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WSU Puyallup Plant and Insect  Diagnostic Laboratory
How To Submit A Sample
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Frequently Asked Questions About Insects

I am wondering if you can help identify an insect I found on my bedroom floor. I'd like to be sure it is not a harbinger of others and what I can do about it. I know very little about insects, so I'll describe it as best I can:

Approx 1" long, 1/4" wide; 2 wings, covered by hard shell; Color: Black top, rust colored underside; Head maybe about 1/8" diameter; Long [1/4"] stinger that retracts into the abdomen.

While your description of the insect contains many important details, we are typically unable to identify an insect based solely on a spoken or written description. We recommend that people get their insects identified first before we can make any specific recommendations. The only way we can identify a pest is to have an actual sample of the insect (sometimes we can identify certain insects based on high quality pictures). Please refer to for insect sampling instructions.

How do you control post beetles?
You use the name "post beetles" but we are unfamiliar with this term. The problem with common names of insects is that there are so many of them and the names vary widely- so it is hard to pinpoint which insect a person is talking about. We would need to identify the insect before we can provide management information. Please refer to for insect sampling instructions.

Insects have infested my pantry. They are in the flour, cereal, and dog food. I find them everywhere. HELP!
Cupboard BeetlesThere are several insects that can infest stored food products including carpet beetles, drugstore beetles, larder beetles etc. We would need to examine a specimen in order to determine the exact insect with which you are dealing (refer to insect sampling instructions). These insects, however, can be grouped into a category we commonly call the "cupboard beetles" as they have similar life habits and can all be managed the same way.

Examine your home carefully for evidence of infestations. Sanitation, with removal of any dubious material, is a key management strategy. Consider storing food materials in tightly sealed containers. Insecticides do not work well against this group of insects and should not be used near food anyway.

I have carpenter ants around my home. What should I do?
Carpenter AntFirst, make sure that you have had the ants "positively" identified as carpenter ants (Camponotus species). We have many different ants in Washington and they could require different management strategies. For example, "moisture" ants, such as Lasius species, are associated with an underlying moisture problem that must be addressed to manage the ant problem. If you have had the ants positively identified as carpenter ants, then management recommendations depend on the situation.

Carpenter ants in an old stump in the back yard may not require any additional treatment while finding a colony in the basement definitely does require management. We recommend hiring the help of a professional pest control operator if a carpenter ant colony has been found within the home.

In fall whenever I bring firewood into my house, I end up with these brown bugs flying around. What are they? Will they hurt my house?
Without a sample of the insect, we can only guess at their identity but we receive numerous "seed" bug samples each year at the Puyallup Plant and Insect Diagnostic Laboratory that match this problem scenario. Many of the seed bugs overwinter as adults and tend to move in on warm objects in the fall (e.g. houses, wood piles). They do not harm anything in the house though some may have an objectionable odor. During spring, they try to move outside (so they can feed on seeds- hence the name "seed bug"). Household pesticides normally do not control them - which leaves vacuuming or hand removal the only real option. Bug proofing the home is necessary for long-term prevention. Shaking off the firewood before entering your home to remove any insects overwintering on the wood may help in your situation.

You were unable to identify the insects on the sticky tape that I submitted to the Puyallup Diagnostic Laboratory. Why?
Sticky Tape with InsectsKey diagnostic structures can become crushed or gummed when the insect is collected on sticky tape. Often we are unable to remove the insect from the tape without further damaging the sample; hence we are unable to view the features necessary for identification. So please do not collect insects for identification on sticky tape.

Attached is an image of an insect that was found at our daughter's school. Could you please identify it for us?
Blurry Image of Insect
The picture you submitted lacked the clarity and detail necessary for identification. We prefer examining actual insect samples to that of images. In order to identify insects, we often need to examine the features using a microscope.

To achieve the best possible identification from an image, pictures should be in crisp focus and taken so the insect image is as large as possible. Take pictures from several views (including the underside of an insect). You should include an object (ruler, penny, pencil) for scale in at least one image. Remember we haven't seen the actual insect you caught! To confirm a tentative identification from an image, we encourage submission of the actual sample. Refer to the insect sampling instructions.

I found a moth that I would like identified. Should I store it in alcohol?
No, insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths should not be placed in alcohol as this process can damage features such as scales on the wings that are of use in identification. Instead you should freeze the insect and then gently pack it into a vial. Protect the insect from damage by placing cotton or other soft packing material around the specimen. See insect sampling instructions for further sample submission information.

I found this pupa in my garden and would like to know if it is a pest of vegetables.
Most insects are fairly impossible to identify as pupae. You may want to try to rear the insect to an adult (insect pupa will require air and slight humidity- be careful not to jar the pupa as this often stops the development process) and if successful then submit the adult insect for identification.

Please identify these insect eggs for me. Thanks.
We are unable to identify insect eggs since they all look fairly similar and have little morphological differences for comparison at this stage.

The news is full of information about West Nile Virus. What can I do to protect myself? My children? My horses?

Your best management efforts should be focused on reducing mosquito habitat around your home by emptying containers holding water and fixing leaks in faucets and on minimizing your exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding peak hours, and wearing protective clothes and repellent. PLS #121 "Pest Management for Prevention and Control of Mosquitoes" (pdf) provides additional information.

Your veterinarian will be able to assist you questions regarding horse protection. Currently, the Washington State Department of Health is coordinating West Nile Virus efforts for Washington. 

I have been having insect problems with my apple fruit. What can I do to manage such problems?

Apple MaggotsTwo pests, the codling moth and the apple maggot, can damage apple fruit in Western Washington. The codling moth larvae tend to chew a large tunnel parallel to the core of the apple, while apple maggots tunnel throughout the apple flesh.

Fruit that is damaged by apple maggot often undergoes further fungal decay rendering it inedible (see picture). Recommendations for the management of these two pests can be found on the Hortsense web page.


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