How to Identify Pond Insect Larvae

Libelle image by Rolf Dobberstein from

Ponds provide habitats for many different types of animals including fish, mammals, amphibians, birds and insects. Insects can be found in abundance around most any body of water. The larvae of many insects inhabit the waters of the pond. Identifying these larvae can be a fun activity for the whole family.

Once you have captured the larvae it will take keen observations, resources and patience to properly identify the larvae around the pond.

Collect the larvae in the pond for closer observation. Use a fine mesh net that will not allow the larvae to escape through holes. These types of nets can be found where aquarium supplies are sold.

Take pictures of the larvae with a camera. Lay the larvae on a flat surface. The background should be a different colour than the larvae for best results. Take pictures from different angles focusing on the front, rear, legs if there are any and any other features on the larvae before releasing them back into the pond.

Use a bug identification resource found online or in books. Online resources such as the website of Penobscot County Soil and Water Conservation District or Insect Identification will be able to provide information including drawings and distinguishing characteristics of many common aquatic insects. Local bookstores will focus on stocking material pertinent to your particular region of the country.

Compare the pictures you took with the camera to the information provided on the website or book. Look for common features in both photographs and drawings from the resource. Remember that larvae are the immature or nymph stage of the insect, not the adult. The more commonalities, the better the match.

Use other resources like Bug Guide to supply pictures if you were not successful identifying your larvae with previous attempts. Many insect-related sites will feature forums on which you can post pictures, so that other bug enthusiasts can assist you. If you use forums, independently verify the identification through other resources to confirm the validity of the insect identification.