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Preface “What kind of bug is this?” As an entomologist and teacher, I often hear this question . Typically, I respond with a common name like “mud dauber wasp” and, if the questioner seems truly interested, a somewhat more detailed description of the specimen’s physical characteristics and biology. Occasionally, I ask myself, “How do I really know what insect that is?” Insect taxonomy is a very tedious, meticulous science, and most entomologists spend a good portion of their career studying only a very small number of insects. When I studied introductory insect taxonomy at Texas A&M University in 1973, my professor, Horace Burke, required us to do a lot of memorizing. We memorized antennal types, tarsal formulas, number of ocelli, wing venation, and a myriad of other physical, biological, and ecological traits that distinguish a particular group. I have since forgotten many of the details, but I can still identify the more common groups by using readily distinguishable field characteristics. Although the number and diversity of insect species can be overwhelming, generalizations can often be made about groups of related insects. This book was written for people who have little or no formal training in insect taxonomy but who need or desire to understand more about the classification of insects. This is not an authoritative or definitive book on insect taxonomy, but rather a guide to the more recognizable identifying characteristics of many common insect orders and families in Texas. For example, although Ross Arnett listed 113 families of beetles in his book A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico (Gainesville, Fla.: Sandhill Crane Press, 1993), he suggested that 70 percent of all beetle species occur in only 12 families. Because this guide describes groups of related insects based on their common and most easily observed field characteristics, I hope readers will find it helpful in sorting through the countless number of insects they encounter. Once the specimen is identified as belonging to a certain group, the reader may consult other references for more detailed information. I would like to thank Ann Pawlak and Evelyn Kattes for reviewing early drafts of the manuscript and offering very constructive criticism. I am also indebted to Dr. Jeanelle Barrett and Shayna Dunn for developing the pronunciation guide and to Shayna for her helpful review of later drafts. Lastly, I want to dedicate this work to my wife, Molly, for all her patience, encouragement, and love. Kattes_book.indb 7 2/13/09 7:02:50 AM Kattes_book.indb 8 2/13/09 7:02:51 AM ...