How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

How to distinguish insect larvae

The larvae of many insect species can easily be confused. Caterpillars that feed on foliage can be distinguished from larvae of beetles and weevils, sawflies, and true flies by the number and arrangement of their appendages. Caterpillars and larvae of beetles and sawflies have three pairs of true legs, one pair on each thoracic segment. Most sawfly larvae also have fleshy protuberances or leglike appendages (called prolegs) on all of their abdominal segments. Caterpillars have prolegs on some abdominal segments, but never on the first two abdominal segments. Beetle larvae have true legs, but no prolegs. Filbertworm larvae have three pairs of true legs. Filbert weevil larvae have no obvious legs. Fly larvae (such as predatory syrphids) have no true legs. Some fly larvae have fleshy leglike protuberances, which can be just on their abdomen or on both their abdomen and thorax.

Identifying larvae

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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