Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Crickets


QUESTION: My 4 year old asked me a good question and I can't find a good answer. So here it is: Since a cricket and other insects have exoskeletons and not skin, then how can they feel heat from a light and be attracted to it at night? I understand this is a bit of Long question for a tot. She has always been very curious and thorough about her queries. Thank you for your time.

ANSWER: Heather:

Impressive four-year-old you have there :-)

Well, this is an insect physiology question, and I was never very good with that subject, so you might want to try finding a local entomologist at a museum or university to help with this one.

I do know that insects are *visually* attracted to lights at night, probably because they are programmed to orient to the moon.  They mistake other lights for that celestial body.

Insect cuticle is thicker in some places and thinner in others (such at leg and body joints), so that might be why they *feel* heat, but many insects (if not all) have thermoreceptors that detect heat.  Some buprestid beetles even seek out charred trees in the immediate wake of forest fires, using heat receptors to find hot boles.

Insects are strange and diverse and there are exceptions to every "rule" you try and assign to them.  Hope this gets you started at least :-)

Happy Holidays, Heather.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for responding. Yes she is impressive to me as well. Thank you. I let her read you answer and she asks if the simple eyes detect light and dark then the spiracles on the abdomen might be able to detect heat much better. Her sweet baby cricket drawing is in need if proper labeling and she doesn't want to get it incorrect.
Being her mother maybe I should take your advice and swoop her over to a museum or something. But I wouldn't know where to go for such an investigation. And yes, she begins these projects for us often. Thank you again. Happy holidays.

I think I might take her to a school for the gifted first.  I am astounded.

Yes, the "simple eyes" (aka "ocelli") do detect light and dark.  The spiracles are probably not related to perception of heat, though certainly they must detect air temperature....

Where are you again?  I might be able to suggest a nearby facility.

You can take this to my e-mail, too, you've earned it:



Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton


I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.


Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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