How Do You Identify Flying Insects?


Quick Answer

Flying insects can be identified by the shape and type of their wings. It is easy, for example, for most people to identify the species that belong to the lepidoptera order. These are butterflies, skippers and moths.

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Full Answer

Many are quite beautiful and nearly all have two pairs of scaled, covered wings. The wings are often brightly colored to ward off predators, as many of lepidopterans, such as the monarch butterfly, are bad tasting or even poisonous. The wings tend to be broad, though smaller species of moths have triangular wings. It is possible to identify moths and butterflies simply from the patterns and colors of their wings.

Hymenoptera are ants, wasps and bees. They have cylindrical bodies; large, movable heads; and a pronounced thorax that's connected to the abdomen with a sometimes very narrow "waist." The wings are long and oval-shaped, and the hind wings are shorter than the forewings. Though ants are flightless most of their lives, emergent queens and males have wings and mate in the air. After mating, the queen chews her wings off and starts her colony. The male soon dies.

Hemiptera are the true bugs. Their bodies are round or triangular and are somewhat flat. Some are brilliantly colored. Their forewings are half-membranous, while their hind wings are completely membranous and tucked under the forewings and over the abdomen.

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