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DRAFT: Most Frequently Requested IDs

The purpose of this page is to help assist you with identifying some of the more commonly found "bugs" and spiders. While posting to "ID Request" is definitely a great idea and is strongly encouraged, many times the same insect or spider is posted repeatedly in a single week. So to help you figure out what "critter" you have found, we've compiled a quick list (with photos) of the most commonly requested ID's.

There are two sections to this article: Arachnids (Spiders) and Insects. Please look through the lists, click on the images, and follow the provided guide links to help ID your specimen, and learn more about "what it is" you might have found. Also please check the guide page links, as they will have more information about the range, habitat, and typical size of the specific insect/arachnid.

If you do not find your specimen listed here, or if you have photographed an insect/spider displaying an unusual behavior (like a crane fly doing a Broadway musical), or if you are still unsure and would like confirmation of the ID, PLEASE, by all means, submit your images to the ID request page. If it is listed below, and you have additional questions, check the "General Discussion" forums and post your question if you don't see a related posting.

Many people think that “bugs” are out to get them, which is completely untrue. Almost all “bugs” are harmless and are actually beneficial; only a few species are potentially harmful.

All listed creatures are typically very docile and are not aggressive. However, if someone tries to pick it up, or otherwise disturb it, some of the insects/arachnids will feel threatened and will defend themselves (much like you would defend yourself if someone tried to pick you up). Some of these defense mechanisms can be painful, or even harmful.

Advice: Do NOT try to pick up the insect/spider, but rather observe, photograph, and learn without physical contact. If you are concerned that your unidentified specimen is potentially dangerous or harmful, please refer to this article: Dangerous Arachnids and Insects in our guide section.

Any reference to biting, stinging, etc. within this article is only a defense mechanism when the creature feels threatened. The "bug" will not randomly attack or chase you down. One thing to remember about “bugs” is if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you; however, if you need to remove an unwanted “bug”, place a clear cup over it and slowly slide an index card underneath the cup.

Taxonomical Naming Convention:
To help you look up additional information about your find (in books and on the web), the taxonimcal name/classification is listed.
For this article, the taxonomical naming format will be: "Family:Genus" or "Species" (species italicized)
Example: A Black and Yellow Argiope would be: Argiope aurantia
Example: Dolomedes Genus Fishing Spider would be: Pisauridae:Dolomedes

Goto: Spiders and Arachnids
Goto: Insects

All spiders are predatory, however, most that are found in your backyard and in your homes are not dangerous. They will bite if provoked, but there is nothing to fear from spiders. Some spiders are actually encouraged to take up residence in and around your homes, as they will do their part to control the insect population.

After seeing if your spider is in the list, and if you are curious about your spider's gender, please refer to the bottom of the section about spiders.

Female A. aurantia Female A. aurantiaFemale A. aurantiaBlack and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia)
Dangerous: No

Size: Up to 1 inch (body length)
Web: Large, orb-shaped often with vertical zig-zag (stabilimentum) in the middle.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Orb Weaver, Neoscona spp. Orb Weaver, Neoscona spp.? Orb Weavers (Family: Araneidae; Genera: most often Araneus and Neoscona)
Dangerous: No

Size: Tiny (approx. 1/10 inch) up to approximately 1 inch (body length)
Web: Orb-shaped (specifics vary with species)
Note: Very few are visibly identifiable to a species. Males look different than females.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Female Dolomedes scriptus Female Dolomedes scriptusDolomedes Fishing Spider (Pisauridae:Dolomedes)
Dangerous: No

Size: Large, up to 1 inch (body length)
Web: None, unless laying eggs.
Note: Resembles a wolf spider, but this spider is found near water.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis Female Wolf Spider carrying youngWolf Spiders (Family: Lycosidae)
Dangerous: No, but size and appearance can be unsettling.

Size: Small (approx. 1/4 inches) up to 1.5 inches in body length
Web: None
Note: Ranges in size and location.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Bold Jumping SpiderBold Jumping Spider, male Phidippus AudaxBold Jumping Spider (Phidippus Audax)
Dangerous: No

Size: Small (up to 1/2 inch) in body length
Web: None, unless nesting with eggs
Note: Might bite if provoked. It has excellent eyesight and will track your movement.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Crab Spider, Misumeniodes spp. Crab SpiderCrab Spiders (Family: Thomisidae)
Dangerous: No

Size: Small (up to 1/2 inch) in body length
Web: "Stringy", no order, typically in flowers
Note: Can change color to blend in with surroundings.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Female Grass Spider, AgelenopisMale Grass Spider, AgelenopsisGrass Spiders (Agelenidae:Agelenopsis)
Dangerous: No

Size: Small (approx. 1/10 inch) up to 3/4 inch in body length
Web: Large sheet with funnel structure off to side. In bushes and grass.
Note: The "long tapered" backend and web type are a good indication.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Wind Scorpion Wind ScorpionWind Scorpions (Order: Solifugae)
Dangerous: No
Size: Around 1 inch
Note: Although it has a name of "scorpion", it is not dangerous.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

PseudoscorpionPseudoscorpionPseudoscorpions (Order: Pseudoscorpiones)
Dangerous: No

Size: Tiny, less than 1/4 inch.
Note: Has venom, but is far too small to be harmful to people.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Determining Your Spider's Gender:
Look for the the small leg-like appendages near the face of the spider. These appendages are called pedipalps and are used for sensing their environment, assisting with eating, and for males, reproduction. If your spider has swollen pedipalps (resembling little boxing gloves), it is a mature male. If the pedipalps are not swollen, it is either a female or an immature spider of either gender. (This method for determining gender works for almost all spiders.)

          Male                  Female
Male Grass Spider (Agelenopsis)Female Ground Spider (Gnaphosidae)

This is just a quick list of the most commonly "ID requested" insects. It is not comprehensive, and if you do not see your specimen listed here, don't despair... submit it on the ID Request page!!

The list has been sorted by "recognizable" characteristics... (Click on "question" to go to specific area).
+ Did it look like a huge wasp or bee?
+ Did it fly?
+ Did it stay on the ground (like crickets)?
+ It just too weird to be classified?


Ichneumon Wasp; MegarhyssaGiant Ichneumon Wasp; MegarhyssaGiant Ichneumon Wasp (Ichneumonidae:Megarhyssa)
Dangerous: No (completely harmless, DOES NOT STING)

Size:   Males: 1 to 1.5 inches, Females: 1.5 to 3 inches, 2 to 4+ inches with "tail".
Note: This wasp does not sting! The "stinger-looking" thing is an egg-laying structure.
           This is a parasitic wasp; it lays eggs on horntail larvae which have bored into the tree.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Cicada Killer; Sphecius speciosusCicada Killer, Male Sphecius speciosusCicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Dangerous: No

Size:  Approximately 1.25 inches.
Note: Although these are huge wasps, they are harmless. Males cannot sting, females are docile and non-aggressive.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Horntail Woodwasp, Male Sphecius speciosusHorntail WoodwaspHorntail Woodwasp (Family: Siricidae)
Dangerous: No, (completely harmless, DOES NOT STING)
Size:  Approximately 1.5 inches to 3 inches (depends on species).
Note: Although these are huge wasps, they are harmless. They do not sting, and are docile, non-aggressive creatures.
          The "stinger" is not a stinger, but is used for burrowing into wood and laying eggs.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link


Female Dobson FlyMale Dobson FlyDobson Fly (Coridalidae:Corydalus)
Dangerous: No, not aggressive toward humans, but it can give a nasty bite if handled.

Note: Typically in aquatic areas (especially in larval stages). Adult males have spectacular jaws.

Guide Info Page: link #1 and link #2
Guide Photo Page: link #1 and link #2

Wheel Bug, or Assassin BugWheel Bug or Assassin BugWheel Bug or Assassin Bug (Arilus cristatus)
Dangerous: No, but it does have an excrutiating bite if handled!

Note: Although it bites, it is beneficial to your yard. Don't mess with these, but don't kill them either.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Crane FlyCrane FlyCrane Fly (Family: Tupilidae and Family: Limoniidae)
Dangerous: No (completely harmless)

Note: This is not a big mosquito, nor does it eat mosquitoes, nor is it related to mosquitoes. This fly is 100% harmless.

Guide Info Page: link and list of genera
Guide Photo Page: link

Cicada; Male Tibicen lyricenCicada, Nymph, Tibicen lyricenCicada (Family: Cicadidae)
Dangerous: No

Size:   Approximately 1 inch.
Note: The 2nd image is a cicada nymph; often the "shell" of the nymph is found attached to the sides of trees.
           These insects can fly, but more often are found in tree branches. They can be very "vocal" insects.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link


Jerusalem CricketJerusalem CricketJerusalem Cricket (Family: Stenopelmatidae)
Dangerous: No

Size:   Can be very large, over 3 to 4 inches
Note: Can appear in large numbers, seeming like an invasion...

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Camel CricketCamel CricketCamel Cricket (Family: Rhaphidophoridae, Most Common Genus: Ceuthophilus)
Dangerous: No

Note: They can be numerous at times, seeming like a plague...

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Velvet Ant, Female Dasymutilla occidentalisVelvet Ant, Female Dasymutilla occidentalisVelvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis)
Dangerous: No, but it has an extremely painful sting if handled. DO NOT HANDLE!

Size: 1/2 inches up to 3/4 inches
Note: This insect is not an ant, but a wasp. The females are wingless, thus resembling an ant.

Guide Info Page: link
Guide Photo Page: link

Need to add the following: (in the coming days...)
+ Hummingbird moth
+ House Centipede
+ Great Golden Digger
+ Rove Beetles
+ Springtails
+ Leaf-footed bug
+ Fungus gnats
+ Carpet beetles (including larvae)
+ The Ailanthus web worm moth
+ Giant beetles like the Rhinoceros or Stag beetle
+ Toe biters
+ A bug nymph - Coreid?
+ An immature Katydid.
+ A painted Lady.
+ Robber fly
+ Examples of the various types of spider webs

Note to reviewers:
Any others we should add or remove? Any specific order? (taxonomical, alphabetical, most commonly asked. Not sure on any order since I mostly "play" with the arachnids...) I am currently thinking about breaking this into two articles: one for spiders and one for insects. Would this seem reasonable?

If you know of any better images in the guide than what I have selected, please let me know, and I'll consider the change. I tried to find the most representative, but so many images, and limited time. You know how it goes... :) If you can fill in some of the blanks (size, etc.) please let me know, and I will add it to the article, and update the guide pages to reflect the information.

Also, I work with a very high resolution setting (1600x1200, normal is 1024x768). I have tried to keep the formatting clean for all resolutions (I am using straight HTML, rather than Troy's cool shortcuts due to issues with shortcut formatting), so if the formatting seems messed up (thus losing readability), let me know what resolution you are using and I'll try to re-adjust for that resolution also. Thanks.

Is This Thing On?
Longtime lurker, first time registered user. I want to contribute in some way, and see that I have high-quality photos of at least a few of these species. Is this guide a thing that's the community wants to finish?

Also, thanks to every single contributor, ever.

Oil Beetle, Meloe
I have been seeing tons of Oil Beetles on ID Request. Perhaps you could add this.

So far this July and June, there have been tons of Typocerus velutinus showing up.

Another article?
Maybe you could try to start another article. The author of this one has not been active since 2005, so it seems pointless to make more suggestions here.

Seems to me like...
Orthosoma brunneum (Brown Prionid) gets asked about quite a bit too...

I have seen multiple ID Request posts of Prionid beetles, not just Orthosoma brunneum.

That's just the one I see most often, but good point.

Lady beetle larvae
They totally flummox people who've never seen them before, and look nothing like adult lady beetles. They show up in ID Request with titles like "Scary-looking bug," "Weird caterpillar," "Big aphid" (based on presence in aphid colonies), etc.

A photo of a typical Harmonia axyridis larva, a white Scymnus sp. larva, and any pupa would answer a lot of "What the heck is this thing?" questions!

Excellent point
Unfortunately the author has not been around for several years. Maybe somebody should create some kind of similar article and keep it up to date.

As long as I can do it on weekends...
I've been typing "What the heck" into the Search box to find unidentified lady beetle larvae, and there are always a lot of mole crickets, Micrathena spiders, slug caterpillars - the things many people have no idea *what* to call, let alone start looking up on their own.

There's still that matter of keeping my job, but I live on my laptop and write all weekends...

A good start
This one could be completed and put wherever the actual articles go, as opposed to drafts. What's here needs copy editing. For example, the statement "Any reference to biting, stinging, etc. within this article is only a defense mechanism when the creature feels threatened" says that a reference to biting is a defense mechanism. No, the biting is; and "mechanism" isn't needed. "Defense mechanism" comes from psychology and refers to something less tangible.

Also "potentially dangerous" again. This phrase is redundant, like "potentially possible." A thing is dangerous or it isn't.

"Potentially" perhaps as in "
"Potentially" perhaps as in "potentially you will sit on it and then it will sting you as it dies..." Heck, a puppy is potentially dangerous.

As it happens, I'm a copyeditor and proofreader for an electronic publishing company. I get *paid* to fix grammar and spelling. Though as I said to Beatriz, I have to concentrate on keeping the paying job instead of playing with bugs and Bug Guide all day. Weekends are still mine, though.

But I'm one too
I copy-edited for 30 years, back when "copy editor" was two words. In my mind, it's still two words. I'll accept the fused version when "acquisitions editor" and "photo editor" are also one word each.

Does a natural link exist between bugging and editing? Maybe so: interest in detail.

IMO, people who write "potentially dangerous" aren't thinking "can become dangerous in certain circumstances." They're using the word "potentially" to soften the blow of "dangerous" so as not to scare readers.

A fellow in bugs and debugging!
Cool, a kindred spirit :-) I'm a programmer too, so I think of copy(-)editing as debugging, in a way...

I do think attention to detail carries over into nature-watching (or carries over from nature-watching to copyediting and proofreading). I've certainly used the office loupe to examine both paragraph leading and caterpillar eyes.

Another Addition
Here's another insect you can add. I've been seeing one posted about every day, lately. It's an Ailanthus Webworm Moth.

Oops! I just noticed that Chuck suggested this two years ago. Sorry for duplicating his suggestion!

Fabulous addition! One suggestion
This is going to be a fantastic addition to BugGuide! Thanks for all the hard work.

My one thought is (as someone who objects to how many bugs get smushed from lack of understanding)... Would there be some way to soften the language about the ones that bite?

For example, it is good to let people know that the female Dobson Fly can bite, yet on the other hand it is a docile creature and I can't imagine it attacking anyone--unless they try to handle it.

Maybe something like "Can give a nasty bite if handled, but is not aggressive toward humans."

Thanks again for a great job on this page.


Stephen Cresswell
Buckhannon, WV

Thanks! I agree with your suggestion. I have tried to be clearer in indicating that insects don't have an inherent personal vendetta against people! :) And typically they only bite/sting in defense if threatened.

if you search on 'top ten'
you will find a couple of lists of species that people have added to previous forum topics on this same general idea.

Thank you!
I caught yet a few more that I had missed. Now to figure out how to organize it to allow someone to quickly get to the type of critter they might be looking for. ;)

Thanks again!

Looks Good
I agree with the comment about using words not understood by the casual searcher.
Too many "mandibles" or "spinnerettes" or "pedipalps" may cause them to think it's too technical for them. Mostly I think people are just looking to see if a certain bug is dangerous.

I would also like to see Velvet Ants. #1 they're pretty common, #2 They're pretty painful!

Thanx for your efforts!

Thanks Doug. I didn't realize still I had so many "proper terms" ... upon review... yep, I definitely agree, still too many terms. I have tried to simplify it, or at least move it so that it is more relevant to those who might be interested (like moving "the pedipalp" section to the end of the spider section, and labelling it "Determining your spider's gender".

I really appreciate your comments (I tend to be more technical by nature, and sometimes (unintentionally) lose sight of my intended audience).

I added the velvet ant to the list of "to be added". Thanks again!

Kudos + Nitpicking...
This is great! A few comments:


All spiders are preditory

Should be predatory

+ Giant Ichneumon (Megahyssa)
should be:
+ Giant Ichneumon (Megarhyssa)

under Crane Fly
Note: This is not a big mosquito, nor is it related. This fly is 100% harmless. It does not eat mosiquitoes.

It might be a good idea to include information on scale, especially for the really big things like the Dolomedes. Sometimes all they notice is the humongous size, not the color patterns.

Also, maybe include a section on some of the non-bugs we get, like the giant flatworms (e.g. Bipallium kewensis), since we usually ID those and then send them to Frass.

It might also be good to show the difference between orb-,sheet-, funnel- and cob-webs (most novice visitors don't know what an orb web is).

For that matter, most won't know what spinnerets or mandibles are, either. I think you need to look at every term you use and ask yourself if people with no entomological background would understand it.

Also, just a point of individual style(you may prefer otherwise): since you're using straight html, you could put target=_blank between the <a href="" and the first > of links to cause the link to open in a new window on compatible browsers.

Thanks Chuck!
Thank you for keeping me honest with the spellings... please continue, as I sometimes go cross-eyed reading this over and over while editing.

I haved added the "target" token on the "a href" markups. I added target="NEW", so a new browser would be opened on a clicked link, but subsequent clicks on the various images/links will pop up into the same new browser (thereby preventing the opening of a gazillion browsers...)

Good idea about the images of the various webs. I will add them...

As far as a glossary of common entomological terms, I agree I need to put one in... maybe another article to be created and linked to. Sometimes the anatomy being defined is better shown in a photo/diagram, rather than described (e.g. - Cribellum on certain spiders). We (collectively) will have to think about how to approach that; the issue has been brought up in the forum before.

The other non-bugs... It would be easy enough, but almost all of the images of planarians (sp?), etc., have been frassed, so we would need to create a non-bug section for them, which creates another problem, since it goes beyond the scope of bugguide. :(

Thank you for the suggestions and the help. I know I'm going to need it! :)

More Nitpicking... :)
Re: target="New"... Cool! I didn't know that was how it worked. I guess we won't "let a thousand browsers bloom..."

I wasn't thinking of a glossary- though that's a good idea, too. You just need to add an explanation as you did with the reference to mandibles. For instance, re: the spinnerets you could say: "The pointed structure on the back tip of the body is made up of spinnerets (they make web silk). Long spinnerets like these are a good way to tell funnel-web spiders from others."

By the way, there are some very common Agelenids out there that look like Agelenopsis- it might be better to say Agelenidae rather than Agelenopsis. And it might also be good to distinguish them from the Australian spiders of the same name (just what we need- more people convinced they're going to die if bitten!).

Other candidates:
The Ailanthus web worm moth
Giant beetles like the Rhinoceros beetle
Toe biters

A suggestion for any editors reading this:
Let's make sure the guide pages this article is linked to have at least rudimentary information about each of these species, families etc.. I've done some work on wheel bug, and J & J did a great illustrated Argiope aurantia page, but Orb Weavers, for instance, has nothing right now. Some of the guide pages that are community efforts are best of all. I think we all have different styles - I know I lean more towards the stories, whereas others are certainly more scientifically rigorous - and I think that makes for an interesting and comprehensive info page.

Keep it up!
I agree with Chuck's compliments and suggestions. Plus, I'd make sure to add carpet beetles (especially larvae), and camel crickets [never mind, I see them on the list]. I get quite a few queries on those at Pseudoscorpions, too, if they aren't in there already. I just took a cursory look, I admit:-)

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