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

Ebony Jewelwing (<i>Calopteryx maculata</i>)
A student in Eastern Michigan University's Fish Lake Biological Program displays a beautiful ebony jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata). Photo by Amanda McCreless

This key will to help you identify different insect orders. We are using many examples of insects found in Michigan, but the key will work anywhere.

How the Key Works

This is a dichotomous key, which means that at each step, you will have two choices. Your answers will lead you to the type of insect you have.

What You Need

A magnifying glass in case you need to see a small feature on your insect. And it’s fun to see your insect close up!

Patience because insect identification can be tricky. You may even have to go through the key a few times to identify your insect, especially if you’re not sure how to answer a question. Stick to it! You’ll get better quickly, and it’s very rewarding to finally figure out your insect!

Note: A key for non-adult insects would be extremely challenging, so this key is for adult insects only — it is not designed for grubs, caterpillars, maggots, nymphs or other non-adult insects.

Created by ...

The initial key: During the summer of 2011, five students enrolled in a course through Eastern Michigan University’s Fish Lake Biological Program, and created a key to the insect orders, which is available for free download here. The five students were: Charlotte Dotson, Mary-Jo Germain, Amanda McCreless, Renee Millard and Sara Mitchell. They spent many hours adding photos and information to make the key accessible to anyone from children to adults. They did a great job! In addition, the team also provided examples of many of the orders plus order descriptions in a second document, an Insect Database. For a free download of the database, click here.

The website: The course instructor, Dr. Leslie Mertz, expanded upon the students’ initial key to build this key. From there, she also added pages for all of the hundreds and hundreds of photos people began sending in from around the world.

• We hope you have fun with this key and learn something new!

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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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