How to send a sample or photo to the IDL for identification
The IDL is open on weekdays year-round, except for occasional days when the Diagnostician is away, and during Cornell’s Winter Break.
Update 2019: When sending in a sample please be aware of the US Post Office mailing rates increased in January. The new basic First Class postage is 55 cents for the first ounce, and since samples require a crush-proof enclosure or container to protect them during shipment, usually extra postage is required – any envelope with a lump or thickness of 1/4 inch is handled at the “Package” rate by the Post Office. Postage for boxes and other packages sent by US mail has changed to a distance-based Zone rate scale.
Once samples have been delivered to the Lab, IDs are usually completed within a few hours or the following day. When we have finished the ID we will email you the results in a Diagnostic Report, along with any Factsheet or additional information. In the occasional case when a sample requires further examination or research to be identified, we will let you know about the delay. Depending on the time mail and packages arrive at our Cornell campus building mailroom, they get delivered to our Lab by late afternoon or the next day. There are no deliveries to Cornell on weekends or Federal holidays.
For any questions about sample submission or ID results, or to let us know a sample is being sent, please email: IDLDiagnosticLab@cornell.edu (there is no telephone in the lab).
(FOR TICK IDENTIFICATION AND TICK DISEASE TESTING, available at a different Cornell lab (AHDC), see bottom of this page)
UNKNOWN BITING PESTS: When searching for a suspected biting pest, things that are actually seen crawling around may be worth collecting for closer examination. If it is too tiny to be certain it is an insect or mite, and motionless, it is very likely just a bit of lint or debris. Small debris items may appear to ‘jump’ due to static electricity, in a plastic bag or if approached with a finger or piece of tape – this is not the same as a live insect or mite walking around. Even tiny biting mites (bird, fowl, or rat mites) are readily visible crawling on surfaces, with normal eyesight or reading glasses.
Photos of the skin (suspected bites, or rashes or lesions) are generally NOT helpful for an ID, as different people’s skin reacts differently and other things such as allergies can produce similar skin symptoms – so please do not bother sending skin photos.
A. $25 Sample IDs:
If you have an insect or related organism you want identified:
- Collect it using the recommendations in Step 1 below
- Fill out the information on the IDL Fillable Form or write the information on a sheet of paper (see Step 2)
- Step 3: write a check or money order for $25 payable to “Cornell University”
- Package the sample, form or paper with info, and $25 payment, following the directions in Step 4 below (see Step 4 for mailing address)
- If you also have a photo of your sample to email, the $25 fee covers both. We may be able to provide preliminary information before the sample arrives at the lab for examination under the microscope
- If you don’t get an email from IDLDiagnosticLab within a couple days of when the package would have been delivered, please check your Spam or Junk emails, and contact IDLDiagnosticLab@cornell.edu to let us know
B. $25 Photo IDs:
If you have a photo you would like identified:
- Fill in the information on the IDL Fillable Form (see Step 2 below)
- Email the photo and a PDF copy of the form to IDLDiagnosticLab@cornell.edu
- If the photo is clear enough for us to provide an ID, we will let you know to mail in a check or money order for $25 payable to “Cornell University” to the address in Step 4 below
Step 1: Collecting the sample
- Collect 1 or several (up to 10) individuals, undamaged if possible. Crushed specimens may be identifiable to a general type of insect, but not always to species – but if a specimen is already squashed, include all the fragments as they may help with the ID.
- For large insects, kill them in a bag or container in the freezer overnight, then gently wrap in a paper towel or tissue to keep them from shaking around, then put into a container or bag.
- To collect tiny insects or mites, gently wipe up with a small piece of slightly-damp paper towel or tissue, and put in a ziplock bag or tight-lidded container.
- If the sample was collected on sticky tape, please do NOT fold it over or put tape or plastic onto the sticky side. For mailing, securely tape the ends or edges of the piece of tape, STICKY SIDE UP, onto the inside of the lid of a plastic container or small box, so that when the container or box is closed, the sticky surface will not touch anything.
- For sticky traps, do not fold over flat and do not cover sticky surface with plastic. Fold the trap into a triangle or box shape so the sticky surfaces don’t touch. Or, attach the edges of a flat trap securely to the inside of a box or container, STICKY SIDE UP, not touching any surface.
- Delicate or soft-bodied insects (aphids, caterpillars, etc.) can be sent in a teaspoonful of alcohol in tight-capped container or ziplock bag.
- Plant samples with insects or mites should be sent in a tightly-closed plastic bag inside a mailing box.
- For bed bugs and carpet beetles, we recommend killing by freezing overnight, before shipment.
Step 2: Fill out the IDL form
The same form is used for mailed samples, emailed photos, or both. A printed form can be filled in by hand, or you can type into the form (online, in Adobe Reader, or another pdf editor) and then print or email us a copy.
Either fill in the IDL FORM (click on red box) and save the file to print out or email,
download the IDL Fillable Form and use Adobe Reader (or Preview on a Mac) to fill it in; or print it out and fill in the form by hand,
write on a piece of paper (or in an email): your name, address where sample was found (with zipcode), email address (or a friend or relative’s email, who can pass the ID information along to you), where the sample was collected (indoors, or on what kind of plant, etc.), and the date it was collected.
Step 3: Payment
Write a check or money order for $25, payable to “Cornell University”, for each sample or photo (or for a mailed sample & photos of what’s in the sample).
A single sample can include multiple examples of the same kind of insect (or more than 1 photo of the same kind of insect). Or a sample can include multiple items, if your main concern is whether or not they are a particular kind of pest (such as “cockroaches? or carpet beetles?”). For different kinds of insects, if you are interested in what each kind is, then each would count as a separate $25 sample.
Step 4: Mailing directions
For samples, send with payment and IDL Form. For photo IDs, send payment (IDL Form can be emailed). Mailing address:
Insect Diagnostic Lab
2144 Comstock Hall, Entomology
Ithaca NY 14853-2601
IMPORTANT PACKAGING DETAILS:
- Do NOT send a sample in a flat letter envelope: it will get crushed in the mail and become unidentifiable.
- You can send a sample in a ziplock bag or closed container, packed inside a box for mailing. If the box is large, add a little crushed newspaper or bubble wrap.
- A padded envelope can be used instead of a box, but only if the sample is inside a crush-proof container. Even with the padding, a sample just in a bag inside (without protection) will get damaged during shipment, since heavy catalogs and boxes are piled on top of padded envelopes in the mail bins.
- If the sample is in liquid, drain off all but a spoonful, make sure the lid closes tightly, wrap a paper towel around the container, and put inside a plastic bag.
IMPORTANT MAILING DETAILS:
- Do NOT send by a method that requires a signature – that can delay delivery when no one is in the building mailroom.
- Make sure to use enough postage (and please note the rate increases January 27, 2019): the Post Office charges package rate (which can be $3 to more than $4, depending on the distance/zone) for a 1 ounce envelope if it is 1/4 inch thick or lumpy at all – even just the lump of the clasp of a ziplock bag. Insufficient postage can add up to 3 weeks to the delivery time, while it waits for Postage Due notification from the Post Office. Also see note above: samples sent in envelopes without protection get crushed in the mail and become unidentifiable.
- If you’re given a tracking number, please email that to us so we can check on delivery. (Note: USPS shows “Delivered” when packages reach the Ithaca Post Office; their truck gets to our building in the afternoon, Monday to Friday only)
IN-PERSON DROPOFF: For people near Ithaca New York, samples can be dropped off at 2144 Comstock Hall on the Cornell campus during weekday work hours. Cash or check payment can be made to the Entomology Accountant in 2132 Comstock. IDL Forms and drop-off info are posted on the bulletin board outside 2144 Comstock.