How Many Bugs are There on the Planet?

Each year, roughly 7,000 to 10,000 new bug species are discovered

How Many Bugs are There on the Planet?
March 29, 2018

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

As you look upon the trays and trays and trays of insects preserved at N.C. State’s Bug Museum, you can’t help but say to yourself and to anyone else in the room (and most likely to the insects in the drawers), “Wow, that’s a lot of bugs!” And that thought might just glead to the broader thought: “I wonder just how many bugs there are in the world?” It’s a good question.

What's a Bug, Anyway?

First, let’s assume the word “bug” is simply a less formal term referring to an “insect.” So, Robert Blinn, the museum collection manager, says scientifically speaking, the word “insect” refers to a creature in the class insecta. To keep it simple, if you have a head, a thorax, an abdomen, three sets of legs and a set of wings, you’re an insect.

Scientists are Still Discovering New Bugs

So how many insects are there? The fact is, nobody knows. Scientists have discovered and named about 1,000,000 different creatures in the animal world. That means everything from worms and snakes to gorillas and horses and even humans. This includes insects. In fact, most of the creatures in the animal world are, in fact, insects. There are almost 800,000 insects already known. And each year, roughly 7,000-10,000 more are discovered.

Blinn says one of the reasons there are so many insects is because they are some of the oldest creatures on earth. Insects have been around more than four million years. They have survived for so long because they can adapt to almost any condition, environment and temperature and they will eat almost anything. It’s safe to say the number of insect species in the world is 800,000 and counting! 

—Frank Graff 

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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Video: Why N.C. State has more than one million bugs on file