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This book, the first to catalogue ecologically important insects by their roles, gives us an enlightening look at how insects work in ecosystems—what they do, how they live, and how they make life as we know it possible. In this communication system, called dance language , the angle at which a bee dances represents a direction relative to the sun, and the length of the dance represents the distance to be flown.
Bombus terrestris , for example, exhibit a faster learning curve for visiting unfamiliar, yet rewarding flowers, when they can see a conspecific foraging on the same species.
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Only insects that live in nests or colonies demonstrate any true capacity for fine-scale spatial orientation or homing. This can allow an insect to return unerringly to a single hole a few millimeters in diameter among thousands of apparently identical holes clustered together, after a trip of up to several kilometers' distance. In a phenomenon known as philopatry , insects that hibernate have shown the ability to recall a specific location up to a year after last viewing the area of interest.
The eusocial insects build nests, guard eggs, and provide food for offspring full-time see Eusociality. Most insects, however, lead short lives as adults, and rarely interact with one another except to mate or compete for mates. A small number exhibit some form of parental care , where they will at least guard their eggs, and sometimes continue guarding their offspring until adulthood, and possibly even feeding them. Another simple form of parental care is to construct a nest a burrow or an actual construction, either of which may be simple or complex , store provisions in it, and lay an egg upon those provisions.
What Good are Bugs?: Insects in the Web of Life | NHBS Academic & Professional Books
The adult does not contact the growing offspring, but it nonetheless does provide food. This sort of care is typical for most species of bees and various types of wasps. Insects are the only group of invertebrates to have developed flight. The evolution of insect wings has been a subject of debate.
Some entomologists suggest that the wings are from paranotal lobes, or extensions from the insect's exoskeleton called the nota , called the paranotal theory. Other theories are based on a pleural origin. These theories include suggestions that wings originated from modified gills, spiracular flaps or as from an appendage of the epicoxa.
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The epicoxal theory suggests the insect wings are modified epicoxal exites, a modified appendage at the base of the legs or coxa. The appearance of gigantic insects has been found to be consistent with high atmospheric oxygen. The respiratory system of insects constrains their size, however the high oxygen in the atmosphere allowed larger sizes. Insect flight has been a topic of great interest in aerodynamics due partly to the inability of steady-state theories to explain the lift generated by the tiny wings of insects.
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But insect wings are in motion, with flapping and vibrations, resulting in churning and eddies , and the misconception that physics says "bumblebees can't fly" persisted throughout most of the twentieth century. Unlike birds , many small insects are swept along by the prevailing winds  although many of the larger insects are known to make migrations. Aphids are known to be transported long distances by low-level jet streams. Many adult insects use six legs for walking and have adopted a tripedal gait.
The tripedal gait allows for rapid walking while always having a stable stance and has been studied extensively in cockroaches and ants. The legs are used in alternate triangles touching the ground. For the first step, the middle right leg and the front and rear left legs are in contact with the ground and move the insect forward, while the front and rear right leg and the middle left leg are lifted and moved forward to a new position.
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When they touch the ground to form a new stable triangle the other legs can be lifted and brought forward in turn and so on. However, this type of locomotion is not rigid and insects can adapt a variety of gaits. For example, when moving slowly, turning, avoiding obstacles, climbing or slippery surfaces, four tetrapod or more feet wave-gait  may be touching the ground.
Insects can also adapt their gait to cope with the loss of one or more limbs. Cockroaches are among the fastest insect runners and, at full speed, adopt a bipedal run to reach a high velocity in proportion to their body size. As cockroaches move very quickly, they need to be video recorded at several hundred frames per second to reveal their gait. More sedate locomotion is seen in the stick insects or walking sticks Phasmatodea.
A few insects have evolved to walk on the surface of the water, especially members of the Gerridae family, commonly known as water striders. A few species of ocean-skaters in the genus Halobates even live on the surface of open oceans, a habitat that has few insect species. Insect walking is of particular interest as an alternative form of locomotion in robots. The study of insects and bipeds has a significant impact on possible robotic methods of transport. This may allow new robots to be designed that can traverse terrain that robots with wheels may be unable to handle.
A large number of insects live either part or the whole of their lives underwater. In many of the more primitive orders of insect, the immature stages are spent in an aquatic environment. Some groups of insects, like certain water beetles , have aquatic adults as well.
Many of these species have adaptations to help in under-water locomotion. Water beetles and water bugs have legs adapted into paddle-like structures.
Dragonfly naiads use jet propulsion, forcibly expelling water out of their rectal chamber. They can do this because their claws are not at the tips of the legs as in most insects, but recessed in a special groove further up the leg; this prevents the claws from piercing the water's surface film. Insect ecology is the scientific study of how insects, individually or as a community, interact with the surrounding environment or ecosystem.
An example is the beetles , which are scavengers that feed on dead animals and fallen trees and thereby recycle biological materials into forms found useful by other organisms. Insects are mostly soft bodied, fragile and almost defenseless compared to other, larger lifeforms.