Arthropod Identification

If you are sending us an insect for identification, live insects are preferable because the colour often changes in alcohol, or we may need to rear the caterpillar to adult stage for identification.

If you are able to send live insects, please do the following:

  • Use a sturdy, plastic container to put the insect into. Takeaway containers can crush during postage, as can glass jars.
  • Put paper towel or tissue in the bottom of the container to absorb moisture and reduce the chance of a fungal outbreak.
  • Send multiple individuals if possible, and, if possible, various life stages of the insect (i.e. adults and nymphs).
  • Include some of the insect’s host plant as food for the journey.
  • Send by express post between Monday and Wednesday so that it arrives by before the weekend.

If you are sending dead insects for identification, please do the following:

  • Use a vial or screw top container made of sturdy plastic that will not leak. Do not use glass.
  • Send multiple individuals if possible, and, if possible, various life stages of the insect (i.e. adults and nymphs).
  • Put a small amount of ethanol or methylated spirits in the bottom, enough the just cover the insects, or even partially cover the insect if it is large. Do not use more than 150 ml of ethanol or methylated spirits because it is against Australia post regulations. You shouldn’t need more than 50ml.
  • Seal the container or vial with sticky tape/duct tape.
  • Send via express post between Monday and Wednesday so that it arrives by before the weekend.

If you are sending us a photograph of an insect, we will try our best to give you an identification.

Take multiple, focussed shots with your phone camera or macro lens camera under good lighting or outdoors. Shots should include

  • The head from above
  • Close up of antennae (just 1 is fine)
  • Close up of wing showing the veins (if applicable)
  • Close up of legs
  • Shots of the whole insect from above and from the side