Which mammals have fewer than 4 legs?

Five “insects” that aren't

Not everything that crawls may be counted

What is small, has many legs, and crawls around? An insect! Yes and no, not always. At first glance, many crawlers look like insects - but not everything that crawls and flies automatically belongs to them.


  • Male wasp spider - Photo: NABU / Gisela Kolek-Meyer

  • Tick ​​- Photo: Frank Derer

Spiders, woodlice, worms, mites, millipedes - who can keep track with so much bustle in the animal kingdom? But to tell the different animals apart is really very easy if you know the typical characteristics. We have put together the top 5 doppelgangers of insects for the “Insect Summer” participation campaign.


Confusion candidate # 1 - spider vs. insect / beetle

Wasp spider in heather - Photo: Helge May

Spiders are really close to insects because they also belong to the arthropod tribe, i.e. animals that have an exoskeleton and articulated legs. However, spiders belong to their own class of animals and tend to like to eat insects.

Arachnids always have two body sections (front and back) and eight legs. Unlike insects, spiders do not have antennae or wings. At the end of their abdomen there are spinnerets that spiders can use to produce various fine silk threads. They use them to spin webs, build cocoons or catch their prey. They can also paralyze their prey with their chelicerae, which are mouth limbs on the head.


Confusion candidate No. 2 - woodlouse vs. insect / beetle / bug

Woodlouse (Armadillidium pictum) on spruce - Photo: Helge May

Woodlice are crustaceans and originally come from the sea. We are particularly familiar with the cellar louse. It is the only crustacean that can live permanently on land. Like its related crabs, it has gills and at the same time trachea so that it can breathe on land. That is why it is classified in the group of land lice.

The woodlouse has many individual segments for the body sections: head-chest section, chest section and abdomen. The head is fused to the first chest section. The animals have a total of 14 striding legs and twelve split feet. Like the spider, the woodlouse also has no wings. In the event of danger, it plays dead and curls up into a ball.


Confusion candidate No. 3 - worm vs. insect / caterpillar

Earthworm on wet earth - Photo: Uwe Baumert

Many worms are mistaken for caterpillars or other insect larvae. However, worms have no skeleton or limbs, they move by crawling. The caterpillar, on the other hand, is the butterflies' feeding stage. Because the body volume of the caterpillars increases significantly, they have to shed their skin several times during this development phase until they have reached their final size. In principle, the earthworm is constructed like a skin muscle tube and has several segments; an adult earthworm can have over 160 segments. A worm has no wings, antennae, or eyes - only photoreceptors. With the help of its bristles and the ring and longitudinal muscles, the earthworm is able to crawl both forwards and backwards.


Confusion candidate No. 4 - mites / ticks vs. insects

Pair of sheep ticks - Photo: Helge May

Ticks and mites are not dissimilar to insects either. The well-known tick, also known as the "wood tick", is one of the largest types of mite. All ticks are blood-sucking animals. Most of the sensory organs in mites are their sensory hairs. There are many different types of these. Most are tactile hairs.

Ticks and mites have eight legs and two body sections, like harvestmen they are related to spiders. The head and the trunk are fused together. The tick or mite also has no wings or antennae.


Confusion candidate # 5 - centipede vs. insect / earwig

Centipede - Photo: Peter Höhn / www.naturgucker.de

The centipedes have a large number of legs. 750 legs was the largest number that has ever been counted in a living animal. The often mentioned millipede does not exist. Centipedes have two body sections, namely a head capsule, which consists of several segments fused together, and a torso. Not all centipedes have hundreds of legs, but at least eight.


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The insect summer goes into the fourth round. From June 4th to 13th and August 6th to 15th you can again discover the buzzing and humming in your area and report to us.

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