Today, you’ve found something and you don’t know what it is, if it will hurt you, or what you should do. It might be something you found at work, in the woods, in your car or yard, or even in the area where you feel most vulnerable, the bathroom. Please, do not panic. Instead, calmly pull out your phone try to take pictures at different angles and maybe relocate the animal in a safe container. Cooling the animal in a refrigerator for a short period of time may help for photos. Jody Green, an extension agent with the University of Nebraska, has some great tips of getting a good picture with your phone.
After that, you’ll need to contact someone or a group who can identify the animal for you. On Facebook, there are several groups (Entomology, BugGuide, Bi-State Bugs (Insects of Missouri and Illinois)) that can help provide an identification. Bugguide.net and iNaturalist are also great resources for identifications. For those of you on Twitter, be sure to reach out to entomologists if you know any. Try adding #BugID to your post to help entomologists like me find you. There are many of us on Twitter that are willing and happy to help. We may know the answer or know someone else who will.
If you do post on these Facebook pages or Twitter, then be sure to provide information about the habitat, date, and approximate location of where you found the insect, spider, or other creature. This information can be the difference between a family level identification (metallic wood-boring beetle) to a species level identification (emerald ash borer). However, don’t be frustrated if your picture is unidentifiable.
As I mentioned in my first blog post, there are a bunch of insect species. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are very tiny, while others seem gigantic. Furthermore, some species look very similar and photos alone are not enough for a correct identification. Why? Currently, there are more than 1.2 million described insect species. Those are just the insects that entomologists have been able to describe to date. These represent just a fraction of what remain to be described. There are also many species of spiders and other arthropods.
Once you’ve had the animal identified, it’s likely that you won’t need to take any steps. Many species simply cannot survive indoors or do not pose harm to humans. A simple “live and let live” approach is often the best path. Each of these insects plays a role in the environment. If it is something you are concerned about, then you should contact your local extension agent to determine the best option(s).
Here’s the short version for those in a rush:
- Stay calm.
- Grab your phone or camera. Use the steps mentioned in Jody’s blog for better photos.
- Post the picture to a Facebook group or Twitter (#BugID), check out Bugguide.net, or speak with a local extension agent.
- Ask questions if you need to know more.
- Listen to the recommendations of trusted sources (extension agents, university researchers, etc.) or find reliable information on university websites. Do not take action unless necessary.
Have a great day! Feel free to contact me on Twitter or through my e-mail on the Contact section of this blog.