I am an amateur entomologist, or bug geek. One of the things I do regularly is help people identify a bug. Usually, they want to know how to kill it, but sometimes, they just want to know what it is. Below are some ways to narrow the possibilities. Keep in mind that some bugs bite, or sting, so use caution when dealing with an unknown bug. A pair of tweezers comes in handy, too.
First, “bug” is not used very accurately when we talk about creepy crawlers themselves. If your critter has six legs, it is an insect. If it has eight legs, it is probably an anthropoid. Scorpions, mites, and such fall into this category. The pesticides that kill insects often do nothing to anthropoids, so the distinction is important.
Within the category of insects, there is a group of critters called “true bugs.” They have a little armor type shield on their back that identifies them. Everything else is, I suppose, a “false bug” although that is not a real category.
Some of the other information you will need to identify the bug, true or not, is:
- what color or colors is it
- what was it found on (ground, begonia, etc.)
- the location (city, state)
- the type of terrain (desert, rain forest, etc.)
- Is there just one or is there a bunch of them
- what, if any, noise does it make
- does it produce an odor you can smell without getting personal
Now, there are some good websites you can look up your critter on. Bugguide.net has a lot of pictures and other information to help you identify insects, spiders, and their kin. It does not, generally speaking give information on control, but once you have the name of the critter you can find that in other places.
If you live in Texas, the Field Guide to Common Texas Insects is very useful. It has pictures and hints on figuring out the identy of your unidentified creeping crawler. Again, it does not give control recommendations, just an identification and a few brief notes on the critter.
Sometimes, though, you cannot find the name of your critter anywhere. Bring it, in a jar and preferably not crushed into dust, to the county Extension office. They can often identify your critter there. If not, the extension system has entomologists on staff who spend their days identifying the critters people bring in and telling them how to get rid of the things.
Before you smash that bug, though, remember that the vast majority of insects and anthropoids are beneficial. Only a few are truly harmful. So for the most part, leaving them alone is best for all concerned.
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