The key to adults will allow the user to determine to which order their arthropod specimen belongs. In the case of moths and butterflies, specimens can be identified to species. Some bugs (hemipterans) and beetles can also be identified to species. If your specimen keys out to be a mite, a weevil or ambrosia beetle, or an armored or soft scale, you can go to the corresponding tool in the palm resource to further identify your specimen. A species identification made with this key should be confirmed by an expert.
With the exception of moths, butterflies, and some beetles, it is most commonly the adult stage of arthropods that causes damage to palms. Adults of the groups in this key vary widely in appearance and size. Unless your specimen looks like a caterpillar or a grub (see below), there is a good chance your specimen is an adult. If it has wings, it is almost certainly an adult, but lacking wings does not necessarily mean that it is not an adult, as many arthropods found on palms lack wings in the adult stage. Some arthropod pests of palms do not look like insects, such as armored scales and soft scales, or may be invisible to the naked eye, such as most mite species.
If you suspect your palm pest specimen is an adult arthropod, go to the adult key.
A key to the larvae of moths, butterflies, and beetles (orders Lepidoptera and Coleoptera) has also been provided. These are the insects for which the larval stages are the most likely to be collected and/or are the most likely culprit of damage to the palm. Larvae of other arthropods found on palms are usually not the primary cause of damage and/or are frequently found mixed in with the adults.
NOTE: Larval instars may vary widely in size, and moth and butterfly larvae in particular may vary in coloration and body markings. This key was designed to aid in the identification of late or final instar larvae. If your specimen is an early instar larva, the key may lead you to an erroneous identification or no identification. Most species' fact sheets show images of early instar larvae for your reference. An identification using this larval key should be confirmed by an expert.
Larvae of these two orders are known as caterpillars (moths and butterflies) and grubs (beetles). A few images of these types of larvae are shown below for reference.
If you suspect your palm pest specimen is a caterpillar or a grub, go to the larva key.