How to Identify Local Bugs


Now that you know which Alabama bugs can bite or may be hibernating in your home you’ll need to know how to identify them. Not all bugs have identifiable markings like a black widow. And some species look remarkably similar.

Our professional technicians are trained to spot different types of insects in order to create custom pest control treatments. They can confirm that getting a handle on the local bug population requires knowing exactly what you’re dealing with. Identifying insects is also important in the event you or a family member is bitten.

If you’re interested in becoming an amateur entomologist or simply want a better idea of what insects are on your property these tips can help.

Where to Learn More About Local Insects

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is a collaboration between Auburn University and Alabama A&M. The organization provides endless information and numerous services, including insect identification. If you’ve captured a bug or found an unusual dead insect, contact your county Extension office. is another good resource for identifying Alabama bugs. According to their sources there are 378 types of bugs in Alabama, all of which are detailed on their site.

What to Look for to Identify Bugs

There are numerous ways to tell one species from another, even when they look almost identical.

Arthropod Identifiers

Insects, spiders, centipedes and millipedes are all arthropods. There are two characteristics are shared by all arthropods: an exoskeleton and jointed legs.

Special Markings

Many insects have special markings somewhere on their body that’s used for identification. Some bugs look so similar the only way to tell them apart is by a single marking. Others, like the black widow, are easy to classify because of their identifiable marking.

Number of Legs

The number of legs a bug has can help you with classification. For example, eight legs is a dead give away of an arachnid. But don’t let some bugs fool you. Centipede means “100-footed” but most don’t actually have 100 little squirming legs. The number all depends on how many body segments a centipede has, but all of them will have at least 15 pairs. The biggest difference between millipedes and centipedes is millipedes have four legs per segment and centipedes only have two.

Number of Body Segments

The second easiest way to tell what type of arthropod you’re looking at is to count the body segments. Insects have three body segments, whereas spiders only have two distinct body regions. Centipedes and millipedes have at least 10 segments.


Bugs that are classified as insects have two antenna on their heads. Arachnids never have antenna.


Wings are a dead give away that a bug falls into the insect arthropod category. For some species, like moths and butterflies, the markings on wings are used for identification.

Tools That Can Aid the Identification Process

There’s a lot you can learn by simply observing insects you find out in nature. However, there are a few tools that can make identification even easier.

Reference Guide

An insect reference guide provides pictures and descriptions that make it much easier to know which bug you’re looking at.

Magnifying Glass

Get a closer look at teeny, tiny insects with a magnifying glass. Just be careful not to focus the magnifying glass on any one spot for too long to prevent unintentionally starting a fire.


A microscope can be used to get an even better look at an insect. Microscopes are often used to observe the head and wings.


If you want to capture an insect for observation there are a variety of nets that can help. Options include aerial nets, sweep nets and aquatic nets.

Insect Containers

You can find plastic critter containers at pet shops that work well for large insects. Smaller bugs can be kept in an old piece of Tupperware or butter tub as long as you make air holes in the lid of the container.

If you’ve spotted bugs in your yard or home that you don’t care to learn more about let Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. take care of them. After more than 50 years of serving Central Alabama we’ve gotten an up close look at every type of insect in the state. Our expert pest control technicians are highly skilled at identifying insects and selecting an appropriate treatment. Call today to learn about all of the available treatment options!

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