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Learn to Identify an Insect

Once you know a little about insect characteristics and orders, you can start to identify insects you encounter. Articles on these pages will offer keys, picture guides, and information about how to find the name of an unidentified insect.
  1. Online Identification Keys (3)
  2. Photo Guides to ID Insects (1)

How to Tell the Difference Between a Centipede and a Millipede
Centipedes and millipedes tend to get grouped together, but they're quite different creatures. Though both are arthropods, that's where the similarities end. Here's how to tell which is which.

Ten Simple Questions to Help You Identify An Insect
Have an unknown insect that you want to identify? Use these questions to collect information about your specimen, before you try to use a key or field guide.

Insect Larval Forms
If you need to identify an insect larva, you will first need to recognize its larval form. There are 5 types of insect larvae, differentiated by body form.

How to Tell the Difference Between an Ant and a Termite
People often confuse ants and termites. Both insects live in social colonies, and may take up residence in or near your home. Take a closer look - there are some distinct differences.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Bee and a Wasp
Bees and wasps belong to the order Hymenoptera, and are similar in many ways. However, there are some important differences. This article outlines the major distinctions between bees and wasps.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Butterfly and a Moth
There are six physical or behavioral differences between butterflies and moths. This article describes these differences.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Dragonfly and a Damselfly
Though both dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order Odonata, there are features that separate the two groups into suborders. Knowing whether a mystery odonate is a dragonfly or damselfly will help you identify it. This article outlines the differences between dragonflies and damselflies.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Grasshopper and a Cricket
Grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and katydids all belong to the same order - Orthoptera. Within this group, the grasshoppers and locusts are separated from the crickets and katydids by certain characteristics. These are the major differences between the two suborders of Orthoptera.

Which Caterpillar is Eating My Landscape Trees?
Caterpillars that defoliate trees in your home landscape can be reason for concern, and sometimes require control measures. Three well-known caterpillars – eastern tent caterpillars, gypsy moths, and fall webworm – are often misidentified by homeowners trying to solve defoliation problems.

Sawfly Larva or Caterpillar?
Are you sure you're looking at a caterpillar? Sawfly larvae look very similar to caterpillars. There's one easy way to tell them apart - count their legs.

Asian Longhorned Beetle or Whitespotted Sawyer?
Learn to differentiate the exotic Asian longhorn beetle from the native whitespotted sawyer beetle.

How to Identify Insects That Look Alike

Certain bugs look similar to others, making identification more challenging. What's the difference between a moth and a butterfly, for example? How do you know if you've got ants or termites in your home?  How can you identify insects that look alike? These articles will help you differentiate between bugs with simliar appearances.

Insect Wing Venation Diagram
When using a dichotomous or descriptive key to identify an insect, you may need to examine the pattern of the wing veins and cells. This diagram explains the terminology used to describe insect wings, and illustrates the location of each wing vein and cell.

Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America
The Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, written by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman, is a compact and concise reference for insect enthusiasts. Find out why this book is a must have for your shelf.

National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America
The National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America is a field guide and then some. It includes descriptions and photos of nearly 1,000 insects, spiders, and other arthropods, and a complete introduction to the study of insects.

Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates
This is the field guide we've been missing. Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates covers everything that insects do and make, from cocoons to droppings.

Caterpillars of Eastern North America
If you want to identify a butterfly, you'll find plenty of good field guides to help you. But if you want to identify a caterpillar, you'll need a copy of Caterpillars of Eastern North America.

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West
Looking for a good field guide to identify dragonflies and damselflies? Here's my review of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West, a field guide to the odonates of the western U.S. and Canada.

Best Field Guide to Insects or Spiders
Any insect enthusiast or naturalist needs a good field guide to identify insects in the field. Some field guides are better than others, and everyone has a favorite. What's the best field guide to insects or spiders in your area? Share your review.

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