To identify an insect, an entomologist will first narrow down the range of possibilities by examining the creature's appearance. For instance, if it has two wings it will most probably be a species of fly. If it has eight legs, chances are it will be a spider.
This process of identification has become a lot simpler and faster with the advent of database and multimedia software. It is now possible to store large amounts of biological data and to access this information through user-friendly, matrix-based directories, or ‘keys’. One such multimedia matrix key is Lucid, a comprehensive and powerful tool developed at the Centre for Biological Information Technology (CBIT), University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, that is available via the web or on CD-ROM. Anyone, whether a biology professor or a farmer, can use Lucid to identify any insect pest and retrieve the necessary information on how to combat it.
Imagine you find a fly in your field, and you want to make sure it’s harmless. To identify it and find out more about it, you simply start up Lucid and select the key on flies. The key will present you with a series of features from which you select those that are true for your particular fly, consequently reducing the list of the species it is likely to be. For instance, you can select the colour of the fly’s body, its size, the geographical location of your field, and so on. As you proceed through the identification, various multimedia modules (images, video, sound) and processing functions will help you reduce the list. Once you have identified the fly species, Lucid offers descriptive notes, illustrations, sound recordings and videos. It also provides links to websites and experts offering more detailed information and advice on what pest management steps you may need to take.