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Entomology 101: A 5-Minute Course

So, what is entomology? Obviously, it surrounds the study and classification of insects. However, why do contemporary scientists use "entomology" over "insectology"? Actually, the two terms originated as synonyms. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1766, Charles Bonnet's English translation of his French-written Contemplation of Nature, stated: "I have given the name insectology to that part of natural history which has insects for its object; that of entomology ... would undoubtedly have been more suitable ... but its barbarous sound terrify'd me."

Although Bonnet differentiated between the two regarding the aesthetics of oral pronunciation, the two terms diverge in contemporary science through their foci. While entomology references "That branch of natural history which deals with the physiology, distribution, and classification of insects," insectology typically relates to the "study of insects in their economic relations to man, as producers of silk, honey, cochineal, etc., and as agricultural pests or benefactors."

So, why is Entomology important? According to Clemson State's Entomology department, "Insects are the dominant animal life form on earth" and comprise over 80% of known animal forms. While human life relies upon insect life's contribution to the ecosystem, insects simultaneously remain partially detrimental to human existence due to their damage to human produce and forests.

How does the Cornell Insect Collection assist New York State through their study of Entomology? As stated in the About section, the CUIC serves as a repository for research materials built in response to agricultural concerns. Additionally, it analyzes the influence of pesticides such as arsenic on agricultural crops. Finally, its graduate students, based on their own research and work conducted with the Natural Museum of History, also contribute to this study.

If you are interested in how the CUIC works or investigating its archives, please contact its curator or the Entomology department.

Oxford English Dictionary.
On-Line Etymology Dictionary.
Clemson State Entomology Department.