What is the Best Way to Learn a Species?

Yeah, agree. It very much depends on what you’re interested in. It may be that the same advice still holds for insects or other difficult taxa, but instead of learning genus and family, you’re better off learning order and class.


Ok, ty!

… for moth collection, you best consider using a blue / violet light source and a white linnen. you would set this up, for example in a back yard near you, and many moth species will come to the light at night. Best months would be May, June, July, but there are always some moths around… you will probably need a camera / phone with a good flash to take pictures. - Yes, (1) you can find out, how many of the common moths in your area you can find… more interestingly, (2) which of the moths you found are special to your location (sometimes it is related to food plant, habitat etc) and (3) you could look at seasonal or year to year variations of their occurrence… This doesn’t need to be scientific, just a hobby, … I am doing this since I was 11 years old…


A couple of ideas -
In short:
Books on terminology
Books or at least electronic field manuals
Spend time observing
Talk to and learn from others

Get a book on plant* terminology and spend time in it.

  • Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary by Harris & Harris
  • How to Identify Plants by Harrington

[*realized that I focused on vascular plants, replace any taxa you are interested in, all this applies to all the taxa from bugs to bryophytes. For some taxa you need binoculars, for some your need a microscope.]

Get a field guide or flora for your region, the more regionally specific, the better.
If you really get into this, you will also need at least one shelf on a good size bookshelf.
The full on “Floras” are truly tomes of information but very specialized terminology, largely based on Latin and is widely used internationally.
Examples are the Jepson Manual, a flora of the vascular plants of California (a large brick) and The John Laws field guide to the California Sierra Nevada (a large pocket book, 1/10 the size of Jepson), I think that most if not all regions have something like this, though not always in English.

Find something you are familiar with, a plant, bug or what ever, and see what you can read about it, learn its terminology.
Then you gotta spend time observing, plenty of time carefully observing. What your learn will start to transfer to identifying common features across genera and species. Knowing key characteristics of a family or genus tells you what features or characteristics to look for.
I’m regularly surprised to discover something I thought I knew has some feature I was unaware of.

I also think it helps to have a sense of the tree of life; i.e., you should know something, at least the last three or four levels of - King Phillip Came Over For Green stamps.


I will do that in my free time, I have just recently purchased a couple of field guides to help me out. I’ll also try to decide on what species to focus on.

Since most moths are nocturnal, you should definitely look at the discussion of blacklighting here


Ok, ty!

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