws.

10.  I drink nectar from deep-throated flowers.

11.  I swim on the surface of the water and have eyes that see both above and below the water.

Answers (Highlight with mouse to see)

1) D–grasshopper;

2) I–praying mantis or J–water scorpion;

3) G–mole cricket;

4) J–water scorpion;

5) B–back swimmer;

6) C–caddisfly larva;

7) F–horntail;

8) E–mayfly nymph;

9) A–antlion nymph;

10) H–sphinx moth;

11) K–whirligig beetle

antlion.pngA backswimmer.pngB






Additional activities:

1.  Closely examine several different insect specimens and see if you can determine how they live.

2.  Invent a new insect.  Draw it to show its adaptations to its habitat and the way it makes a living.  (For example, what would an insect look like that lived on the surface of hard ground frequented by herds of bison, and it made its living by capturing crawling insects?) 

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