3 Tips to Take Bug Photos That Entomologists Can Actually Identify

Bug identification is hard, right? That’s why you sometimes need to ask for help from trained entomologists or other qualified experts. Proper insect identification is step one on the path to pest management success for the pest control operator.

Entomologists spend a significant amount of their time identifying insects as a part of their job. Also, as a free consultant to friends, or the random person on facebook they haven’t spoken to in 10 years. If you are a NPMA member and don’t already know, insect identification from a PhD entomologist is a benefit that you have as a member. To help entomologists everywhere get some of the time back they will never see again, follow these tips to be a better bug photographer, even with your phone.

  1. Get close. Repeat after me, GET CLOSE! Most insects are small, some are incredibly teeny-tiny. If the photo is taken several inches away (or feet, I mean really people!?) then you won’t be able to see any detail. Detail is key, so a close photo will help with seeing all the small details that are important.
  2. Keep the insect in focus. Should be a no brainer, right? If the bug is a blurry black dot or not distinguishable then we entomologists will, unfortunately, not be able to perform a miracle identification. Even better, if you can zoom a little and still see somewhat clearly – then you get bonus points.
  3. Take several angles. Just got a picture of the insect back end (abdomen)? An entomologist probably won’t be able to ID without the rest of the insect. Try to get several different angles if you can, especially if your specimen is not alive. Can you take a picture of the top of the insect, the underneath, the face, the legs? It all helps. Sometimes for really specific ID, even a clear picture won’t work unless you can count tiny spines on the legs etc. So, when it gets that crazy it might be time to just mail your bug for someone to look at it under a microscope.

Last but not least, if you get a picture from a customer that you can’t even tell is a bug – trust me, I won’t be able to either.

Brittany Campbell, PhD, BCE