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

Our services

Service Cost Instructions
Physical Insect Identification (in-lab Identification) $10.00 Click here
Photo Identification (ID not always guaranteed) Free Click here

Physical Sample Instructions

To submit a physical sample, download and fill out our form as completely as possible.  There is a $10.00 fee for physical insect and arthropod 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 insect is a pest and if we feel you need to take management action 
  • General information about integrated pest management options for your diagnosis, if applicable 


Clean medicine bottles are a great shipping container for insect specimens. Gently secure specimen(s) in the bottle with paper towel or tissue. 

Collecting and submitting 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 and aphids can be preserved in hand sanitizer gel or rubbing alcohol.
  • Hard insects such as moths, butterflies, beetles, ants, spiders, mites and ticks 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 towel).
  • Mail samples in a padded mailer or box to protect against crushing.
  • Please include the form with your sample.

Human Parasites: We will not examine skin, hair, scabs, excrement or urine or 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.  

Help For Those Outside of Iowa

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


Photo Submission Instructions

To submit images for identification, attach your images to an email and send them to pidc@iastate.edu. In the email, indicate the county and state in which the insect was found, the date it was found, and any concerns you may have regarding the insect. Note that we can not guarantee identifications from photos and we recommend sending a sample for the most accurate Identification, especially for small insects that are challenging to get in focus. 

Here are tips to help send better pictures.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Take photographs in a brightly lit room, next to a window or outdoors. A plain grey or white background is usually best.
  • 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.
  • Include a size-reference such as a coin, pencil, ruler or yardstick (depending on size) next to the specimen in the photograph.
  • Take several pictures (digital film is free!) but send only the best 1 or 2
  • Take a picture of the top and a bottom of the insect if possible.
  • 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, management, life cycle)?
  • Keep the insect, if we can't identify it from your photo, we may ask you to send it in.
  • Don’t apologize. We’re all in this together and insect photography is difficult (they are so small!).
  • Practice and patience. Pictures will get better with practice.