Proper identification of insects and related pests is essential to the selection of timely and appropriate control. It is not enough to just know that the pest is a beetle, bug, aphid, or mite. The exact species must be known because the life cycles vary considerably even within similar insect groups. Knowing the precise life cycle of the pest helps in selecting the best method of control and in determining the proper timing of application.
The following procedure is helpful in determining the identity of an insect or related pest if the pest apparently causing the damage is present:
1. Collect sample, placing them in small containers with tight fitting lids. Soft-bodied insects, such as larvae (caterpillars and grubs, for example) are best put directly in alcohol. Household isopropyl alcohol will do. Hard-bodies insects, such as adult stages of flies and beetles, should be put into a container with a small amount of killing agent.
2. Examine pests and compare with available local literature. A good source of information is your nearest garden center. These people are usually very helpful both in identifying the pest and suggesting proper treatment. Be sure to take along a sample of the host plant when going to the garden center for help.
3. If identity is still not certain, sent pest samples along with background information to the local Extension Service office or the entomology department of a state university offering identification services. Information, accompanying the sample infestation should include host plant, date of collection, degree of infestation (if known), and part or parts of the host plant affected by the pest.
4. Select control measures, if warranted, based upon available local literature or advice from an entomologist.
See also Key To Plant Abnormalities