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Insect Identification Key
Order Zoraptera: the zorapterans and angel insects

A zorapteran
This is an example of a member of the order Zoraptera. Specifically, it is Hubbard's angel insect (Zorotypus hubbardi), a 2 to 3 mm long insect that is found in the United States. This illustration shows two wings on one side of the insect and none on the other. This is to demonstrate that this insect has both wingless and winged forms. Illustration is from Maxwell Lefroy's Manual of Entomology, which was published in 1923. The illustration is in the public domain.

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

Members of this order include: zorapterans and angel insects.

Etymology: Zoraptera comes from the Greek words zor, which means pure, and aptera, which means unwinged. The origin of the word “pure” is unknown. “Unwinged” refers to the wingless form of these insects. Some do, however, have wings.

General characteristics:
• minute insects, generally 2–4 mm in length
• whitish to brown or black in color; the whitish individuals sometimes appear almost translucent
• some are winged and later lose their wings; others never have wings
• winged individuals have four wings, with the forewings being longer than the hind wing
• those individuals that have wings for part of their lives also have noticeable eyes
• wingless individuals lack eyes
• triangular-shaped head
• a pair of long, beaded antennae, each of which is made up of nine segments (the “beads”)
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Basic ecology:
Zorapterans live under the bark of damp to wet decaying logs, and sometimes make their homes in piles of sawdust. There, they feed on hyphae, which is the stringy, underground portion of mushrooms and other fungi. They are gregarious, which means that they tend to live in groups made up of anywhere from a dozen to ten dozen or so individuals.

Number of species worldwide: about 30

Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Zoraptera

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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