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Invertebrates are the animals that lack a back bone. They are very diverse, and include species as different as the Banana Slug, the Green Sea Urchin, sea sponges and the Common House Spider. They are found absolutely everywhere in Canada, from coast to coast to coast, whether in aquatic ecosystems, in the dry Plains or in the Arctic Tundra. About 97% of the species found on Earth are invertebrates, and 85% are Arthropods, a group that includes crustaceans, spiders and insects amongst others.

Approximately 35 000 species of insects have been documented in Canada. So it should come as no surprise that they play a huge role in helping our ecosystem and environment remain healthy.

Consider, for a minute, all the benefits that insects provide:

Birds, fish, and frogs all depend on insects as an invaluable source of food. We humans depend on insects for our honey, beeswax, and silk. Our food crops, flowers, and plants couldn’t flourish without the pollen of nature’s intrepid insects. Insects are also important predators of pests that can destroy our gardens. Plus, our tiny friends also play a critical role in the recycling of materials, eliminating waste, and keeping our soils healthy.

This section will tell you everything you could ever want to know (if not more) about a few of the not-so-creepy critters that call Canada home.

  • Bumble Bee Alexis Hayes Bumble Bee Pollinators (30 seconds) Pollinators (60 seconds) Pollinators - Busy doing what? (webisode)

    Bumble BeeBees are winged, often hairy, pollen-gathering insects of the Hymenoptera order. Many consider bumble bees to be the most important group of pollinators. Pollinators are animals that transfer pollen between plants, allowing fertilization, which is essential to fruit and seed production. Almost 80% of all flowering plants depend on pollinators to help them transfer their pollen.

    There are more than 25,000 bee species in the world. Of the roughly 800 bee species in Canada, next to the honey bee, the bumble bee is the best known. Bumble bees are large (13–25 mm in length), hairy bees that are usually black and yellow with clear wings with black veins. The hind legs of female bumble bees have a wide, cupped area for collecting pollen. The sex of each bee can be distinguished by counting the number of segments on its back (six in females, seven in males), or the number of segments of the antennae (12 in females, 13 in males).

    Bees like the bumble bee are native to Canada, meaning they originated here. Bees that are non-native, like the honey bee, were introduced to Canada from other countries. Some other groups of bees native to Canada include: the masked bee, the plasterer bee, the small mining bee, the dagger bee, the halictid bee, the oil-collecting bee, the leaf-cutter bee, the mason bee, the dwarf carpenter bee, the cuckoo bee and the long-horned bee.

  • Monarch Butterfly André Denis Monarch Butterfly Pollinators (30 seconds) Pollinators (60 seconds) Monarch Butterfly (30 seconds) Monarch Butterfly (60 seconds) Species at Risk in Canada (30 seconds) Species at Risk in Canada (60 seconds) Pollinators - Busy doing what? (webisode)

    With its bright colours, large size, and slow powerful flight, the monarch Danaus plexippus is probably the most widely recognized of all North American butterflies. The bright orange wings, which span 93 to 105 mm, have a thick black border containing two rows of white spots. Male monarchs also have two highly visible black spots on their hind wings. The bands of black on the wing veins are wider on the female monarch.

    At first glance the monarch may be confused with the viceroy Limenitis archippus, which has a similar appearance. The viceroy is smaller, with a wingspan of 70 to 75 mm. The viceroy also has a black crosswise stripe that crosses the bottom of its back wings.

  • Mosquito Debbie Oppermann Mosquito Urban Wildlife (30 seconds) Urban Wildlife (60 seconds) Wetland Wonderland (webisode) Wetlands (30 seconds) expired Wetlands (60 seconds) expired
    Photo: Brock University/Aynsley Thielman

    Mosquitoes are thin, long-legged, two-winged insects and are typically six to 12 millimetres in length. Both males and females have antennae and an elongated "beak" or proboscis three to four times longer than its head. These insects belong to the Diptera order, known as the true flies, in the family Culicidae. All true flies have two wings; however, mosquitoes are the only true flies to have scaled wings.

  • North American Lobster Thinkstock North American Lobster North American Lobster North American Lobster (30-seconds) North American Lobster (youth) North American Lobster (15-seconds)