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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Insect & Mite Identification Service
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Overview

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.


Submission Requirements

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.

Documentation

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.

Specimen Preparation

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.


Additional Instructions

The following links provide specific instructions for different classes of submitters.

- USDA-APHIS-PPQ
- University Students & Reseachers
- Private Citizens


Contact Information

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:

e-mail:  IDService@ars.usda.gov
phone: 301.504.7041
FAX: 301.504.6482


Guidelines for USDA-APHIS-PPQ Submissions

The majority of identification requests received by SEL are submitted by APHIS-PPQ, a regulatory division of the USDA charged with safeguarding US agriculture and natural resources from the risks associated with the entry, establishment, or spread of animal and plant pests and noxious weeds. Due to the high volume and variety of submissions that SEL receives from PPQ personnel, additional guidelines have been developed to facilitate the processing of these identification requests.

SEL receives three different types of identification requests from APHIS-PPQ: Digital Images, Standard Port Interceptions, and Domestic Submissions. Special instructions for each type of request are outlined below.


Digital Images
  • Digital images should be submitted ONLY for URGENT interceptions

  • Each interception should be submitted separately
  • Image dimensions should be roughly 600x800 pixels at a resolution of 72dpi and saved in JPEG format, resulting in files that are 100-200KB in size

  • Files should be named based on the following conventions:

17-Character Interception Number|unique letter.jpg
(Example: APHTX061722580001a.jpg)

  • The Subject line of the e-mail message should include the 17 Charcter Interception Number and tentative family ID when available.
    (Example: APHTX061722580001-Pentatomidae)

  • The body of the e-mail should include the following information:
- Port:
- Interception Number:
- Intercept Date:
- Host:
- Origin:
- Tentative ID:
- Attached Files:
  • AFTER interception information has been enterd into PestID, submit images to:

IDService@ars.usda.gov


Standard Port Interceptions
  • Urgent interceptions are not subject to SEL's specimen preparation requirements and may be submitted in the most expeditious manner available (typically in ethanol).

  • All FedEx packages containing Urgent interceptions should be marked with yellow and black "Urgent tape".

  • Urgents should be forwarded to the appropriate SEL location depending on the taxonomic group of the specimen.

  • Prompt and Routine submissions should conform to SEL's submission requirements. Furthermore, all scales and mites must be slide-mounted prior to submission.

  • Port interceptions do not require form ARS-748; however, they must be accompanied by a copy of the intereception record, form PPQ 309.

Domestic Submissions
  • All domestic submissions must be accompanied by SEL's Identification Request Form, ARS-748 (PDF, MS Word, plain text).

  • While it is acceptable to submit all domestic Urgents and Prompts in ethanol, Routine submissions, such as those resulting from domestic survey projects, need to be prepared in accordance with SEL specimen preparation standards.

  • If you send domestic Urgents or Prompts directly to SEL scientists stationed at the National Museum of Natural History, please e-mail or FAX a copy of the Identification Request Form to CTSU in Beltsville, MD.

Contact Information

Communications & Taxonomic Services Unit
USDA-ARS-Systematic Entomology Laboratory
Building 005, Room 137, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

e-mail:  IDService@ars.usda.gov
phone: 301.504.7041
FAX: 301.504.6482


Guidelines for Professional/Academic Submissions


SEL scientists actively collaborate with members of academia, providing taxonomic support for a broad range of basic and applied biological projects. Every attempt is made to provide timely service; however, our scientists' diversity of commitments and shortage of technical support staff limit the speed at which identification requests can be completed. The information that follows includes suggestions of steps you can take to facilitate the processing of your specimens.


General Considerations
  • Provide tentative IDs. In most cases, you should be able to provide tentative IDs to at least the family level. This information is essential for CTSU staff to assign your specimens to the appropriate specialist. By providing tentative IDs you decrease the amount of time CTSU requires to process your submission.
  • Sort your specimens. If you are submitting a mixed-lot, please sort your specimens by family. Separating taxa and repackaging them for distribution to multiple specialists can be a time-consuming task, especially for very large, diverse lots.

  • Contact specialists prior to submission. SEL scientists have a variety of professional commitments that limit the time they have available to perform routine identifications. If time is a factor in your research, you will likely find it advantageous to contact specialists prior to submission and inquire about projected turn-around times.
  • Submit your specimens to CTSU. If you send specimens directly to scientists, there is a greater probability that your specimens will be misplaced or lost. CTSU maintains a database of all pending SEL identifications, and this system allows us to keep track of submissions within the lab.

Submission Requirements

Citations
  • When identifications are used in publications, please acknowledge the contributing taxonomist(s) and include the taxon or group of taxa idenitified as well as their professional affiliation. The following is a suggested format for citations:

    Name of Taxonomist (taxon), Systematic Entomology Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture

  • When available, please send reprints of publications where identifications are reported to CTSU.

Contact Information

Communications & Taxonomic Services Unit
USDA-ARS-Systematic Entomology Laboratory
Building 005, Room 137, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

e-mail:  IDService@ars.usda.gov
phone: 301.504.7041
FAX: 301.504.6482


Guidelines for General Submissions


Whether an amateur entomologist, concerned about potential pests in your home or garden, or just curious, SEL's Insect Identification Service is available to all US citizens to assist with specimen identification. The guidelines that follow provide useful tips to help you get the most out of the Insect Identification Service.


General Considerations
  • SEL provides specimen identifications. SEL does NOT provide extensive biological information along with its identifications, and lab personnel are not authorized to provide specific information regarding pest control strategies. Questions about managing pest species should be directed to your State Cooperative Extension Office.
  • Not all specimens can be identified. Insects represent the most diverse group of animals on the planet, and our knowledge of this diversity is still very limited. Additionally, many insects are only known from specific life stages (larva, pupa, or adult) or from a single sex. As a result, it is not uncommon for specialists to be unable to provide a complete, species-level, determination.
  • Submit your specimens to CTSU. If you send specimens directly to scientists, there is a greater probability that your specimens will be misplaced or lost. CTSU maintains a database of all pending SEL identifications, and this system allows us to keep track of submissions within the lab.

Submission Requirements
  • When possible, please adhere to SEL's standard submission requirements. It is especially important that you include a completed copy of SEL's Identification Request Form, ARS-748 (PDF, MS Word, plain text).

  • We realize that many of the specimen preparation techniques require specialized materials that may not be readily available to the general public. When such materials are unavailable, feel free to improvise. Pill bottles are a good substitute for vials, and rubbing alcohol can be used in place of ethanol. Do NOT use tape or other adhesives to secure specimens to paper.

  • Please label specimens with the following informaion and provide a detailed account of the circumstances under which they were collected.
Country: State: County
Town
Host or Specific Location
Date
Collector's Name

Contact Information

Communications & Taxonomic Services Unit
USDA-ARS-Systematic Entomology Laboratory
Building 005, Room 137, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

e-mail:  IDService@ars.usda.gov
phone: 301.504.7041
FAX: 301.504.6482


Last Modified: 11/7/2013