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Common identification mistakes made by non-experts (as observed on

Hey guys. I moderate /r/whatsthisbug, and copied and pasted below is our new sticky. I thought BugGuide would appreciate a discussion on this. ¶ Previously, subreddits had a one-sticky limit; we now can have two stickies. If you think we can make better use of our new two-sticky limit, please comment below.
  1. Often what most people think are June bugs are actually rhinoceros beetles. I live in Southern California, and the most common June bugs I find here look much different, not to mention are less than half the size: sericines.
  2. At the minimum, always check members/species of taxa and coordinate taxa. This helps mitigate "jumping to conclusions" by checking your ID against similar members/species. This is because similar members/species are usually found in the same taxa, and to a somewhat lesser degree, coordinate taxa. "Usually" is the operative word here and an exception includes the example in #1 above: June bugs and masked chafers are neither in the same taxon nor are in coordinate taxa. An example of how this practice is helpful is with Enicospilus: Most people will probably misidentify the genus as Ophion, but if they check coordinate taxa by examining other genera in the same subfamily, they'll realize there's another similar genus--Enicospilus. However, to know of exceptions like Netelia requires experience, but that's why you're here anyway, right? To learn from each others' mistakes! :)
  3. If you're not very familiar with a taxon, do not use photos/outward appearances as your sole means of identification. Many taxa and species appear similar outwardly, and dissection of genitalia is often required. A non-genitalia example are the grubs of Scarabaeoidea, which typically require close examination of the raster. Another non-genitalia example are many wasps, which require an examination of venation, which are frequently not visible in photos.
  4. Conspecific variability in coloration is common. As such, morphology is usually more reliable. Check out this hilarious example. This rule applies outside entomology too: Imagine if Homo sapiens sapiens were identified by whether the hominid had a certain complexion.
  5. Because of the reasons in #3, it's common that a species/subspecies identification is impossible from photos alone. It's intellectually honest (the commitment to objectivity) to know when to stop, even if it means only being able to identify the order or family. However, it's fine to speculate probabilistically as long as you indicate it's speculative. See #4 here.
  6. Many leaf-footed bugs, particularly their nymphs, and damsel bugs are mistaken for assassin bugs. Familiarize yourself with them if you're not already familiar; every time a coreid or nabid is mistaken for a reduviid, a bombyliin dies.
  7. Genus is capitalized, and the specific name is lowercase. This isn't mandatory here, but it's a good habit to get into for clarity in communication. So it's not Cimex Lectularius or cimex lectularius, but rather Cimex lectularius. Pro-tip: Once the genus has been declared, subsequent references to the genus can be abbreviated. An example is abbreviating Cimex lectularius to C. lectularius. Wikipedia has a nice article on binomial/scientific/Latin names here.
  8. Cite your source(s). It's not mandatory here, but this helps mitigate dogmaticism/faith/authoritarianism by providing a means for others to validate your identification. If you don't want to cite an external source because your own expertise is your source, indicate your educational background and/or your reasoning behind your identification. EDIT: Thanks to /u/AnecdotallyExtant, I was prompted to provide more clarity (italics added for emphasis):
If you check my IDs, you'll see that I always cite my sources. I don't need to indicate my educational background because it would be redundant--my cited source already accomplishes the goal of validating my identification. ¶ On the other hand, I don't expect /u/Sanluen to cite an external source when identifying tenebrionids (whereas I would) because he's a scholarly expert on them. It would be nice, however, if he validates his expertise by informing OPs that he has a BS/Master's/PhD in entomology with a specialization in Tenebrionidae. ¶ For external sources, cite them and let others determine the credibility of them. If Wikipedia is your most credible source, cite it; I frequently cite Wikipedia since it's the best I can find. ¶ Also good to know is that many insect species--usually the rarer/more obscure ones--do not have literature online. Non-experts will be SOL.The principle is that it's good to provide a reason for others to trust your identification. External or internal sources are such reasons.
¶ I'll add more as I remember/encounter them. And I can't stress enough how ingraining #2-#4 accelerates one's identification skills.

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By the way, does anyone know why I'm not able to insert paragraph breaks on the BugGuide forum?

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