Diptera (See A) One pair of legs Diptera Three




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THREE Q & D KEYS TO INSECT LARVAE
Ed Stansbury WSDA

May 2008

Key to Insect Larvae I

Larvae with…



No legs

With a head capsule……………………………………Coleoptera (See F)

Without a head capsule, body tapers ………………… Diptera (See A)

One pair of legs……………………………………………………Diptera

Three pairs of legs

without prolegs

and without a head capsule……………………….Neuroptera

and with a head capsule………………..Coleoptera (See B,C,D,E)

with 2 to 5 pairs of prolegs………….………………….Lepidoptera

with 6 or more pairs of prolegs…………………...Hymenoptera (See G)




Insect Larvae II

Grouped by Larval Form
Catepillar-like (Eruciform) found in Lepidoptera, Mecoptera, and some Hymenoptera


Grub-like (Scarabaeiform) found in some Coleoptera


Bristletail-form (Campodeiform) found in Neuroptera, Trichoptera, and many Coleoptera


Wireworm-like (Elateriform) found in some Coleoptera


Maggot-like (Vermiform) found in Diptera, Siphonaptera, most Hymenoptera, some

Coleoptera, and some Lepidoptera.



Drawings from USDA and Borror and Delong, 1971.
Key To Insect Larvae III

Stylized Insect Larvae


1a. Larva with thoracic (true) legs 2

1b. Larva without thoracic (true) legs See following page

2a. Prolegs absent 9

3a. Mandibles large, long, and curved, projecting in front of head. Neuroptera

3b. Mandibles different from above 4.

4a. Head projected forward from body Most Coleoptera

4b. Head turned downward, under head 5

5a. Head with one pair of ocelli (simple eyes)

(Sawflies, Horntails) Hymenoptera

5b. Head with several pairs of ocelli (simple eyes) 6

6a. Body “U” shaped at rest Some Coleoptera

6b. Body never “U” shaped (Some Scorpionflies) Mecoptera

2b. Prolegs present 7

7a. Head with 8 or more pairs of ocelli (simple eyes) (Most Scorpionflies) Mecoptera

7b. Head with fewer than 8 pairs of ocelli (simple eyes) 8

8a. Abdomen with five or fewer pairs of prolegs (Most Catepillars) Lepidoptera

8b. Adbomen with six or more pairs of prolegs (Sawflies) Hymenoptera

Key to Insect Larvae III (continued)
1b. Larvae without thoracic (true) legs 9

9a. Head heavily scerotized and darkened, (head capsule) present, full or partial. 10

9b. Head capsule absent Diptera

10a. Round-bodied larva, taking on a “C” shape (Wasps, Bees, Ants) Hymenoptera

10b. Larvae not curling into a “C” shape, body pointed at one or both ends. 11

11a. Prolegs much reduced with a circle of tiny hooks on the tips

(Some moths and leaf miners) Lepidoptera

11b. Prolegs not reduced without hooks 12

12a. Body curved, nearly “U” shaped (Some Beetles) Coleoptera

12b. Body NOT curved or “U” shaped 13

13a. Body elongated, thin, mouthparts small and hidden 14

13b. Body thick, usually flattened, large chewing mouthparts Coleoptera



14a. Larval body with 11 segments and with rows of hairs (Fleas) Siphonaptera

14b. Larval body without hairs (Flies) Diptera


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