Best Practices for Submitting Your Insect for Identification

There are between 10 and 20 thousand species of insects in New Hampshire, so identifying an insect, spider or tick is often the crucial first step towards solving a problem.

Accurate identification of an insect is easiest when the specimens are in good condition. Dried insects are quite fragile and are easily broken. This can delay or prevent accurate identification. To submit dead/ and or dried specimens to the Insect Identification Service, place them in a small box or other container, and pack loosely with facial tissue or cotton. They can also be placed in a zip-lock bag prior to placing them in the box.

Do not use adhesives such as tape to capture or submit your specimen. It is difficult to make an identification, even with a microscope, through tape.

If the box or container has crush-proof sides, it may be mailed in a padded envelope, or placed into a larger box.

Specimens sent in envelopes not protected will be damaged by automatic mail sorting and canceling machines thus making them unidentifiable.

Soft-bodied specimens, such as larvae should be placed in a fluid such as rubbing alcohol diluted 50% with water, and placed in a tightly sealed container that will not leak. Do not put soft-bodied specimens in water.

Soft-bodied specimens may be sent loosely surrounded by alcohol-soaked facial tissue or cotton in a tightly-tied plastic bag or a vial with a tight lid taped shut to prevent leakage. The bag or vial should be packed in a larger box, with the specimen container surrounded by packing material.

The better the condition the insect arrives in, the more accurate the identification will be. If mailing or submitting a live insect, insure that escape is not possible. Containers with secure tops are recommended. A completely closed zip-lock bag is also suitable.


Diagnostic Services Program Manager
Phone: (603) 862-3200
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension, Food & Agriculture, 312 Kendall Hall, Durham, NH 03824