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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Insect & Mite Identification Service
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1 - Overview
2 - Guidelines for USDA-APHIS-PPQ Submissions
3 - Guidelines for Professional/Academic Submissions
4 - Guidelines for General Submissions
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

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Last Modified: 11/7/2013
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