Contributors: J.R. Baker et al., Entomology Extension Specialist, and R.K. Jones, Plant Pathology Extension Specialist
In general, adult stages are most easily differentiated, especially in winged insects. However, it is not always easy to tell if a pest that is not winged is mature or immature. Generally, if a pest has wings, it is an adult. If a pest is mating, laying eggs, or giving birth to young, it is in the adult stage.

The following keys are provided for identifying adult pests as well as immature stages. Since immature pests and wingless adults may not be easy to identify, keys to immature stages are arranged by the portion of the plant infested (blossom and leaf, stem, and root).


Preparing Specimens for Identification

When a specimen cannot be identified, additional help is available from the Cooperative Extension Service and the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. The following instructions are recommended when preparing a sample for identification.

Roaches, termites, bugs, beetles, flies, wasps, ants, maggots, spiders, etc. should be sent in 70 percent alcohol.

Mites, scales, aphids, and thrips should be sent alive on some of the affected foliage/stems, collected in a manner similar to plant specimens. Pests should be placed in a plastic bag when collected.

Butterflies and Moths. Dead specimens should be submitted (ethyl acetate is good to use for preparing specimens), packed lightly in tissue paper in a crush-proof box.

Caterpillars should be sent in alive on some of the host plant in a plastic bag.

Grubs should be sent in alive in a pint or two of soil enclosed in a plastic bag.

Important Notes

Some Important Precautions

Further Information

Johnson, W.T. & H. H. Lyon. 1988. Insects that Feed on Trees & Shrubs. (2nd Ed.). Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, NY. 556 pps.

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Last Modified: 07/10/96