Where to find good insect identification keys

I want to start practising my identification skills using keys and stop relying on the knowledge of others. Is there a good place to look for these as a simple google search never seems to provide much. I am in the UK so somewhere that offers UK specific keys would be great. Thank you.

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Are there particular groups of insects that interest you?

I really dont have a specific group that i focus on, I try to record as much of a variety as possible. But for example i was just looking for a key to the british species of anthomyiidae and came up empty handed as usual.

@sbushes might know

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Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’ve figured out already, a lot of keys are hidden behind paywalls and membership walls. There is still a lot of gatekeeping in science. Having said that it is sometimes easier to find physical copies of keys than it is find them online. If you live near a university or large public library you might be able to get access to physical copies for free or very low charge.

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UK might be the best place to start such an endeavor - not too many species, but a great history of citizen science and a good amount of printed or online resources for all kind of arthropods - just go through the various recording schemes for example:

As you mentioned flies, I know there are good keys for Sarcophagids and Calliphorids, and you should also check the Flickr account from Steven Falk (Diptera, Hymenoptera);
you have the britishbugs.org.uk ; Aphids (influentialpoints) ; Fly mines and Leaf mines of UK ; Psocodea (barkflies)

I can also recommend the Tanyptera Project Youtube channel.

I wish we had a similar situation here in Austria…


If you just google what you want you will find tons of books, there’re enough websites with pdf/djvu to download those. UK also has hundreds of websites for any group.

Probably the best overall source for UK insect keys is this :

But it realllllly depends on which family (or order, etc).
Resources are scattered in general, and it takes a bit of asking around sometimes to find the best option. I second all the ones @carnifex mentions …though I should say the recording scheme for Agromyzidae (fly mines) (@barrywarrington ) say their site is the only one which is fully up to date for UK - https://agromyzidae.myspecies.info/

You need to become a member to get access, but Dipterists Forum has the UK Anthomyiidae keys :
See also

Anthomyiidae is one of the hardest fly families to start keying Diptera though!!!

Feel free to send me a PM in future if there is something specific you can’t find :slightly_smiling_face:


It seems like almost all keys are UK-specific.

Great resources, thanks for responding

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The out of print Royal Entomological Society Handbooks are available to download from their website. Out of print doesn’t necessarily mean there is a newer edition. For many insect families, these are still the latest published keys.

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