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

Coil, close-up of scales
Top photo: Notice the mouthparts, which are shaped like a coiled tube, on this butterfly. The butterfly is a great purple hairstreak (Atlides halesus).
Bottom photo: This extreme close-up of a butterfly’s wing reveals its tiny black, orange, white and gray scales. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Thomas G. Barnes.

Your answer to the previous question was that your insect has wings that are all similar in structure.

Does your insect have mouthparts like a twisting or coiled tube; and wings that are covered with scales?

Look at the mouth of the insect for a straw-like tube that is either twisted or coiled up. (See the photo at right.)

In addition, use a magnifying glass, or preferably a microscope, to look for scales on its wings. (See the photo at right.) Scales are actually very small and overlapping pieces of a protein-containing material called chitin, which is the same material that is found in the insect’s exoskeleton.

These scales easily brush off the of insect, and look like dust, so be careful when handling your insect and don’t touch the wings with your fingers. The more scales it loses, the less colorful its wings will appear.

Click one of the following:

Yes, my insect has coiled or twisted, sucking mouthparts, and scale-covered wings.

No, my insect does not have these characteristics.

I would like to return to the start of this key.

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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,; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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