Submitting an insect, spider, mite, or other arthropods for identification

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Our services

Download and fill out our form as completely as possible.  There is a $10.00 fee for insect identifications and you will be billed after you receive your diagnosis from us. 

We strive to rapidly identify your insect.  Our reports are sent out via email (we can mail a report if you do not have email but there will be a delay in you receiving results).  In your report you will receive:

  • Identification of insects and related arthropods 
  • General information about your insects life cycle
  • Information about if your insects is a pest and if we feel you need to take management action 
  • General information about integrated pest management options for your diagnosis 

We can tell you if you need to be concerned about winged ants in your home.
We can tell you if you need to be concerned about winged ants in your home.

Collecting and insect samples

  • Collect multiple (6–12) insects if you can.
  • Insects, spiders, etc. should be dead when shipped (you can freeze them overnight to kill them)
  • Mail insects in a bottle, box or padded envelope.
  • Soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, aphids and ants, and spiders, mites and ticks can be preserved in hand sanitizer gel.
  • Hard insects such as moths, butterflies and beetles do not need to be preserved, but they should be restrained inside the container so they don't bounce around during shipment (for example, secure a moth or butterfly inside a box with layers of dry paper toweling).
  • Mail samples in a padded mailer or box to protect against crushing.
  • Please include the form with your sample.

Need to know if you have bed bugs? Send us a sample.
Need to know if you have bed bugs? Send us a sample.

Human Parasites: We will not examine skin, scabs, excrement or urine for other bodily fluids for insects or mites.  Scabies and other potential parasites must be diagnosed by a medical doctor.  We can identify the following human parasites: ticks, lice, fleas, bird mites and bed bugs. Small insects and mites must be taped to a white sheet of paper and circled.  

Photo shows how to properly package hard bodied insects - in a container to prevent crushing and retrained within the container (with toilet paper) to prevent damage.

Help For Those Outside of Iowa

Your local Extension Office or state Diagnostic Laboratory is the best to help you with your insect problems. 

Digital Photography for Insect Diagnosis

Here are tips to help send better pictures.

Download a printable version 

  1. Get as close to the specimen as possible with the camera.  Take and send as high a resolution photo as you can so we can 'zoom in' on features we need to see.
  2. If the insect is fast moving you can place the insect in the freezer for 15 minutes before taking the picture. They will be immobile for a few minutes before they warm up and resume moving about. Freezing overnight will kill the insect. Take the chilled/dead insect out of the bag or bottle before photographing it.
  3. Take photographs in a brightly lit room, next to a window or outdoors.
  4. Focus, focus, focus.  To focus a cell phone camera, often simply tapping the screen will adjust the focus automatically. For standard point and shoot cameras, push the capture button down half-way, most cameras will then focus.
  5. Include a size-reference such as a coin, pencil, ruler or yardstick (depending on size) next to the specimen in the photograph.
  6. Take several pictures (digital film is free!) but send only the best 1 or 2
  7. Take a picture of the top and a bottom of insect if possible.
  8. Include basic information about the insect in the message: Where are you seeing them (inside, outside, on a plant), how many insects, what would you like to know (identification, managment, life cycle)?
  9. Keep the insect, if we can't identify it from your photo, we may ask you to send it in.
  10. Don’t apologize. We’re all in this together and insect photography is difficult (they are so small!).
  11. Practice and patience. Pictures will get better with practice.
  12. Attach the image file to an email message and send to insects@iastate.edu