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University of Alberta

Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions

University of Alberta via Coursera


Of all the animals on earth, which are the strongest for their size? What about the fastest? Who were the first animals to evolve flight? Insects take all of these titles and more! As the most abundant animals on the planet, insects and other arthropods affect our lives in so many ways. From beneficial interactions like pollination and biological pest control, to the transmission of life threatening diseases; this course will teach you about the big ways that these little arthropods impact our lives.

In Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions, you will be plunged into the diverse (and sometimes alien) world of arthropods to learn how they work, what they do, and how insects and humans interact every day.

After completing this course, you will be able to:

Describe the evolutionary relationships between insects and their arthropod relatives
Inventory major groups of insects and their diversity
Demonstrate evolutionary adaptations that make insects successful
Discuss insect biology and human-insect interactions
Evaluate positive and negative interactions between insects and humans
Propose practical and symbolic roles insects play in human societies


  • Module 01: Introduction to Insects and their Terrestrial Relatives
    • Arthropods, which includes insects, are the most speciose group of animals on the planet. In this module, we explore some of the traits that have allowed insects to dominate terrestrial landscapes around the world, and introduce you to the major insect orders you’ll deal with in the course.
  • Module 02: The Business of Being an Insect Part 1
    • What makes an insect an insect? How do these strange creatures operate? This module begins to uncover the inner workings of insects, starting with the digestive and circulatory systems.
  • Module 03: The Business of Being an Insect Part 2
    • Building on the previous module, we continue to explore insect biology through an overview of the major physiological systems of insects. We look at the nervous and reproductive systems, and highlight some of the ways insects court, seduce, and reproduce.
  • Module 04: Insect Locomotion
    • Did you know that insects are the strongest animals in the world for their size? Find out what makes insects so strong in this module, in which we introduce insect musculature and how they use it to get around. From swimming to flying, we explore the many ways insects move and the specialized appendages they've evolved to do so.
  • Module 05: Insects as Decomposers
    • Without decomposers, dead trees and leaves would pile up in forests, and we would be walking knee deep in dung and animal carcasses. Insect decomposers help to recycle these materials and many others back into the earth, recycling the nutrients to be used by other organisms again. This module unearths the importance of these decomposers to our ecosystem, and even discusses some ways these insects can be used to help solve crimes.
  • Module 06: Plant Feeding and Impacts of Herbivory
    • This module focuses on the vegetarians of the insect world. A long evolutionary history with plants has led to the development of some interesting feeding strategies in insects, and some wild defenses in the plants they eat. Some of these herbivores can be important pests, and may change entire ecosystems through their feeding.
  • Module 07: Pollination and Beekeeping
    • Over millions of years, pollinators have formed a close relationship with flowering plants, and have helped shape our society and the world around us. Today, many crops are reliant on pollinating insects, and entire industries have been developed around beekeeping. We explore pollination and beekeeping in this module, and discuss some of the challenges pollinators face in our rapidly changing world.
  • Module 08: Insects and Disease
    • Many globally important diseases can be transmitted by insects, and insects themselves can present a nuisance in some situations. This module compares different modes of disease transmission, and highlights some important diseases of plants, humans, and other animals.
  • Module 09: Sustainable Human-Insect Interactions: IPM
    • Integrated pest management (IPM) is a pillar of modern crop production, and the preservation of ecosystem function/health. A variety of chemical pesticides can be a part of IPM programs. The different insecticides available to manage insect pests vary in many regards, such as their modes of action and application. The use of these pesticides is not without risks, however, and these must be considered if we want to reap the benefits these chemicals can provide.
  • Module 10: Sustainable Human-Insect Interactions: IPM (Biological and Cultural Control)
    • Biological and cultural control strategies are critical components of IPM systems that allow us to control pests in different ways, and reduce the input of chemical pesticides into the environment. This module introduces these two approaches, and a wide variety of biological control agents which can be employed to control insect pests.
  • Module 11: Insect Conservation
    • Many of us have thought at one time or another that the world may be better off without pest insects like mosquitoes. This module aims to change that view, as we discuss the importance of insect conservation and the variety of ways the changing world impacts insect populations.
  • Module 12: Insects in Human Culture
    • Entomologists are not the only ones to be inspired by the insect world. From historical myths and folklore, to modern art, film, and even video games; insects and other arthropods have appeared throughout human culture. They have even influenced the development of new technologies, and could be part of the solution to global issues like food shortages.
  • Module 13: Bugs 101 Wrap Up
    • We hope that you have enjoyed the course, and walk away with a newfound appreciation for the insect world. Check out this module to hear about your instructors favourite insects, and don’t forget to complete the post-course quiz to see if your perceptions have changed!

Taught by

Dr. Maya Evenden


4.8 rating, based on 4 Class Central reviews

4.9 rating at Coursera based on 1210 ratings

Start your review of Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions

  • In three words: take this course. A lot of thought clearly went into it. There are great graphics, beautifully arranged course notes, and additional resources with updates on the latest news and discoveries. Despite the astonishing depth and detail,...
  • I found the course very useful, even if I would have like more in depth on some topics.

    However, it's very interesting and a must to understand our environment!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course was so much fun that my only regret is that I have now finished it. I want another! The lecturers are engaging and the pacing worked well for me. The cultural entomology module was the best treatment of the subject that I've ever seen and the conservation module is balanced and professional. I highly recommend this course.
  • Profile image for Nagella Allwyn
    Nagella Allwyn

    Nagella Allwyn is taking this course right now, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Let me congratulate all the faculty for giving a good knowledge of Content. I completed my Module 1 .The material that your providing is apt and up to the mark of learning. The videos and quizzes are useful to recollect the learned material. Hope we will get modules interesting and rich knowledge about entomology

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