Fly ID mastery - get started with Bibionidae

(photo by @zdanko)

Would you like to help ensure our observations on iNaturalist are identified? Are you willing to start becoming an leader for species with many 'needs ID' observations and few qualified identifiers? Below, I offer suggestions for you to learn skills and strategies used by expert insect identifiers on iNaturalist. North American Bibionidae are a good starting point.

Bibionidae, often called 'March Flies', are a common group of insects that can be found at different times of year. I built this free field guide to the 57 species in the USA and Canada: (you can download a pdf by clicking on the options menu)

The first page of my field guide includes an 'Identify' link for iNaturalist that you can modify further (see 'Identifying Observations,' My guide includes all of the USA and Canada, but I suggest you choose a smaller area, such as a single state or province, to focus on at the beginning. I recommend you make your own copy of my field guide in google docs and remove the slides for species that don't occur in your area. If you add notes to your own 'personal field guide,' you'll learn a lot faster.

If you're interested in ongoing training and support, we can start at your convenience. To begin with, I'd encourage you to do your best to ID one to five 'needs ID' observations. For each observation, please tag me with a comment like "I'm thinking it's species X because of it's bright purple legs, does that seem right?" or "I wasn't sure how to ID this beyond family, because the wings are so backlit. Do you have any tips?"

I'll do my best to respond quickly to your comments, and then you should continue to leave IDs at your convenience. You should keep tagging me whenever you are unsure and want feedback. I don't mind being tagged on dozens of observations at a time, as long as they represent a real desire to learn. If you can, I'd suggest you aim to make at least 15 identifications a day over multiple weeks. Aim for a few hundred a day if you're feeling particularly ambitious :)

Learning from failure is important. If you want to succeed, I urge you to leave IDs based on your understanding, even when you're not confident in yourself -- at the very least, suggest your ID in a comment. If you're overly cautious, that can be the worst obstacle to your success. When I visit museum entomological collections and look at identifications left by world experts a hundred years ago or just recently, I often find many mistakes. That's okay, that's how things work, and you should be prepared to learn the same way.

I also recommend you use the 'Identify' tool or some other method to review observations that have already been sent to Research Grade. This is an effective way to build confidence on observations that tend to be easier. There may be a lot of misidentifications that have reached research grade for some species (like those with computer vision suggestions). As you go, please challenge any past identifications that don't make sense to you, because everyone makes mistakes -- I am 100% certain there are some mistakes in my past identifications, for example.

If you have any questions about morphological terms, I recommend starting with Volume 1, chapter 3 of the Afrotropical Manual of Diptera which you can download for free here:

Please feel free to message @edanko with any questions!

Publicado el 12 de diciembre de 2023 por edanko edanko


Wow, Even! Seriously impressive!

Publicado por stevecollins hace 6 meses

I love this @edanko - great work, I just tried using your method to learn a little bit about genus Plecia vs the rest of the group

Publicado por loarie hace 6 meses

That's truly remarkable! Thank you so much for your wise advice and all you do to engage the community of amateur naturalists.

Publicado por catherine_g hace 6 meses

An invaluable resource and teaching tool. Deeply appreciated. You're taking iNaturalist to another level. What a site this would be if others followed this lead!

Publicado por kenkneidel hace 6 meses

Thank you! This will be very helpful!
Bibionidae is one of my very favorite families. Our yard isn’t very big but it’s narrow and includes a rocky wet ravine, forested and ferned at the base. I think we have some of these Bibionidae, which so far I’m not sure how to identify.
Your key and support is appreciated ! Now I’ve got to figure out how to download and save it…

Publicado por carol-in-maine hace 5 meses

That's great! If you're having trouble downloading the file, or with any other technical issues, please either ask here or PM me.

Publicado por edanko hace 5 meses

This guide is fantastic! I will definitely use it to further my identification skills. Thank you so much for creating this!

Publicado por bwhiteley hace 5 meses

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