Question: I would like some help from time to time identifying bugs I find in my yard. Would the Help Desk be able to help me with that? What information do you need from me?
Answer: Absolutely, the Denton County Master Gardener Association Help Desk can help you with identifying adult or mature “bugs”. It is pretty difficult to identify immature “bugs”.
To start out, let’s briefly review the basic identifying characteristics of pests commonly found in home landscapes and gardens – Insects, Spiders, Centipedes, and Millipedes.
- Have 3 distinct body regions: head, thorax (chest), and, abdomen
- Have 6 jointed legs that come from the thorax (chest)
- Many have wings but not all
- Most have two compound eyes
- Most have antennae or feelers
- Have 2 regions of the body: the front called the cephalothorax, and abdomen
- Have four pairs of walking legs on each side of the cephalothorax in adult arachnids
- Most have eight eyes
- Have no wings or antennae
- Have a distinct head
- The body is a series of segments, relatively flat in shape in cross-section
- Each segment generally has 1 pair of walking legs
- Have antennae and, a pair of poison fangs
- Generally found in out of the way places such as under logs or rocks
- Have a distinct head
- The body is a series of segments, relatively round in shape in cross-section
- Each segment generally has 2 pairs of walking legs
- Have antennae but no fangs
Keeping these basic identifying characteristics in mind, here is a checklist of information the DCMGA Help Desk needs to assist you in identifying common garden pests:
What Bug Is This Information Checklist
Pictures/photos that show
- Number of body sections and shape
- Size relative to a common object like a coin if possible
- Top and underside if possible
- How many legs, antennae or feelers if present?
- Wings if present and color
- Mouthparts/shape, e.g., jaw-like chewing mouth or sucking tube or sword-like structure
- Pictures of any damage done by this pest, e.g. plant leaves, branches, trunk, flowers, clothing
- Please describe any of the above if a picture is not possible
- When the pictures were taken – date, time of day and the weather conditions
- How many of these pests did you see?
- Location of the pests:
- City or rural location
- In a garden, vegetable or ornamental; wooded or marshy area? Was there standing water nearby?
- Was it on a plant – what type of plant and where, e.g., leaves, branches, trunk, flowers, the soil under the plant?
- If not on a plant, was it outside or inside your home, where exactly?
- Other helpful information:
- Has the soil nearby been disturbed lately, e.g., digging, construction, severe rain?
- Was a possible new habitat brought in such as mulch, topsoil, new plants (what type), or packaging from other products?
- What other evidence of infestation did you find, e.g, castings (insect poop), webbing, mounds, honeydew (sticky, sugar-laden fluid), black sooty mold, foamy spittle, or frass (sawdust-like insect waste)? A picture of this evidence is helpful.
- Why are you interested in identifying the pest – damage to plants or property, biting or stinging, control recommendations, etc.
Other Insect & Pest Identification Resources
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension “Ask An Entomologist” offers an online form to identify an insect or pest at this link https://askanentomologist.tamu.edu/insect-id-form/. Be prepared to have the answers to all the questions above as well as pictures to upload. Although they don’t promise same day service, they will try to respond as quickly as possible.
- Insect Identification for the casual observer
- BugFinder – Insect Search and Identification Tool
Sources and Resources
“Introduction to arthropods.” amentsoc.org, Amateur Entomologists’ Society, 1 Jan. 2020, http://www.amentsoc.org/insects/what-bug-is-this/arthropod.
“Insect Identification: Experts and Guides to ID That Bug You Found.” entomologytoday.org, Entomological Society of America, 24 May 2019, entomologytoday.org/2018/07/03/insect-identification-experts-guides-bug-spider-arachnid-entomology/
“Insect ID Form.” askanentomologist.tamu.edu, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 1 Jan. 2020, askanentomologist.tamu.edu/insect-id-form/.
Antman’s Hill Facebook group to the bug identification resource list. The link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/antmans.hill/