Identifying insects in the garden

Being a keen amateur photographer, I try to experiment with different techniques and approaches so that I get photos I can be proud of. I use a digital SLR for most of the pictures I take, falling back to a small point-and-shoot or even my phone camera when I see a shot but don't have my camera kit with me.
I'm fond of taking pictures of small insects, using a type of photography called Macro Photography - basically the taking of pictures of small creatures sometimes too small for the eye to see clearly.
Often, I'll take a picture of an insect that I can't readily identify so I am then left with the job of identifying the subject of my photograph by trying to match descriptions and lists from the Internet.  Usually I'm lucky, but only by perseverance and judicious use of search engine terms and commands.
Let's look at an example to see what I mean:

Some of you will know straight away what this is, but I didn't, so let's try to identify this from this photograph.  First of all, how would we describe this?  It was found on the inside glass door to our conservatory and was about 25-30mm long.  From the photo it has six legs, no wings and a distinctive twin tail from the end of the abdomen.  It is also almost colourless.

(For the technical among you, the photo was taken using a reversed-mounted 50mm prime lens on a Pentax K200D.  Exposure was 1/180th of a second, no flash and the speed of the camera was set to ISO 200.  Due to the very narrow depth of field available, the camera was mounted on a sturdy tripod and the exposure triggered using a remote control)

Starting with an obvious search:

I got the following results very quickly, only one of which in the first screen had any decent relevance to my search:

The Dragonfly article on Wikipedia was no use this time.  The pictures there - and the description - did not match the insect I photographed.  The article on Pond Insects did seem worth a look as it mentions in the extract ... "These nymphs are about 2.5 cm long, and usually have three tails attached to .... "  Clicking on the link and reading through the article gave me slightly more detail to go on.  Under the Mayfly section was the following phrase:

"These nymphs are about 2.5 cm long, and usually have three tails attached to the abdomen. They also have 3 pairs of segmented legs ending in claws"

The size is about right, the number of legs is right, but three tails attached to the abdomen?  Let's look a bit closer.  Next search would be for "Mayfly nymph" and resulted in a number of useful links - and a few images.

The first thing you can see is that none of the pictures presented actually look like my photo above.  The second is that you can now see some results showing that the 'Mayfly' is used as a fly-fishing bait to catch fish.  This means that, as ever, we have to question the relevance of the search results to our actual quest.  We're not interested in fly-fishing, so we do not need to click on these links.  Starting at the Wikipedia search result we learn that there are a number of stages to the life of a Mayfly and it is likely that this photo is therefore of a young Mayfly that has moulted from a nymph to a Subimago, the last stage before it grows its wings and becomes a full adult.

Interestingly, Mayflies are so-called because they usually become adults in the Spring.  The photo above was taken in late September, in Surrey, UK.

I've used similar techniques to identify other insects I have taken in photographs - such as this Thick- or Fat-legged flower beetle seen here apparently  talking to a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly:

There are many online collections of photos of insects and wildlife that you can (and should) peruse.  Some of the photography is simply stunning and it is well worth looking through some of these if you have any interest in our wildlife.  I have provided some links below to get you started.  There are many, many more to find - just use a search engine to look for UK wildlife:

UK Safari
What's That Bug
Wild About Britain

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