Know Your Insects

Know Your Insects Book

Click on this title to download a pdf copy of:
Know Your Insects
4-H Members Guide M-6-1.
1981. Revised by: Carolyn Klass.
NYS College of Ag. and Life Sciences, Cornell University.


A graded project that can carry a young person through many years of work in entomology. The project material gives minimum instructions for beginning an entomology project. Included are an introduction to what an insect is, guidelines for making an insect collection including proper data collection and keys for the identification of specimens to order level, directions for making necessary collecting equipment, suggestions of how, when and where to collect, and a list of references and other aids that are available. The requirements for 3 years of general collecting for 4-H are included. Some young people continue to collect adding more orders and specimens to their collection even beyond 3 years. Others choose different project areas such as one of the following:

Specialize in the study of one order or insect group

  • Make a collection of insect photographs
  • Study insect life cycles by rearing them in captivity
  • Make a general regional insect collection for eventual donation to a museum
  • Make a special study of one or more species of insect that interests you
  • Make a collection of insects specific to a certain habitat, such as a bog, field, woods, etc.
  • Or choose one of many other advanced projects, depending on the person’s interests and imagination.

Audience: This project guide can be used by youth and adults. The project will be interesting to young people and parents, school teachers, science museum workers, and naturalists.

Delivery Modes

Club, Individual members, Summer Camps

Primary Resources

Know Your Insects, M-6-1.
Basic guide to making an insect collection, 1st-3rd year general collection guidelines; ideas for advanced projects. Can also serve as leaders guide.

Labelling and Storing an Insect Collection BookLabelling and Storing an Insect Collection, M-6-7.
(to request a pdf copy, contact:
A guide for advanced and interested beginning entomology members, leaders and teachers explaining why insect collections are assembled, how they are used and what purpose they serve. Included is information on how to label, why labels are needed, locality information, maps, date of collection, name of collector, additional information to include on labels, organizing and writing insect label data; how to store insect specimens, and what to do with your insect collection.

Aids to help with identification and general information, reprinted with permission of the New York State Conservationist magazine:
(Click on title to download pdf copy — NOTE: these files are 1MB to 2MB versions)

  1. Some Beetles of New York, M-6-3.  4 pages, 2 in color. Pictures and short text of some common species found in New York State.
  2. Some Architects of the Insect World, M-6-4.  4 pages, 2 in color. Pictures and short text of some insect structures- homes, galls, etc.
  3. Some Butterflies and Moths, M-6-8. 40 page article, in color. Pictures and short text of some common species found in New York State.
  4. Wasps of New York State and Some Relatives, M-6-5.  8 page article, 2 pages in color.  Pictures and short descriptions of some common species found in New York State.

Supplementary Resources

“Butterflies and Skippers of New York State,” Search (journal), Vol. 4, No. 3, 1974. A very complete research publication including a checklist of the species, comments on distribution, migration, and location maps for the species.
Out of Print – Available from larger or specialty libraries.

Resource Person

Carolyn Klass, 4-H Entomology Project Leader
Department of Entomology, Cornell University