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Garden Plot: Bugs, insects, spiders an important part of garden ecosystem

This monarch caterpillar will dine only on milkweed. (Diane Lynch photo / For The Ark)

About half of life on earth is concentrated in the insect class, which is in the Arthropod phylum. Insects are characterized by having an exoskeleton, a three-part body, three pairs of jointed legs, a pair of antennae and compound eyes. There are an estimated 6 million to 10 million species, and about a million have been described, meaning that more than 90% of animal forms on earth are insects. Think dragonflies, moths, butterflies, ants, termites, bees, worms, beetles — the list goes on and on.

Then there are bugs, which are in the order Hemiptera and are characterized by having piercing mouthparts and sometimes a shield-like back. Think stink bugs, water bugs, bed bugs and aphids. All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs.

But guess what? Spiders are not insects. They have a two-part body and are invertebrates. They typically have eight legs. The group Arachnida includes spiders, mites, ticks and scorpions. Some of our favorites, right?

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