13 Common Insects You Can Find in Nebraska (2024)

Thousands of insect species live in Nebraska!

Types of insects in Nebraska

Trying to list them all would be impossible. So below, you will find the most common and abundant bugs that live in Nebraska. I did my best to find an array of different types, such as bees, beetles, flies, mantises, ants, etc.

Also, this article ONLY lists INSECTS. Please check out these other ID guides if you are searching for something else:

13 Common Insects in Nebraska:


#1. Common Green Bottle Fly

  • Lucilia sericata

Types of insects in Nebraska

  • Adults have metallic blue-green or copper-green bodies.
  • They have black hair on their backs, black legs, and antennae. Transparent wings with light brown veins.
  • They’re slightly larger than houseflies.

The Common Green Bottle Fly is one of the most common and well-known insects in Nebraska.

These bugs are not many people’s favorite, but they have some critical jobs in forensic, veterinary, and medical science! Their larvae or maggot stage can help scientists determine the time of death in investigations.

In their natural habitat, Green Bottle Flies are essential aids in decomposition, feeding on carrion and feces.

Surprisingly, they’re also pollinators. Some plants, like the Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), have adapted to attract them with flowers that have the color of drying blood and an odor of rotting meat.

These flies are incredibly prolific. A single female fly may produce 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in her lifetime. They reproduce quickly, too, completing their lifecycle in just 2 to 3 weeks.


#2. Eastern Firefly

  • Photinus pyralis

Also known as Big Dipper Fireflies.

Types of insects in Nebraska

  • Their outer wings are dark brown with yellow margins, and their head has two orange spots.
  • They have six legs, two antennae, and compound eyes.
  • The last segment of their abdomens lights up and flashes bright yellow-green.

The best time to see these insects in Nebraska is on a warm summer night!

Odds are you’ve caught one of them when you were a child. 🙂

But interestingly, Eastern Fireflies aren’t flies at all; they’re a type of beetle that thrives in open grassy areas, woodland edges, and around streams.

The light they produce comes from an organ under their body called a lantern. This lantern produces light through a chemical reaction between luciferin, luciferase, and oxygen. The reaction forms a new molecule and releases energy in the form of light.

This light serves to warn predators that these insects taste bad, in addition to attracting mates.

The males are the insects you see lighting up the night skies. They flash and await a response from one of the flightless or nearly flightless females somewhere on the ground below.

YouTube video

It’s not just the adults that produce light. Eastern Firefly eggs and pupae emit a slight glow, too, protecting them from predators.


#3. European/Western Honey Bee

  • Apis mellifera

Types of insects in Nebraska

  • They are primarily red or brown with black bands and orange-yellow rings on their abdomens.
  • They have hairy thoraxes and slightly hairy abdomens.

The Western Honey Bee is one of the most common insects in Nebraska.

Unlike most bee species, Western Honey Bees form perennial colonies which survive for years. These colonies comprise about 30,000 to 80,000 bees, most of which are female, including the queen and worker bees.

YouTube video

Defending the hive can cost these bees their lives. When a Western Honeybee stings, usually its barbed stinger becomes lodged in its target. The attached venom sac and musculature are pulled from the bee, resulting in the bee’s death.

Foraging is hard work! A single worker bee flies at about 15 miles per hour and usually visits 50 to 100 flowers in a single trip.

Despite all this effort, the average worker only produces about 1.5 teaspoons of honey in her lifetime.

This honey is tasty for humans but is also essential for the hive. Workers feed honey to the larvae and feed on it themselves during the winter in temperate climates.


#4. Monarch

  • Danaus plexippus

Types of insects in Nebraska

  • Monarch butterflies have a wingspan of roughly 4 inches (10 cm).
  • Their recognizable coloring is a “stained glass” pattern of orange with black veins. White dots line the outside edge of the wings.
  • Caterpillars are plump, with black, white, and yellow bands and tentacles on each end of its body.

Monarchs are easily one of the most recognized insects in Nebraska!

They are famous for their color pattern and migration. Look for Monarchs anywhere there is milkweed, which is the only food the caterpillars eat.

Most people are familiar with the declining population of Monarchs. Planting milkweed and other native flowering plants is the best way to help them.

Interestingly, Monarchs are toxic to most animals and at the very least, taste bad! This poison comes from the caterpillar’s diet, which is almost entirely made up of milkweed. Toxins from the milkweed plant stay in them, producing a bitter taste and poisonous effects.

During migration, usually in mid-September, you may even see groups of hundreds flying south!

YouTube video

#5. Seven-Spotted Ladybug

  • Coccinella septempunctata

 

  • Types of insects in NebraskaThey have red bodies with six black spots and one big black mark on the middle of their wings (hence their name).
  • The head is black with two white dots.
  • They are also known as Seven-spotted Ladybird and C-7.

When you think of ladybugs, you probably picture something similar to the Seven-spotted Ladybug!

Almost everyone loves them because of the MASSIVE amounts of aphids they eat. This makes them very useful in controlling the pest population of aphids in grasslands and farms.

Surprisingly, this insect is NOT native to Nebraska.

They were introduced here from Europe as a biological control against aphids. Interestingly, while they are thriving in North America, Seven-spotted Ladybugs are declining in their native ranges in Europe.

Check out this video of the Seven-spotted Ladybug, as it is an eating machine!

YouTube video

#6. Asian Lady Beetle

  • Harmonia axyridis

Also known as the Multicoloured Asian Ladybug, Harlequin Ladybird, and Japanese Ladybug.

insects and bugs invasive

  • Adults have domed bodies and are usually about .25 inches (.6 cm) long.
  • Their coloration may range from yellowish-orange to red or black with variable black, orange, or red spots and markings.

The Asian Lady Beetle is NOT a true ladybug. It is similar in how it looks but not in how it acts. It is native to eastern Asia and was brought over to help control aphids like other ladybugs.

Once introduced, this species spread quickly through North America. Many people call it the “Halloween Beetle,” as it often invades homes in Nebraska during October to overwinter. I know we get MANY Asian Lady Beetles coming into our house each year when the weather turns colder!

This species is considered one of the world’s most invasive insects. Their bodily fluids have an unpleasant odor and can stain fabric, so try not to crush this beetle if you find it inside!

Japanese Ladybug how to identify

The easiest way to identify this beetle is by the black markings on its head that look like the letters “W” or “M.”

Check out this video of how big of a problem the Asian Lady Beetle can be before winter.

YouTube video

#7. Eastern Bumble Bee

  • Bombus impatiens

common insects

  • They have black abdomens, legs, and heads.
  • Their thoraxes are primarily yellow, with a circular patch of black hairs between the base of their wings.
  • They have short, even hair all over their bodies and four wings.

The Eastern Bumble Bee is an important pollinating insect in Nebraska!

They’re common in fields, woodlands, gardens, and backyards, where they live in annual underground nests, each containing about 300 to 500 bees.

Eastern Bumble Bee Range Map
Ninjatacoshell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Look for these insects buzzing about your yard, gathering pollen and nectar.

Interestingly, Eastern Bumble Bees can see ultraviolet light. Many patterns on flowers are invisible to the human eye, but these bees can see them perfectly.

These ultraviolet patterns act as “nectar bull’s eyes,” helping the bees to find food and pollinate the flowers.

YouTube video

#8. Common Green Darner

  • Anax junius

  • Adults grow up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long.
  • Both sexes have unmarked green thoraces, bull’s eye marks on their faces, and clear wings that often become amber-tinted with age.
  • Males have bluish-purple abdomens with a black stripe down the middle.
  • Females may appear like males or have reddish-brown abdomens.

Green Darners are common flying insects in Nebraska.

Named for their resemblance to darning needles, these dragonflies are nearly impossible to miss! They’re also one of the largest dragonfly species alive today.

Unlike many dragonflies, some populations of Common Green Darners migrate. Particularly in winter, they travel as far south as Panama. They’re common summertime residents of the northern US and southern Canada, and occasionally, vagrant individuals are spotted well outside their normal range.

They’ve been known to show up as far away as Japan, Russia, Bermuda, France, and the UK! Researchers suspect these are individuals who were blown off course during storms.

When researchers equipped Common Green Darners with micro radio transmitters, they found that these big dragonflies traveled about 10 miles per hour (16 kph) and up to 87 miles (140 km) per day!


#9. Eastern Yellowjacket

  • Vespula maculifrons

Types of yellowjackets

  • They are black with yellow markings.
  • Their first abdominal segment has a wide, black, anchor-shaped marking.
  • Cheeks have continuous yellow bands that don’t completely encircle their eyes.

Eastern Yellowjackets seem to be found in every habitat in Nebraska!

In both urban and suburban areas, you may spot them in woodlands, parks, pastures, and lawns. They’re not picky!

And unfortunately, these insects can deliver an incredibly painful sting. Make sure you don’t wander too close to their nests, which they aggressively defend! These nests can be huge, as queens produce up to 25,000 individuals over a season.

Another problem with Eastern Yellowjackets is their nests are typically underground, so it’s hard to spot one. The nests are often found in residential lawns and are inconveniently discovered while mowing. 🙂

eastern yellowjacket nest


#10. Brown-belted Bumble Bee

  • Bombus griseocollis

Brown-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis)

  • They have short, even hair.
  • A primarily yellow thorax with a black patch between the wing bases.
  • Their first abdominal segment is entirely yellow, and workers usually have a brown or reddish patch in a crescent shape on the second segment.

Brown-belted Bumble Bees are incredibly adaptable. They feed on various flowers like clovers, echinaceas, goldenrods, milkweeds, and vetches. And they have a wide range of habitats in Nebraska, including wetlands, agricultural areas, meadows, and even cities!

Brown-belted Bumble Bees live in small colonies of about 50 or fewer individuals. They nest underground or on the surface in organic matter.

These groups may be small, but they are mighty and will aggressively defend their nests from predators and parasites.

Unlike most bees, males are involved in raising the young. They will help incubate pupae by wrapping their legs around the cocoon and pumping their abdomens.


#11. Convergent Lady Beetle

  • Hippodamia convergens

  • Oval, dark orange body with as many as 13 black spots that vary in size.
  • The head is black with two white spots.

This species is a common native insect in Nebraska.

Convergent Lady Beetles live in a wide variety of habitats. Look for this pretty species in your yard or garden. Unfortunately, in certain areas, they are being outcompeted and replaced by the invasive Asian Ladybeetle.

Convergent Lady Beetle Range Map

convergent ladybug range map

Both adults and larvae feed on aphids, but adults also eat whiteflies, insects, pollen, and other plant materials.

During colder weather, Convergent Lady Beetles form large groups called aggregations. They do this to mate and stay warm during hibernation!

convergent ladybug aggregations

When these ladybugs are in their large groups, they are collected and sold in garden centers as a source of pest control. However, they usually fly away once the person purchases and releases them. Hopefully, they put a buyer-beware notice on the container! : )


#12. Two-striped Grasshopper

  • Melanoplus bivittatus

Two-striped Grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus)

  • Adults are typically 1.2 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) long.
  • They are usually green or tan, with two pale yellow stripes running along the top of their bodies from above their eyes to the hind tips of their wings.
  • They have green or buff hind tibia with black spines.

These insects are well adapted to various habitats in Nebraska!

Part of the reason they can call so many areas home is their diet. Two-striped Grasshoppers aren’t picky and will feed on grasses, herbaceous plants, woody plants, seed pods, flowers, and crops.

When food is scarce, Two-striped Grasshoppers will also scavenge on dead plants and animals. In addition, they occasionally resort to cannibalism!

These grasshoppers can be a lot of fun to find and catch. However, many insect lovers have found out the hard way that Two-striped Grasshoppers are quick to bite when handled. 🙂


#13. Boxelder Bug

  • Boisea trivittata

Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata)

  • Adults are relatively flat and elongate.
  • They are black or dark brown with reddish lines on the edges of their forewings, margins of their abdominal segments, and the center of their pronotum (plate-like structure behind their heads).
  • Their eyes are red.

Boxelder Bugs are native insects in Nebraska.

As their name suggests, it’s common to find them on Boxelder trees, though they will also use Maple and Ash trees. These trees are the bug’s primary food source, and they feed on the leaves, flowers, twigs, and seeds.

You may spot some of them near your house during the fall. Groups of Box Elder Bugs seek out dry, sheltered locations to hibernate through the winter.

Box Elder Bugs sometimes fall prey to birds, spiders, rodents, and praying mantises, but they have developed unique techniques to stay safe. Their red markings and foul smells they release help ward off predators.


Learn more about the bugs that live in Nebraska:

Check out these ID guides that focus specifically on different insect families in Nebraska.


Do you need additional help identifying insects in Nebraska?

If so, check out this excellent ID guide!


Which of these insects have you seen in Nebraska?

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