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Close-up on insects

1-To be or not to be ... an insect
2-Insects and popular wisdom
3-Close-up on insects

Spotting lady beetless
What's the difference
Dragons and damsels
Beautiful butterflies
Look closely!
From larvae to adult

4-Home sweet home
5-Multi-talented actors

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Looking at insects

Colours, patterns, the shape of wings, legs and antennae... Although some insects may look quite similar, each species actually has its own distinguishing features. To identify them, you have to rely on their appearance as adults, however, since some insects have a few tricks up their exoskeletons—their appearance changes drastically as they get older. Just think of caterpillars and butterflies! So you have to pay close attention. Where and when you see an insect are also valuable clues.

Spotting lady beetles

How can you tell the different species of lady beetles apart? One good trick is to count the number of spots on their elytra (hardened wings).

What’s the difference?

Bumble bees are generally yellow and black. You can tell them apart by examining the arrangement and patterns of the two colours.

Dragons and damsels

It’s easy to tell damselflies apart from dragonflies. The four wings of damselflies are identical, while the second pair of wings on dragonflies is broader at the base. Another clue is that damselflies usually rest with their wings held together above their bodies, while dragonflies hold them outstretched.

Beautiful butterflies

Butterflies come in an incredible variety of shapes and colours, which serve as identifying characteristics and give each species its own special beauty.

Look closely!

It can be difficult to tell insects apart. The differences between species are sometimes so subtle that you almost need a magnifying glass to be sure. The head of the ground beetle, for instance, is as wide as its thorax, while the tiger beetle’s head is usually narrower.


Where are the white admiral, the frisky bumble bee, the six-spotted tiger beetle, the twelve-spotted lady beetle and the ebony jewelwing? Look carefully, for there are some impostors here! Can you pick out the right insects?


 Click here for the solutions

  • Photocopy and distribute the activity sheet.
  • Ask participants to name the differences between the three insects in each group.
  • Have them first read the information in this leaflet and on the five posters for the insect candidates (included in the voting kit available for free at the Montreal Insectariuml).
  • Then ask them to explain their answers.



  • Ask participants to help you briefly describe a "baby insect."
  • Then show them the posters for the insect candidates (included in the voting kit available for free at the Montreal Insectariuml), which describe in detail the life cycle of each of these five insects.
  • Photocopy and distribute the activity sheet.


In the From Larva to Adult game, some stages in the insect life cycle are missing. Ask the participants to make a drawing showing the stages described on the posters and then place them in order.

From Larva to Adult

Can you match up the two life stages of the insects illustrated? Look carefully, for the family resemblance isn’t always obvious!

 de la larve à l'adulte

Click here for the solutions


A) Two-spotted lady beetle

B) Twelve-spotted lady beetle

C) Seven-spotted lady beetle

D) European wood ground beetle

E) European black ground beetle

F) Six-spotted tiger beetle

G) Terricolous bumble bee

H) Frisky bumble bee



I) Fervid bumble bee

J) Apically spotted damselfly

K) Ebony jewelwing

L) Fourspot skimmer

M) Red admiral

N) Mourningcloak butterfly

O) White admiral

From larvae to adult






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ConceptInsectarium de Montréal French text: Marie Dufour Translations: Terry Knowles and Pamela Ireland
 Illustrations: Bruno Laporte Graphics: Studio multimédia, Ville de Montréal
This project has received financial support from the Action Environnement et Faune program
Our thanks to everyone who helped in producing this educational material
Web site by: Stéphan Giroux