A step by step guide to identify insects to order level. This identification key works for adult insects found in Europe. It may also work for insects found in other parts of the world. All you have to do is click on the right choice in each box. This will take you to the next box, or to the page dealing with that order of insects.

Box 15

Tiny insects with narrow, fringed wings (see below). Go to Thysanoptera, thrips. Thysanoptera, thrips

Insects not like this. Go to Box 16.

Box 16

Insects with a head pointing downwards like a beak (see below), may also have a scorpion-like tail. Go to Mecoptera, the scorpion flies.

Mecoptera, scorpion fly

Insects not like this. Go to Box 17.

Box 17

Insects that have their wings covered or partly covered in minute scales, and most have a proboscis (tongue) coiled up like a watch spring. Go to Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths.

Insects with wings that are either transparent or hairy. Go to Box 18.

Box 18

Insects whose wings have a network of veins including many cross veins. Go to Box 19.

Insects whose wings have few veins. Go to Box 23.

Box 19

Insects whose abdomen ends in long threads or tails. Go to Box 20.

Insects whose abdomen end with only short or no appendages. Go to Box 21.

Box 20

Insects whose front wings are much larger than their hind wings, and have 2 or 3 terminal filaments off their abdomen. Go to Ephemeroptera, the mayflies.

Insects whose front and hind wings are more or less the same size, or it is the hind wings which are larger. They may have 2 terminal appendages off the abdomen. Go to Plecoptera, the stoneflies.

Stonefly in teh Perlodidae family

Box 21

Insects who have very short antennae, and bodies at least 25 mm long. Go to Odonata, the dragonflies and damselflies.

Insects whose antennae are longer; at least the width of the head. Go to Box 22.

Box 22

Insects whose tarsus (see drawing below) has 3 segments before the claw. Go to Plecoptera, the stoneflies.

insect leg

Insects whose tarsus has 5 segments then the claw. Go to Neuroptera, the lacewings, antlions etc.