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Insect Identification Key
Identify Insects in Michigan ... and beyond!

Ladybugs with and without wings exposed
Like other beetles, ladybugs (also known as ladybird beetles) have two pairs of wings: the hard forewings and the larger, filmy hind wings that are used for flight. When the insect isn’t flying, the hind wings are folded and hidden away beneath the forewings (top photo). Top photo by Leslie Mertz. Bottom photo: public domain.

Simply look at your insect and answer the questions in this key. Your answers will take you to additional questions until you get to the page that identifies your insect at least to its order.

Let’s get started!

Does your insect have wings?

Some insect wings are very obvious. Dragonflies and butterflies, for instance, have large wings that are very easy to see. Other insects, like grasshoppers and beetles, also have wings, but they may not be as noticeable because these insects hold their wings against their bodies when they aren’t flying.

Before answering this question, take a careful look at your insect. Its wings may be held against the body, too, so use an insect pin or other small device to gently probe along the insect’s back to check for wings. Note that an insect’s wings may be membranous or filmy and flexible, like those of a butterfly or dragonfly, or may be stiff and thick like the forewings on a ladybug (see photo).

Click one of the following:

Yes, my insect has wings.

No, my insect does not have wings.




NOTE: Almost all immature insects are wingless. This key does not cover immature insects. If you carefully go through this key and cannot identify your wingless insect, it may be an immature insect. Identifying immature insects takes practice, and as you become more adept at identifying adult insects, you will develop an eye for many immature insects as well.

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Unless noted otherwise, photographs on this website are the property of the photographers and may not be reused without written permission from the photographers. To obtain permission, email the photographers here. High-resolution versions of the photographs are available.

Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz, DailyGraceCards.com; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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