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My kids found a bug in our yard today that we have never seen before. They captured it and want to find out what exactly it is. What is the best way to go about identifying an unknown bug?
It can be tricky to ID garden-variety bugs if you haven’t done it before. There are more specialized sites if the above don’t seem to have the “exact thing”– if you can at least get it down to what class of buggie it is on, say, enature.com then if you can’t find it, post back here and we can help you find a more specialized site. There are whole sites for beetles, for instance. 🙂 Be sure and check ranges as you look things up–it’s really frustrating to decide “hey, maybe it’s this” and then notice that it is only in, say, Madagascar, or the tip of Texas, lol.
Good luck, I hope you can find it, nothing is quite so exciting to kids as to be able to “name” a friend they meet outside!
Thanks so much for the links. I thought we were at a loss because we were unable to identify the insects class, but after watching it for several hours we noticed it bring it front legs together in a praying position…so we concluded it was some kind of a praying mantis. We searched and searched and were unable to find the exact type, it doesn’t look like any I have ever seen. We drew pictures of it in our nature journal, labeled it “Praying Mantis” and let it go. We are satisfied. At least now I have a starting point for any further investigations of future bug discoveries.
Sounds like you have a good start! Where do you live? If you live outside the deep South, all mantids are currently very, very young, and it’s tougher to tell the species apart when they are so young. I’d have a hard time telling exact species right now!
I think the first few times using a nature guide, whether online or in book form, when you are just getting started learning about something, are just the hardest times. It does get easier! Once when we were learning about trees, very, very early in our homeschool walk, we decided to label all the neighborhood trees. How hard can THAT be??? LOL. Well, it can be tough. We agonized for hours over WHAT species of oak that was across the street, WHICH kind of maple was on the corner, and how, given how uncertain we felt using the field guide, we would EVER know for sure. Once my oldest asked, “Mom, you really don’t know what you are doing, do you?” LOL But we did get better, and now call them out from the car as we drive by. It gets easier!
Hi – I just have to jump in on this one. My family loves the praying mantis! We have caught them every year for the past several summers. We keep it in a container on the dining table and it gets fed dinner around the same time we do (wonderful for dad and kids, but mom loses her appetite a little). The kids have enjoyed catching bugs for it to eat, and it really is amazing to see how the mantis moves, fights, molts, etc. As the year progresses and bugs get hard for us to find, we release the mantis to do its own hunting. We just recently read that the mantis is the only insect to recognize you (our first mantis was this way – it would turn its head and follow us move throughout the room and I could even pet its head). Anyway, the weather is warm here (we’re in Southern CA) and my hubby is already on the lookout for this year’s pet…
Michelle~ I live in Florida. I too have a hard time identifying flowers, trees, etc. so I really need to invest in a good field guide, one we can take with us on our nature walks.
Tanya~ that sounds like fun. Can you explain how you prepared it’s habitat…what did you put in the container with him? Also, how did you give him water?
Well, you are in luck–there are LOTS of field guides specific to Florida, which is good, because you all have lots of stuff we’ll never see up here!
We keep mantids most years, we get them when they are nice and big up here–late summer. We just keep them in a net enclosure like we do butterflies. We actually gave him water by spritzing him a couple times a day. We didn’t put much of anything else in the enclosure with him, but be prepared–mantids LOVE to eat and you’ll have to catch lots of bugs to feed it! We let them go when it gets too hard to keep up with the appetite for bugs! We’ve had lots of interesting little mantid critters–they can have quite different personalities and preferences. And we do believe they can recognize people. When we released the first mantid we had had for a long time, we took it to a place and opened the container to let it go. We thought it’d be delighted and go right away. Instead it crawled up on my son’s arm and cocked its little head and looked at him for the longest time. We have no idea what it was “thinking” but it certainly didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave us! By the time it finally crawled off and into the tall grass all my kids were crying! LOL Mantids make fabulous short-term pets!
If any of you have ever read the funny books by Gerald Durrell (they make good read-alouds but need some read-aloud editing) there is a fascinating story in My Family and Other Animals about a fight between a large mantid and a lizard.
Meesh – we just kept them in whatever we happened to have! We have used a butterfly habitat (and even put in a potted plant for it to climb!) but most times we have just used a large bug container with mesh sides. And yes, as Michelle D said, it eats A LOT! But for some reason we get a lot of crickets in the summer in our garage (!) and outside too, so we catch a lot of those. We watched a very interesting fight between it and a wasp once – and our mantis won.
Michelle D – I LOVE Gerald Durrell!!! I grew up reading his books and laughed out loud until I had tears in my eyes! I still think of him with great fondness, and when we were studying the Punic Wars I thought of his line that said that he didn’t know much about what happened but he knew the names of every single one of Hannibal’s elephants. You’re the first non-family member I’ve “met” who has heard of him!
Oh, and yes, as Bookworm said, for those wanting to read Durrell aloud – definitely want to edit. There is some profanity.
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