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Insect Misconceptions and Misinformation


Misconception/Misinformation #10: Insects "breathe."

Examples of Misinformation:

  • "Breathing holes, or spiracles, are located on the thorax and abdomen." From: Nature Close-up: Crickets and Grasshoppers by Elaine Pascoe. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press, Inc. 1999, p. 13. ISBN 1-56711-176-9


Insects possess trachea, tubes that run throughout their body providing areas for gas exchange. They do not have lungs. Tiny openings, called spiracles, exist over the exterior of the insect's second two thoracic and most abdominal segments. These openings connect the trachea to the outside air. Oxygen enters these openings, travels through the trachea, and diffuses into the blood (hemolymph). Carbon dioxide is expelled through these openings. Thus, insects obviously require the excange of the same vital gases as ourselves, but they do not breathe since they lack lungs. A better term is to say that insects have a respiratory, or tracheal system. The act of getting gas into and out of the insect's body is to say that they respire or ventilate (i.e., the up and down movement of the abdomen that helps move gases in the tracheal system).

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