BugGuide.Net – Thumbs Up!

I’m not an entomologist. While I think insects are fascinating, my knowledge about them is pretty limited. This is especially the case when it comes to identifying insects that I’ve never seen before. Given that it’s estimated that there are over 8 million insect species in the world, identification can be a little tricky!

Mystery Larva

Mystery Larva

Case in point: insect larvae on a pigweed. Last year I found some kind of larvae chewing on pigweed. I took pictures and posted them on this site but received no identification information. I did a Google search using all kinds of terms to describe the larvae but I found nothing. I even sent the picture to the local Master Gardener program but they were no help at all. I’d come to accept that I might never know what this insect was.

But then I went to BugGuide.Net. This site has all kinds of information about insects and entomology. I’ve often gone to this site but hadn’t noticed that there was a tab labeled ID Request. I learned that after setting up an account (an easy process), you can submit photos of insects to the site and its members will help to identify the insect.

I thought it was worth a try so I downloaded my photo of the mystery larva to the site. Given the trouble that I’d had identifying this pigweed pest, I wasn’t too hopeful. But to my surprise, one day later, a member in New Jersey had posted a reply and solved my year-long mystery.

Pigweed Flea Beetle (from www.extension.org)

Pigweed Flea Beetle
(from http://www.extension.org)

What were those strange larvae crawling on the pigweed? They’re Disonycha glabrata, the pigweed flea beetle. I’d never heard of this insect before but when I searched for pictures of it, I realized that it’s a regular inhabitant of the garden.

Thanks to the help of BugGuide.Net, my mystery insect is no longer a mystery. It has a name, Disonycha glabrata or pigweed flea beetle, all thanks to a cyber community of “bug geeks.” If you want to learn more about insects and receive some help in identifying mystery insects in your yard and garden, give BugGuide.Net a try.

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