A guide for Insecta Orders?

Hello everyone! I was wondering if there was a resource in the “guides” section for identifying the various orders within Hexapoda, Insecta, and Pterygota. If not, is there one in progress? It would be very handy to people like myself who want to get into slightly finer classifications than just the class/subclass. Hymenoptera and Orthoptera are comparatively safe and easy compared to other orders, so I’ve started doing those but not many others.
If there is not one available, does anyone have suggestions for off-site keys that a created guide could be based upon? Thank you!


I’m not aware of one in the existing guides (those are deprecated on the site). I can, however, suggest a few keys to insect orders published online that are great for budding entomologists of most any age.

Dichotomous keys by the American Museum of Natural History - There are 2 keys to common orders of insects, 1 key to other terrestrial arthropod orders, and keys to families within 3 orders. This is a rather non-technical set of keys that doesn’t get very deep into anatomical terminology. It also has small but clear sketches as examples. As this is a key to common orders, there are a number that aren’t included for sake of space.

Flow chart by Purdue University - This is a somewhat more extensive key but also has some more obvious problems. For instance, certain braconid wasps wouldn’t fit within the key and might accidentally be mis-identified as a caddisfly (which is really quite different!). What this key does better, though, is show more minute details of anatomy such as mouthparts or wings.

Overview of Insects by BugGuide - This is noted as not really being a true “key” but a series of typical traits to look for under various orders (main traits organized by numbers, any subsequent orders sharing that trait organized by letters). Many example photos are given as well, so this tends to be great for seeing more biodiversity of the orders. A major plus is that more obscure groups (like Order Strepsiptera - Twisted-winged Insects) are included alongside the more commonplace orders. This overview does get a little more involved in terminology in case that’s a downside, but they also have an additional page as a glossary of terms.


I have some rather rudimentary notes here that illustrate all of the insect orders and other major arthropod groups, using the same taxonomy as iNaturalist. Unlike most web guides, I’ve included the rarer tropical groups. If this is useful, I’d like to polish this document a little more.


Very helpful!

@smashedfinger, a lot has already been covered here but if you want to take a look at this topic (below) you may find some more useful resources: (hint: you can use the search tool in the topic for insect orders and see if that narrows down the reading)