Do all insects have six legs?

Do all insects have six legs?

Insects include many different types of creatures, such as ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, cockroaches, crickets, dragonflies, fleas, grasshoppers, silverfish, termites, wasps, and more.

The 4-stage life cycle of an insect is egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Some insects only have a 3-stage life cycle: egg, larva, and adult.

The larva stage – the caterpillar or grub or maggot (depending on the type of insect) – does not usually have six legs. Some larvae, such as maggots have no legs (just little nubs), some larvae, such as beetle grubs, have 3 ‘true’ legs, and some larvae, such as caterpillars, have 3 ‘true’ legs, 4 prolegs and a clasper. But not all caterpillars have this combination of legs, because some caterpillars have only one pair of prolegs. (Note: larva is one, larvae are several)

larvae – caterpillar (left) and silkworm larvae (right)

The larva pupates and forms a casing, called a cocoon or a chrysalis, and after days or weeks, an adult insect emerges – this is called metamorphosis (which means ‘after changing’ or ‘transformation’) where, for most species, the larva looks very different from the adult. Some examples include the following:  a nymph becomes a dragonfly, a maggot becomes a fly, a grub becomes a beetle, and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly or moth. 

So, all adult insects are hexapods, which means that all adult insects have six legs. 

Insects: clockwise – mite, fly, butterfly, and ladybird beetle
butterfly larva (caterpillar)
ladybird beetle

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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