Science, Tech, Math › Animals & Nature What Are the 5 Types of Insect Larvae? Share Flipboard Email Print Mathisa_s / Getty Images Animals & Nature Insects Basics Behavior & Communication Ants. Bees, & Wasps Beetles Butterflies & Moths Spiders Ticks & Mites True Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas, and Hoppers Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Wildlife Conservation Marine Life Forestry Dinosaurs Evolution View More By Debbie Hadley Entomology Expert B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University Debbie Hadley is a science educator with 25 years of experience who has written on science topics for over a decade. our editorial process Debbie Hadley Updated December 12, 2019 Whether you are a dedicated insect enthusiast or a gardener trying to control a plant pest, you may need to identify immature insects from time to time. Some insects go through gradual metamorphosis in three stages from egg to nymph to adult. In their nymph stage they look essentially the same as in their adult stage except they are smaller and don't have wings. But about 75% of insects undergo a complete metamorphosis beginning with a larval stage. In this stage, the insect feeds and grows, usually molting several times before reaching the pupal stage. The larva looks quite different from the adult it will eventually become which makes identifying insect larvae more challenging. Your first step should be determining the larval form. You might not know the proper scientific nomenclature for a particular form of larva, but you can probably describe them in laymen's terms. Does it look like a maggot? Does it remind you of a caterpillar? Did you find some kind of grub? Does the insect seem worm-like, but have tiny legs? Entomologists describe five types of larvae, based on their body shape. 01 of 05 Eruciform Getty Images/Gallo Images/Danita Delimont Does it look like a caterpillar? Eruciform larvae look like caterpillars and in most cases, are caterpillars. The body is cylindrical with a well-developed head capsule and very short antennae. Eruciform larvae have both thoracic (true) legs and abdominal prolegs. Eruciform larvae may be found in the following insect groups: LepidopteraMecopteraColeopteraHymenoptera (Symphyta) 02 of 05 Scarabaeiform A beetle grub is a scarabaeiform larva. Getty Images/Stockbyte/James Gerholdt Does it look like a grub? Scarabaeiform larvae are commonly called grubs. These larvae will usually be curved or C-shaped, and sometimes hairy, with a well-developed head capsule. They bear thoracic legs but lack abdominal prolegs. Grubs tend to be slow or sluggish. Scarabaeiform larvae are found in some families of Coleoptera, specifically, those classified in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea. 03 of 05 Campodeiform A brown lacewing larva is campodeiform. USDA ARS Photo Unit, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org (CC license) Campodeiform larvae are usually predaceous and typically quite active. Their bodies are elongate but slightly flattened, with well-developed legs, antennae, and cerci. The mouthparts face forward, helpful when they are in pursuit of prey. Campodeiform larvae may be found in the following insect groups: ColeopteraTrichopteraNeuroptera 04 of 05 Elateriform Click beetles have elateriform larvae. Getty Images/Oxford Scientific/Gavin Parsons Does it look like a worm with legs? Elateriform larvae are shaped like worms, but with heavily sclerotized—or hardened—bodies. They have short legs and very reduced body bristles. Elateriform larvae are primarily found in Coleoptera, specifically the Elateridae for which the form is named. 05 of 05 Vermiform Getty Images/Science Photo Library Does it look like a maggot? Vermiform larvae are maggot-like, with elongate bodies but no legs. They may or may not have well-developed head capsules. Vermiform larvae may be found in the following insect groups: DipteraSiphonapteraHymenopteraOrthopteraLepidopteraColeoptera Now that you have a basic understanding of the 5 different forms of insect larvae, you can practice identifying insect larvae using a dichotomous key provided by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Sources Capinera, John L. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd edition. Springer, 2008, Heidelberg.“Entomologists' Glossary.” Entomologists' Glossary - Amateur Entomologists' Society (AES).“Glossary.” BugGuide.Net.“Recognizing Insect Larval Types.” Entomology.Triplehorn, Charles A. and Johnson, Norman F. Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th edition. Cengage Learning, 2004, Independence, Ky.