K-State Insect Diagnostics Program accepts digital images for insect identification

Share Tweet Email

The Insect Diagnostics Program is currently accepting identification requests of digital images using this Online Identification Request Form. Providing clear photos and filling out as much information as possible in the form will help our specialists make accurate determinations and aid in providing more information about the specimen as well as appropriate control recommendations if applicable. The goal of the Insect Diagnostic Laboratory is to provide a prompt yet accurate diagnosis of insects and insect related problems.

Before submitting your form along with photos, here are a few tips for photographing specimens you would like to be identified.

Types of photos for different insects

When possible, three images should be submitted. For most arthropods, an image of the top (dorsal) of the animal is most crucial; many insects can be identified with this image alone. Some require other views:

  • For most larvae (caterpillars, grubs, maggots) side and bottom (ventral) views are important as well as the head capsule.
  • Beetles should be shown with top, bottom, and head (front) views.
  • Butterflies and moths should have clear views of wings both above and below.
  • Spiders should have top (body) and front (head) views with a visible arrangement of their eyes.

Fill the frame

Aim to get as close to the subject as possible while still ensuring that it is in focus. Cropping a photo afterwards can be an acceptable way of enlarging your subject depending on the camera you are using.

In general, specimens that are less than 5 mm (1/4 inch) are too small to be identified from images using common digital equipment even if zooming in or cropping. Use judgment on specimens that are small but larger than 5 mm.


Be sure the subject is well lit. Avoid casting a shadow over it as you take the photo. Good lighting is essential for observing true coloration and other important physical aspects of an insect. Good lighting will also help to get the subject in focus more easily.


Blurry or out of focus, subjects usually cannot be identified with certainty. Active specimens can be slowed down by placing them in a freezer or refrigerator for a short time before taking pictures. This will reduce the chances of capturing a blurry photo of the specimen due to movement.

Living Subjects

Pictures of live specimens are preferable. Many caterpillars and soft-bodied insects lose their natural color or become dark when they die. Additionally, identification manuals use color patterns to help distinguish different species, colors on adult specimens can fade when they die. Responses will be transmitted using the contact info you provide on the form. One to five business days may be required to make an identification. Depending on time of the year and complexity of the problem, more time may be needed. Please visit the Insect Diagnostics website for more information at: https://entomology.k-state.edu/extension/diagnostician/



Anthony Zukoff, Extension Entomology, Southwest Research and Extension Center

Tags:  insects identification