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How to Identify a Bug, Bee or Spider
I don't want to sound prejudiced, but I really dislike insects. I am not even fond of ladybugs. As with most forms of prejudice, mine stems from fear -- I am very creeped out by bugs, spiders, bees and anything else with a body that crunches when you step on it. I mean, some of them bite, sting and make babies in places that are meant for food and sleep. Ok, I admit that sounds a bit primadonnaish, but what I can tell you? I'm a girl. I don't like bugs. And when I spot one that looks particularly scary, I want to know what it is so that I needn't worry about what it could do to me. Just last weekend I spotted a very scary looking beetle in my bamboo privacy screen and I nearly screamed. Terrified that some dangerous bug had been inadvertently imported from China, I quickly set about scouring the internet for some means of identifying the bugger. And would you believe I managed it? Turned out to be a harmless (but scary looking!) beetle that is common throughout Europe. So if you've got a bug you need to identify, have a look at these sites and put your mind at ease.
This is actually the site that I found my creepy little Devil's Coach Horse beetle on. (Yeah, man -- even the name of the bug is scary!) It's a fantastic site with lots of pictures and loads of categories. You can even ask the bug people questions and they will post answers to you. Note that the bug people are not in fact bug experts, but rather artists of some nature -- I've no idea how they know so much about bug identification with their Fine Arts degrees, but they've got a brilliant site that is very useful!
Another impressive site, this one is quite large. Most of the bugs you will find on this site are native to North America -- the USA, in particular -- and really covers everything extensively. There is even a search form that lets you search for bugs by color and location (by state). The photos are brilliant and the explanations incredibly useful!
Here's another nifty bug identifier. This one has a clickable menu and you can select the general body type of a particular creepy crawlie and then investigate from there. The site is run by a group of naturalists who happen to like creepy crawlies and want you to like them, too. Or something like that.