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A Brief Look at Nocturnal Insects - Mosquitoes, Moths and Cockroaches

Updated on March 22, 2014

There are numerous insects around the world classified as the largest type of animals on land. There are 925,000 species of insects which can be found in every habitat and micro-habitat imaginable. The insects can be predators, prey, herbivores, decomposers, hosts or parasites.

Generally, the insects' bodies are divided into three sections: head, thorax and abdomen. There are some insects which can be hard to identify head from thorax as they are fused together. Also, some baby insects which are known as immatures do not have all the three sections of the body until they become adults.

Most of the insects have antennae on their heads which they use as sense of smell and touch. Adult insects including most immatures have six legs joined to thorax, the middle section of the body. Also, they have wings which are attached to the thorax.

Insects can grow in two ways which can either be complete or incomplete. In complete metamorphosis the baby insects look different from adults and the foods they eat is often very different than those of adults. In the case of incomplete metamorphosis the babies look like small adults which have no wings. The foods they eat are of the same kind to those of adults.

Insects are divided into two groups which are Diurnal and Nocturnal. Diurnal insects are insects which are active during the day while nocturnal insects are insects which are active at night.

There are two reasons why insects are nocturnal;

  1. To prevent, avoid or minimize the exposure of too much light from the sun;
  2. At night there are few predators

Nocturnal insects or insects active at night are divided into two groups:

a) Phototaxic

These are insects which are attracted to light.

b) Negative Phototaxic

These are insects which are not attracted to light. They normally run or fly away from light.

This article will briefly look at three most common nocturnal insects: cockroaches, moths and mosquitoes

Cockroach on apple
Cockroach on apple | Source


Cockroaches are one of the most loathed insects in the world. They are regarded more of a nuisance than of any benefit, though some people keep some species of cockroaches as pets.

Cockroaches prefer warm and humid environments. Most species of cockroach are not fond of light and once light is switched on, they will be seen scarring or running away from light to their hideouts.

There are approximately 4,500 species of cockroaches known and it is believed according to that they have changed a little in appearance in 320 million years. "Fossil records indicate that they were predominant insects during the carboniferous period 345 to 280 million years ago."

Generally, cockroaches are regarded as pests. However, this is not the case. Only four species of indoor cockroaches are pests. Other species of cockroaches are important to the environment as they are recyclers of decaying organic matter. The species of cockroaches which are pests can be carriers of various diseases.

The diet of cockroaches consist of dead insects, animal products, plant, clothing, papers and a range of waste or left-over food.

Cockroaches can live for a month without food and two weeks without water. They can live for one week without their head and they can run at a speed of 3 miles an hour. There are some species of cockroaches where females only mate once and stay pregnant for the rest of their lives.

A tagged Monarch Butterfly
A tagged Monarch Butterfly | Source


There are over 142,000 known species of moths worldwide.

Moths rank number two as the highest species of insects all over the world; the beetles leading with the highest number of species.

A mark of difference between moths and butterflies is that butterflies are diurnal (active in daytime) while moths are nocturnal. Moreover, there are species of moths which are diurnal.

As the species of moths are numerous, they are divided into two groups which are the larger moths or macro moths, and the smaller moths or micro moths.

While moths can be harmful to plants, they are beneficial as they play important roles in the ecosystem. As noted by, “… moths also benefit plants by pollinating flowers while feeding on their nectar, and so help in seed production. This not only benefit wild plants but also many of our food crops, which depend on moths as well as other insects to ensure a good harvest.”


Mosquitoes are not only the most dangerous insects; they are also the world’s number one dangerous animals.

There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes. Nevertheless, two species of nocturnal mosquitoes are the most dangerous species of mosquitoes.

Female Anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of malaria parasites. The female Anopheles mosquito is responsible for transmission of this disease when it bites a person infected with malaria parasite. After a week, the infected female Anopheles mosquito is capable of spreading the disease when it bites a non-infected person.

Culex mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of West Nile Virus and Filariasis. The Culex mosquito bites at dawn or after dusk. The female mosquitoes are the transmitters of the above diseases. As is the case with female Anopheles mosquitoes, the female Culex mosquitoes need blood in order for their eggs to develop.

Schmetterling (9907)
Schmetterling (9907) | Source
Mauritian mosquito
Mauritian mosquito | Source

© 2014 Alianess Benny Njuguna


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