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Insect Identification Key
Order Thysanoptera: the thrips

This illustration shows a close-up of the fringed wings of a thrip, as well as the different life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult (imago). It also shows the jaws (maxilla and mandible); the labrum, which is the equivalent of an upper lip in an insect; and the front leg. Note that these insects also have a fringe of fine hairs on the body and legs. Illustration credit: C.V. Riley.
Click here to see examples of other members of this interesting order!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Thysanoptera!

Members of this order include: the thrips.

Etymology: Thysanoptera comes from the Greek thysano, which means fringed or bristled, and ptera, which means wings. Thysanoptera, therefore, means “fringed wings,” which is a reference to the wings. Some thrips are wingless, but among those that have wings, each wing is composed of a thin rod covered with hair-like fringe.

Click here to see examples of more Thysanopterans!

General characteristics:
• may be winged or wingless
• among those with wings, each wing is a slender and rather feathery affair: a thin rod with a comb of fringe-like hairs on either side (one side may have more fringe than the other).
• short antennae comprised of 10 or fewer segments
head is narrower than the thorax
• depending on the species, the abdomen may be cylindrical or may taper to a point at the rear
• range from 0.5-15 mm long
• legs do not have claws; rather, they have bladder-like, inflatable sacs
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Number of species worldwide: 4,500-5,000

Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Thysanoptera

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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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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