One of the basics of beetle identification is noticing the character of the wings. Beetles always have wings as adults and have front wings, or elytra, that are thicker than their hind wings. The hind wings also fold beneath the front wing covers. Other basics of beetle identification are whether or not the insect has chewing mouthparts and antennae with 11 segments.
After the insect has been identified as a beetle, there are other ways to identify the family, genus and species it belongs to. These identifiers include the size of the beetle, its coloration, any type of modifications it has to the basic beetle body plan and its habitat.
For example, the males of the American stag beetle can grow to nearly 5 inches long and have enormous mandibles. They are shiny brown and live in the northeastern United States.
Weevils tend to have snout-like heads and jointed antennae. They are found all over North America.
Ladybugs are small, oval shaped and have distinctive coloration. Their heads are often concealed by the pronotum, which is a projection of the first part of the thorax.
Tiger beetles are fast-moving insects that have long bodies that are sometimes metallic, long legs and long antennae.