How to Identify Bugs & Insects

How to Identify Bugs & Insects
Insects are found virtually everywhere and come in many different shapes and sizes. There are almost 100,000 species just in North America. Because of this amazing variety, a field guide is usually required to identify insects that you may find. Although it is not always possible, it is helpful to have the insect in a container so that you can look closely for features that will aid in identification. Audubon Field Guides are an excellent resource when trying to identify an insect or bug.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Audubon field guide Container for holding insect Magnifying glass Forceps or tweezers
  • Audubon field guide
  • Container for holding insect
  • Magnifying glass
  • Forceps or tweezers
Step 1
Take a good look at the insect. Observe what it looks like, how it moves and where it was found. For example, the insect you want to identify has a long abdomen and two sets of wings. The insect flies rapidly and was located near a pond.
Step 2
Use the field guide and go to the Thumb Tab Guide. Study the insect silhouettes until you find a similar shape. In this case, your insect resembles a dragonfly or damselfly.
Step 3
Find the Color Plates. Directly across from the dragonfly silhouette is a page number. This will take you to the Color Plates. These are color photographs that will help in identification.
Step 4
Study the Color Plates to find your insect. There may be a few dragonflies that have a similar shape. Look closely at the shape and colors of the insect to find unique markings or colors to aid in identification.
Step 5
Find the best match for your insect. Go to the page number next to the Color Plate that matches your insect. Read the text under the name of this insect.
Step 6
Match the description to your insect. Contained in the text are the description, habitat, range, food and life cycle. Study the description and use the magnifying glass to carefully study the insect until you can confirm the identity.

Tips & Warnings

Use caution when handling an unknown insect, since some species may bite or sting.

Article Written By Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray has been writing for over 15 years. He has been published in "Florida Sportsman" magazine. He holds an FAA airframe and powerplant license and FCC radiotelephone license, and is also a licensed private pilot. He attended the University of South Florida.

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