In earning the Insect Study merit badge, Scouts will glance into the strange and fascinating world of the insect. There, they will meet tiny creatures with tremendous strength and speed, see insects that undergo startling changes in habits and form as they grow, and learn how insects see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the world around them.


  1. Tell how insects are different from all other animals. Show how insects are different from centipedes and spiders.
  2. Point out and name the main parts of an insect.
  3. Describe the characteristics that distinguish the principal families and orders of insects.
  4. Do the following:
    1. Observe 20 different live species os insects in their habitat. In your observations, include at least four orders of insects. 
    2. Make a scrapbook of the 20 insects you observed in 4a. Include photographs, sketches, illustrations, and articles. Label each insect with its common and scientific names, where possible. Share your scrapbook with your counselor.
  5. Do the following:
    1. From your scrapbook collection, identify three species of insects helpful to humans and five species of insects harmful to humans.
    2. Describe some general methods of insect control.
  6. Compare the life histories of a butterfly and a grasshopper. Tell how they are different.
  7. Raise an insect through complete metamorphosis from its larval stage to its adult stage (e.g., raise a butterfly or moth from a caterpillar).*
  8. Observe an ant colony or a beehive. Tell what you saw.
  9. Tell things that make social insects different from solitary insects. 
  10. Tell how insects fit in the food chains of other insects, fish, birds, and mammals.
  11. Find out about three career opportunities in insect study. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.
* Some insects are endangered species and are protected by federal or state law. Every species is found only in its own special type of habitat. Be sure to check natural resources authorities in advance to be sure that you will not be collecting any species that is known to be protected or endangered, or in any habitat where collecting is prohibited. In most cases, all specimens should be returned to the location of capture after the requirement has been met. Check with your merit badge counselor for those instances where the return of these specimens would not be appropriate.


Scouting Literature

Animal Science, Bird Study, Collections, Environmental Science, Forestry, Gardening, Mammal Study, Medicine, Nature, Plant Science, Public Health, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Soil and Water Conservation, and Veterinary Medicine merit badge pamphlets

Books and Brochures

  • Arnett, Ross H. American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico. 2nd edition. CRC Press, 2000. The only complete single source for all of the names of orders, families, and North American genera; describes each known order and family of insects and more than 17,000 species.
  • Arnett Jr., Ross H., and Richard L. Jacques Jr. Simon and Schuster's Guide to Insects. Simon & Schuster, 1981. Identifies 350 insects found in North America; discusses their habits, biology, scientific and common names, and instructions for collecting insects.
  • Berenbaum, May R. Ninety-Nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers. University of Illinois Press, 1989. Profiles 99 creatures, giving interesting tidbits about insects and insect biology.
  • --------. Ninety-Nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers. University of Illinois Press, 1993. Humorously presents the life cycles and lifestyles of 99 insects and other arthropods.
  • Bland, Roger G., and H. E. Jaques. How to Know the Insects. McGraw-Hill, 1978.
  • Chronicle Guidance Publications. Occupation Brief #243: Entomologists. Chronicle Guidance Publications, Inc. Occupation briefs are $2.25 each (with a nominal minimum order). Order from 66 Aurora St., Moravia, NY 13118-3576; telephone: 800-899-0454; e-mail: customerservice@; Web site:
  • Chu, H. F., and Laurence K. Cutkomp. How to Know the Immature Insects. McGraw-Hill, 1992.
  • Dashefsky, H. Steven. Insect Biology: 49 Science Fair Projects. McGraw-Hill, 1992.
  • Dunkle, Sidney W. Dragonflies Through Binoculars: A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America. Oxford University Press, 2000. Allows for quick and easy identification of the 300-plus species of dragonflies in the United States and Canada, with detailed accounts of every species mentioned and full-color photos of most.
  • Holldobler, Bert, and Edward O. Wilson. The Ants. Harvard University Press, 1990. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book has many beautiful illustrations and photographs, and ends with a chapter on how to collect and observe ants.
  • Imes, Rick. The Practical Entomologist. Fireside, 1992. Covers most aspects of insects including their hierarchy, life cycles, habitats, and behavior, as well as ecology, collection techniques, and control of pests; many helpful color photographs and drawings.
  • Lehmkuhl, Dennis M. How to Know the Aquatic Insects. McGraw-Hill, 1979. For beginning aquatic biologists.
  • Milne, Lorus J. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. Knopf, 1980. Photographs and descriptions of 550 insect species and 60 kinds of spiders; covers all of the most common species.
  • Mound, Laurence. Insect. Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books, 2000. Full-color photographs and drawings of many different insect groups, their habitats, anatomy, relationships, and more.
  • Opler, Paul A. Peterson First Guides: Butterflies and Moths. Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Concise field guide to the most common butterflies and moths of North America.
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Peterson First Guides: Insects. Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Concise field guide to 200 common insects of North America.
  • Pyle, Robert Michael. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Knopf, 1981. More than 1,000 photographs of the butterflies of North America north of Mexico, including all true butterflies, the most common skippers, and many migrants and strays.
  • Turpin, F. Tom. Insect Appreciation. 2nd edition. Entomological Society of America, 2000. Introduction to the broad concepts of insect study to help students develop an understanding of insects and appreciate the impact insects have on people and the biosphere.
  • West, Larry, and Julie Ridl. How to Photograph Insects and Spiders. Stackpole, 1994. Covers equipment and details of close-up photography, as well as finding and working with insects.
  • White, Richard E. A Field Guide to the Beetles of North America. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
  • Wilsdon, Christina, et al. National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Insects. Scholastic, 1998. Excellent introduction to insects, with descriptions and detailed photographs of common species; sized to fit in a field vest pocket.
  • Winston, Mark L. The Biology of the Honey Bee. Harvard University Press, 1991. A comprehensive resource on the life of the honey bee.
  • Wright, Amy Bartlett, and Roger Tory Peterson. Peterson First Guides: Caterpillars. Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Covers 120 common species of North America, with illustrations of caterpillars' food plants and the adult moth or butterfly each caterpillar becomes.