The Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) routinely provides specimen identification assistance as a free service to both governmental and private entities, including federal research and regulatory agencies, state departments of health and agriculure, university researchers, and private citizens. This service is coordinated by SEL's Communications & Taxonomic Services Unit (CTSU) and relies on the expertise of SEL scientists and collaborating specialists. CTSU maintains a relational database allowing for the efficient management of identification assignments. Upon completion, CTSU is responsible for reporting identifications to the submitter and returning specimens when requested.
Due to the large volume of identification requests that are received by SEL, submission requirements have been instituted to facilitate the processing of ID requests. The requirements that follow fall into two major categorioes, documentation and specimen preparation. Timely completion of requested identifications is dependent upon your compliance with our submission standards.
Aside from APHIS-PPQ port interceptions, all submissions must be accompanied by a completed copy of SEL's Insect Identification Request Form, ARS-748. Versions of this form are available for download in PDF, MS Word, and plain text formats. Detailed instructions for completeing this form are also available.
The ability of SEL scientists and collaborators to provide complete and accurate identifications depends heavily on the quality of the specimens that are submitted for examination. In short, all hard-bodied insects should be pinned or point-mounted while larvae and other soft-bodied specimens should be preserved in 70% ethanol. All specimens should be appropriately labeled with collection locality data. Additionally, all adult Lepidoptera should be submitted with their wings spread to allow for easy examination of wing veination. If you are unfamiliar with specimen preparation techniques, we recommend that you review the relevent sections of SEL's handbook, Collecting and Preserving Insects and Mites: Tools and Techniques. General guidelines for specific taxa can be found in our specimen preparation table.
The following links provide specific instructions for different classes of submitters.
- University Students & Reseachers
- Private Citizens
If you have been in communication with a specialist regarding your submission, please make note of this on your Identification Request Form. All specimens and accompanying documentation should be sent to the following address:
Communications & Taxonomic Services Unit
USDA-ARS-Systematic Entomology Laboratory
Building 005, Room 137, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350
Any questions or inquiries regarding SEL's Identification Service should be directed to:
Geoffrey B. White, Entomologist