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All About Amber/ Common Insects found in Amber

Termites (Isoptera, Various Families): The worker and soldier termites lack wings. Individuals that mate in a swarm have two pairs of wings with fore and hind pairs very similar to each other. All termites live socially in colonies and feed on cellulose in wood, grass, and other plant matter.

Moth Flies (Diptera Psychodidae): These flies are small to minute with hairy moth-like wings. Moth Flies live in shady places and are often abundant in drains or sewers. Their larvae live in decaying vegetable matter.

Moths and Butterflies (Lepidoptera): Virtually all the Lepidoptera found in amber are small moths with pointed wings, whose larvae feed on bracket fungi, mosses and mined leaves. Tiny moths resemble and are closely related to Caddis Flies (Order Trichoptera). They are distinguished from Caddis Flies by their small, coiled “tongue” and scaled wings.

Parasitoid Wasps (Hymenoptera, Various Families): They are most often very tiny with a stout body and wings with hardly any veins. These parasites lay their eggs in the larvae or even in the eggs of other insects were they develop and eventually kill their host. There is a great diversity of these tiny wasps in amber.

Black Scavenger Flies (Diptera Scatopsidae): They have one pair of wings, a few dark veins on the edges of their wings, and a stout black body with short antennae and small heads. They breed in various sorts of decaying vegetation. They can occur in large swarms. Mating pairs are sometimes found trapped in amber.

Punkies or No-See-Ums or Biting Midges (Diptera Ceratopogonidae): They are minute midges that are notorious biters, although some species feed on other punkies and insects. Like all biting flies, only females suck blood. They are closely related to Chironomidae).

Fungus Gnat (Diptera Mycetophilidae): They are very diverse in Dominican amber, some having beautifully patterned wings. They are distinguished by their long legs and especially their tibiae with spurs at the end. Larvae live in and near wherever fungi and mycelia occur such as mushrooms, rooting logs, etc. Some have predaceous larvae.

Long Legged Flies (Diptera Dolichopodidae): They are common and diverse small flies, many of them with a green iridescence in life. They range in size from less than 1mm to 1cm in length. These flies are most commonly found around wooded streams.

Aquatic Midges (Diptera Chironomidae): Their larvae live in fresh water or very damp soil. Some forms of their larvae that are deep red have the common name “Blood Worms”. Adults mate in swarms. Males Have antennae that resemble bottle brushes. Only a few species of Chironomids (in Chile) actually bite. Most feed on honeydew as adults or not at all.

Bristletails (Microcoryphia): They resemble silverfish (Order Thysanura). They are distinguished from silverfish by the large eyes that meet on the top of their head. Both have three long filaments at the tip of their abdomen (the filaments are short in some Thysanura). Microcoryphia are actually the most primitive kind of insect, hearkening to a period prior to when insects evolved wings.

Wood Gnats (Diptera Anisopodidae): Wood gnats are so-called because they are associated with tree trunks. Larvae of many forms live under loose, decaying bark. They resemble mycetophilids, and some such as Valeseguya are quite large. This particular genus is fascinating because its only living relative is in Australia.

Ants (Hymenoptera Formicidae): The most common family in Dominican amber is known as Formicidae. The male ants have wings. Queen ants (rare) have wings during part of their lives. Other ants include highly predator forms with long mandibles, carpenter ants, flat headed ants (Zacryptocerus), and even army ants fungus gardening ants (rare).

Leafhoppers (Homoptera Cicadellidae): They are small with stout bodies, broad heads, patterned wings, spiny legs, and with hind legs larger than the others (for jumping). They suck the juices of plants. Many have vivid and bold colored patterns, although the patterns have usually faded in the ones preserved in amber.

Stingless Bee (Hymenoptera Apidae): Their hind legs have enlarged tibiae (pollen baskets). They are a social honey bee that constructs nest in cavities lined with resin. The species in Dominican amber, Proplebia Dominican, in fact, was usually trapped while harvesting resin for its nest. They may be found with balls of resin attached to their legs.

Bark Beetles (Coleoptera Platypodidae): They have long cigar-shaped bodies with short hidden antennae. They bore tunnels into the wood and feed on the fungus that they inoculate in their tunnels. Wood plugs that beetles push out of the tunnels are often found in amber, sometimes with the beetles.

Scuttle Flies (Diptera Phoridae): They have bristly bodies and a very distinctive venation. They derive their name from their characteristic “zig-zag” movements made while running over a surface. They are common in Dominican amber and have many different species. Most are scavengers but some are parasites of other insects.

Muscoid Flies (Acalyptrate): This is a large group of flies including the louse fly, marsh fly, grass fly, and the shore fly.

Gall Midges (Diptera Cecidomyidae): They are tiny, frail, long-legged midges, commonly called “ Gall Midges” because many species (but not all) form characteristic galls on plants. The wings have few veins and the antennae have joints that look like a beaded necklace.

Dark Winged Fungus Gnats (Diptera Sciaridae): They are closely related to the mycetophilids. Their habits are also similar. Sciarids are distinguished from mychetophilids by their absence of tibial spurs (or ones that are very small) and by their wings with a characteristics fork in their veins.

Jumping Spiders (Araneae): There are a wide variety of spiders found in Dominican Amber. One common family of spiders is Salticidae (Jumping Spiders.) They have broad heads with six to eight large eyes that point forward. As the name implies, salticids jump on their prey and away from enemies. They also have excellent vision.

Spiders (Araneae): Spiders were very common then as they are now and represented one of the larges groups of predators in the ancient forest. Being wingless, spiders use silk as a means of carrying them from one location to another. Their body is divided into two segments: a cephalothorax and an abdomen, and most have 8 simple eyes.

Beetles (Coleotera): Beetles are the largest insect order. They are found almost everywhere: land, freshwater, and in all types of vegetation. They fly, swim and crawl, and they may be plant feeders, scavengers as carnivores, as adults or as larvae. A few are parasitic.

Barklouse (Caecillidae): These are leaf-inhabiting psocids on both conifers and broad-leaf trees. Most are long-winged, but some ground-litter species have both long-winged and short-winged females. Twenty-eight species are known in the United States.

Planthoppers (Homoptera): These clear-winged bugs or homopterans are herbivores that flitted from branch to branch in the canopy of the ancient rain forest. Some are brightly colored while others have their body segments modified such the elongated head shown in this species.

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