How many insects are there in the world?


A question that most of us don’t know or probably care about but I love bugs. Not afraid to admit it but anyway; I’ve always wanted to know this answer so I looked at a number of sources. I first researched this about a year ago, when I was away at college and here’s what I found.

The first thing I noticed was that in the last decade, much attention has been given to the entomofauna (the insects of an environment or region that exists) in the canopies of tropical forests of the world. From studies conducted by Terry Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Entomology in Latin American forest canopies, the number of living species of insects has been estimated to be 30 million. Insects also probably have the largest biomass of the terrestrial animals. At any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 for those who like actual numbers) individual insects alive.

In the United States, the number of described species is approximately 91,000. The undescribed species of insects in the United States, however, is estimated at some 73,000. The largest numbers of described species in the U.S. fall into four insect Orders: Coleoptera (beetles) at 23,700, Diptera (flies) at 19,600, Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps) at 17,500, and Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) at 11,500.

Part 2 of this blog is coming soon but for now here’s a piece of information to leave you with.

Recent figures indicate that there are more than 200 million insects for each human on the planet! A recent article in The New York Times claimed that the world holds 300 pounds of insects for every pound of humans. Your Thoughts?


Erwin, T. L. 1983. Tropical forest canopies: the last biotic frontier. Bulletin of the Entomological Society of America, Volume 29: 14-19.



7 thoughts on “How many insects are there in the world?

  1. Pingback: 25 Kickass Random Facts List #71 |

  2. Pingback: #CoolFacts 125 - CoolLivin

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