The earliest evidence of man's interest in insects is from rock paintings. The insects depicted are bees.
Bees were significant in other early civilisations, for instance at Malia, Crete, where jewellery depicts two golden bees holding a drop of honey.
Egypt, Greek and Roman empires
Scarab Beetle painted on wall of Rameses IX tomb c. 1000 BC.
Bee-keeping was particularly well developed in Egypt and was discussed by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro and Columella.
620–560 B.C. Aesop's Fables relate stories of grasshoppers, ants and other insects.
Shen Kuo described the role of predatory insects in protecting crops from insect pests.
- Konrad of Megenberg Buch der Natur. The first natural history in the German language.The section "Von den Würmen". Written in 1350, Buch der Natur was first printed in moveable type in 1475. NCSU Libraries owns a fragment of the fourth describes insects --both real and imaginary-- and reptiles.
Carlo Crivelli draws an association between flies and death in a painting of the Madonna and Child.
- Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Animalibus insectis libri septem, cum singulorum iconibus AD vivum expressis published. This work was devoted to the insects and some other invertebrates.
- Jacob Hoefnagel Diversae Insectarum Volatium icones ad vivum accuratissimè depictae per celeberrimum pictorem. (Amsterdam), Nicolao Ioannis Visscher.
- Joannes Jonstonus Theatrum Universale Omnium Animalium: Insectorum, Tabulis Viginti Octo ab Illo Celeberrimo Mathia Meriano, Aeri Incisis Ornatum ex Scriptoribus tam Antiquis, Quam Recentioribus - Heilbrunnensis: Franciscus Iosephus Eckebrecht, 1757 (Heilbrunnensis : Ioh. Adami Sigmundi): a compilation of Konrad Gesner’s (1516-1565) and Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1522-1605) natural histories but plates engraved by Matthäus Merian.
- Birth of a girl, later to be an entomologist, Eleanor Glanville.
1662 — (Between 1662 and 1667)
- Jan Goedart publishes Metamorphosis and historia naturalis illustrating, by copper plate engravings, the metamorphosis of various insects.
1664 Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia.
- Erasmus Finx Erasmi Francisci Ost- und West- Indischer wie auch Sinesischer Lust- und Stats-garten mit Einem Vorgespräch von Mancherley Lustigen Discursen; in Drey Haupt-theile Unterschieden. Nürnberg In verlegung J. A. Endters und Wolfgang dess jüngern sel. erben.
- Johann Daniel Major Catalogus oder Index Alphabeticus von Kunst, Antiquitäten, Schatz und fürnehmlich Naturalien-Kammern, Conclavia, Musea, Repositoria, oder auch nur kleinere Serinia Rerum Naturalium Selectorum, Kiel: outlines a collection strategy for museums and lists collections.
- Jan Goedart Jan Goedart publishes De Insectis, in methodum redactus, cum notularum additione. Opera M.Lister; item appendicis ad historiam Animalium Angliae.
- Anton Leeuenhoek publishes Arcana Naturae Detecta.
Observationes circa Viventia, quae in Rebus non Viventibus an important work.
1696 — (from 1696 to 1700)
- Antonio Vallisneri’s Dialoghi will sopra the curiosa Origine di molti Insetti, in English, "Dialogues on the curious origin of several insects", in which he, with Francesco Redi and Malpighi, contradicts the theory of spontaneous generation of maggots.
The development of entomology in the 18th century
In the 18th century three kinds of entomological text appeared. Firstly there were illustrative works — showy insects often beautifully coloured whose purpose was sensual. An example is afforded by Maria von Merian's Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamenis (1705).
Secondly were descriptive and systematic (classificatory) works usually confined to what are now known as the Insecta.Of the second kind Carl von Linne's Systema Naturae published in 1758 at Uppsala stands proud. In this work the binomial system was finally settled on.
Thirdly were works on developmental biology (life cycles), internal anatomy, physiology and so on. These often covered other invertebrate groups. An example is René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur's Memoires pour Servir a L’Historie des Insectes.
- James Petiver publishes a celebrated butterfly work Lepidoptera of the Philippine Islands.
- 1702 is also the date of the world's oldest pinned insect specimen; a Bath White butterfly preserved in Oxford University Museum.
- Maria Sybilla Merian Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamenis (Transformations of the insects of Surinam) published by G. Valck in Amsterdam. It is a masterpiece of both art and science and Maria Merian, "the mother of entomology", was the first to record the full life cycle of many species of butterflies and moths.
- John Ray publishes Methodus Insectorum.
- John Ray publishes Historia insectorum in English, Study of Insects. This is the first attempt at a systematic classification of insect species.
- Francois Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire writes on the use of spider silk as a textile. This was the first such research.
- James Petiver publishes a book on British butterflies entitled Papilionum Brittaniae.
- Mark Catesby publishes part one of The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.
- Scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur publishes the first Mémoires pour Servir à L’Histoire des Insectes in English, "Memoirs Serving as a Natural History of Insects". This is a founding work of entomology, and one of the most important of all zoological works of the 18th century.
- Microscopist Jan Swammerdam's Biblia naturae or "Book of Nature" is reissued. Describing his studies of insects, it is a founding work of entomology.
- John K’Eogh publishes Zoologica Medicinalis Hibernica, in English, "Zoological Medicine in Ireland".
- Johann Christian Fabricius (1745–1808) is born. Fabricius worked on all insect orders.
- Charles Bonnet published his first work on entomology. Entitled Traité d'insectologie, it collected together his various discoveries regarding insects.
- Benjamin Wilkes publishes English Moths and Butterflies.
- Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749–1788) commenced— 36 volumes and 8 additional volumes published after his death by Bernard Germain Étienne comte de La Ville-sur-Illon La Cépède.Until the publication of this encyclopedia it was thought that all animals were created together by God about 6,000 years ago. Not only did this 44 volume encyclopedia contain all biological knowledge of its time, it offered a different theory. 100 years before Darwin, Buffon claimed that man and ape might have a common ancestor. His work also had significant impact on ecology.
- Tenth edition of Carolus Linnaeus Systema Naturae published. World explorers brought back to Europe so many exotic plant and animal specimens that chaos loomed for the 18th-century naturalists attempting to identify, classify, and communicate what they had gathered. Linnaeus made a great contribution to science by developing systems of classification to organize these processes. His principles of organization, especially his system of binomial nomenclature, provided essential tools for entomology. The tenth edition (1758–59), was chosen as the starting point for zoological nomenclature.
- Naturalist and engraver Pieter Lyonnet publishes a monograph on the goat-moth caterpillar, containing details and illustrations of dissections. It is one of the best illustrated books on anatomy ever produced and describes over 4,000 muscles.
- Jacob Hübner (1761–1826) born. Jacob Hübner was the first great world lepidopterist. Before Hübner it was held that there were few genera of Lepidoptera, a view he overthrew. His definitions of genera are among the best of the time and so were his classifications.
- Christiaan Sepp publishes Nederlandische Insecten, in English, "Dutch insects".
- Giovanni Antonio Scopoli publishes Entomologica Carniolica.
- Johann Wilhelm Meigen (1763–1845) born. Meigen began to work on Diptera at the age of twenty five. The first specialist in Diptera Meigen described a vast number of European species and his work on gross taxonomy laid the foundations of the present higher classification of the Order. Unlike his Swedish contemporary Carl Friedrich Fallen he based higher categories on a combination of characters not following Fabricius in using mouthpart characters alone. This new approach was controversial.
- Carl Friedrich Fallen (1764–1830) born. Johann Christian Fabricius attended Linnaeus’s lectures on natural classification. He was one of Linnaeus' most important pupils.
- Etienne Louis Geoffroy published Histoire des Insectes.
- Moses Harris publishes The Aurelian or Natural History of English Insects, namely Moths and Butterflies. This was the first book on the British Lepidoptera. Harris was a pioneer in using wing venation in insect systematics. A more modern revision did not appear until 1803.
- Johann Reinhold Forster publishes A Catalogue of British Insects at Warrington, England — “This catalogue contains 1000 insects; the Swedes have near 1700, it would therefore be an honour to this country to scrutinize carefully into the various branches of Natural History, and to give the public as perfect and extensive catalogues of British Animals as possible”.
- Dru Drury, 1770–1782 Illustrations of natural history, wherein are exhibited figures of exotic insects, a three-volume work commenced at London.
- Christian Rudolph Wilhelm Wiedemann (1770–1840) born. He was a specialist in Diptera (world species).
- Johann Reinhold Forster produces first list of American insects.
- John Coakley Lettsome The naturalist's and traveler's companion, containing instructions for collecting and preserving objects of natural history and for promoting inquiries after human knowledge in general, London: E. and C. Dilly (1774): a much used work on collecting.
- First part of Pieter Cramer's 1775–82 De Uitlandische Kapellen (Papillons Exotiques de Trois Partes de Monde published.
- Johann Christian Fabricius' Systema entomologica published.
Otto Friedrich Müller published Zoologiae Danicae Prodromus.
- Jacob Christian Schäffer Icones insectorum circa ratisbonam indigenorum coloribus naturam referentibus expressaepublished.
- Encyclopédie Méthodique commenced. Its popularity and ubiquity later ensuring the entomological tableau which appeared from 1817 onwards had a wide audience.
- Clas Bjerkander Insect-Calender, för år 1781. Kongliga Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar 3 (4-6): 122-132. Stockholm.
- Publication, in Berlin, of Carl Gustav Jablonsky and Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Herbst Natursystem aller bekannten in- und ausländischen Insecten, als eine Fortzetsung der von Büffonschen Naturgeschichte. Nach dem System des Ritters Carl von Linné bearbeitet or, in English, "Natural system of all well-known in [Europe] and foreign Insects, as a continuation of Buffon’s natural history. After the system of the honoured master, Carl von Linné". This is a superbly illustrated work on world and European Coleoptera. Jablonsky was private secretary to the Queen of Prussia.
- Johann Wilhelm Zetterstedt (1785–1874) born. Zetterstedt worked mainly on Diptera.
- Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy Entomologia Parisiensis, sive, Catalogus insectorum quae in agro Parisiensi reperiuntur ..., co-written with Étienne Louis Geoffroy, published in this year, was a major contribution to systematic entomology.
- Linnean Society of London founded. The Society published many important works on insects.
- Caspar Stoll Representation des Spectres ou Phasmes, des Mantes...Sauterelles des Grillons et des Blattes published. This work contains beautiful plates of praying mantis species.
- Guillaume-Antoine Olivier Entomologie ou Histoire Naturelle des Insectes, avec leurs Caracteres Generiques et Specifiques, leur Description, leur Synonomie et leur Figure Illuminee. Coleopteres. commenced publication in Paris. The first volumes preceded Latreille's in time and the system used was a combination of Linne and Fabricius.
- Johann Wilhelm Meigen commences study of Diptera.
- Johann Jacob Roemer Genera Insectorum Linnaei et Fabricii, Iconibus Illustrata published.
- Carl Peter Thunberg Dissertatio Entomologica Novas Insectorum species sistens, cujus partem quintam. Publico examini subjicit Johannes Olai Noraeus, Uplandus. Upsaliae published.
- Johann Kaspar Füssli Neue Magazin für Liebhaber der Entomologie (last part 1786).
- John Curtis (1791–1862) born.
- Johann Ludwig Christ publishes Naturgeschichte, Klassifikation und Nomenklatur der Insekten vom Bienen, Wespen und Ameisengeschlecht.
- The Dublin Society purchases the natural history collection of Nathaniel Gottfried Leske containing 2,500 species of insects from Europe and the “rest of the World”. The sale catalogue was titled Museum Leskeanum. Pars entomologica ad systema entomologiae. CL. Fabreicii ordinata etc. Leske was from Leipzig and the collection contained (s) Johann Christian Fabricius’ and Johann Friedrich Gmelin's types as well as his own.
- Edward Donovan The Natural history of British Insects commenced publication in London.
- Josef Aloys Frölich, Bemerkungen über einige seltene Käfer aus der Insektensammlung des Herrn Hofr. und Prof. Rudolph in Erlangen. Der Naturforscher 26: 68-165, Halle.
- John Abbot and James Edward Smith The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidoptera of Georgia. A masterwork with than 100 beautifully coloured plates.
- Pierre André Latreille. Precis des Caracteres Generiques des Insectes disposes dans un Ordre Naturel published. It proposed “ Natural classes and genera are based not only on the mouthparts, the wings or the antennae, but on careful observation of the entire structure, even of the smallest differences”.
- Jean Victoire Audouin (1797–1841) born.
- Timeline of entomology — for a list of other available time periods
- List of entomologists
- List of taxon authorities
- Butterflies in paintings.
- NZETC Differences between British and French Organization of Zoological Exploration in the Pacific 1793–1840