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A few examples of how insects have inspired human innovation:

Insects are known for their essential pollination and decomposition services and are a vital part of the global food chain, but how have insects inspired human technologies?

Ashy mining bee on an old dandelion head, Photo by Rory Lewis

Ants, bees, and other social insects exhibit complex collective behaviours and coordination in large groups. This has inspired the development of swarm robotics, where multiple small robots work together to accomplish tasks efficiently. Swarm robotics finds applications in areas such as search and rescue missions, environmental monitoring, and warehouse automation.

Beetles in the Namib desert have inspired the development of innovative water collection methods. These beetles possess specialised structures that allow them to collect water from fog and condensation in arid environments. Scientists have replicated these structures to create materials that can harvest water from the air, potentially offering a sustainable solution for water scarcity in dry regions.

Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle, photo by Benjamin Salb
A close up of an insect's compound eye

The compound eyes of insects, which consist of numerous tiny lenses, not only inspired the lab within the RES garden but have inspired the development of advanced imaging systems. Scientists and engineers have drawn inspiration from the structure of insect eyes to create compact, wide-angle cameras and imaging devices that offer a broad field of view and improved depth perception.

The adhesive properties of insect feet have led to the development of innovative adhesives and climbing technologies. By studying the microscopic structures and mechanisms of insect feet, scientists have created adhesives that can cling to various surfaces, enabling the development of climbing robots and enhanced adhesive materials.

Close up of a Mole cricket foreleg, photo by Ángel Plata Sánchez
Ant feeding on fruit flies pupae, photo by Ángel Plata Sánchez

Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are commonly used as model organisms in medical research. Their simple genetic makeup and short lifespans make them ideal for studying various biological processes and disease mechanisms. Insights gained from studying these insects have provided valuable information for understanding human biology and developing medical interventions.

Insects are a source of bioactive compounds that can be used in pharmaceutical research. For example, antimicrobial peptides found in the immune systems of insects have inspired the development of new antibiotics. Insect venoms are also studied for their potential use in pain relief, cancer treatment, and neurological disorders.

Black Soldier Fly Head (Hermetia illucens) Photo by Thomas Shahan
Fly (Muscidae) resting on a leaf, photo by Sarah-Fiona Helme

Maggots of certain fly species, such as Lucilia sericata, have been used in medical practice for centuries to aid in wound healing. The larvae secrete enzymes that promote tissue debridement and stimulate wound healing. Additionally, researchers are studying the regenerative capabilities of insects, such as their ability to regrow lost body parts, to gain insights into tissue regeneration in humans.

Insects have unique adaptations and features that inspire the development of medical devices and technologies. For example, the microscopic structures on butterfly wings that repel water and dirt have influenced the design of self-cleaning surfaces for medical instruments and implants.

Close up of a butterfly wing
Twin-Lobed Deerfly by Marc Brouwer

Tiny, needle-like structures inspired by the mouthparts of certain insects, such as mosquitoes have gained significant attention for the development of medical devices and drug delivery due to their potential for painless and minimally invasive applications.

There’s a huge range of careers that feature entomology – Check out some of these roles and see individuals already progressing in the field.

Did you see an insect at RHS Chelsea Flower Show? Tag us in your photos on social media (and be sure to identify it with iRecord). We can’t wait to see the life found in the varied environments of the #RESGarden 🦋


The Royal Entomological Society is a non-profit organisation and relies on publishing, membership and donations to pursue its support of scientific, educational, ecological and entomological causes.
We plan to relocate the RES garden to central London with a new education program providing a long-term opportunity for insect study as part of our planned UK network of gardens. The garden will show how remarkable and valuable insects are with visible insect science taking place in the unique – insect eye inspired – outdoor laboratory.
Much like the diversity of insects, there are many ways to support us and our work – your contribution, no matter how big or small, makes a huge impact and enables us to continue to enrich the world with insect science.

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