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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Request Official Confirmation of Preliminary Pest Identifications of Domestic Samples

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the federal authority responsible for officially confirming pest identifications that are preliminarily made by a federal or state official or competent private entity of domestic samples. APHIS must confirm a pest identification before the federal government may take official action in response to a pest detection. APHIS must also confirm a pest identification before a new state or county record may be entered in the National Agricultural Pest Information System (NAPIS) or other federally-recognized databases.

Timely official confirmation ensures that government officials can rapidly respond to pest incursions or outbreaks and prevent the widespread distribution of potentially damaging plant pests in the United States. To request official confirmation of a pest identification, please follow the steps below.

Routine Identification of Program Pests
APHIS’ National Pest Identification Specialists do not routinely identify program pests. Each program has its own pest submission procedures.  Those procedures may or may not overlap with the instructions provided below. Before submitting a suspect program pest, contact the National Program Manager or the National Operations Manager for that program.  You can find a complete list of program pests and program contacts here.

Submitters must screen and sort all specimens and obtain a preliminary identification before sending them to one of APHIS’ National Pest Identification Specialists.

  1. State Departments of Agriculture: Sort/screen specimens on site. If that is not possible, contact the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) Coordinator (John.Bowers@usda.gov) for guidance.
  2. Farm Bill Project – Make arrangements for sorting and preliminary identification in advance; if for some reason this was overlooked, contact the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine National Operations Manager for Pest Detection (Lisa.D.Jackson@usda.gov).
  3. APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Field Operations: If you have an arrangement with a Domestic or Port Area Identifier, continue with the current arrangement.

Once your specimen(s) has a preliminary identification, you will need to contact APHIS’ Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator at PPQ.Domestic.Diagnostic.Coordinator@usda.gov to confirm the suspect pest has regulatory significance for APHIS.  APHIS will confirm suspects pests which either are not established domestically, or are found in limited distribution areas which are subject to potential quarantine restrictions. This excludes many serious pests which are either native or widely introduced.  When you contact the DDC, copy the PPQ “State Plant Health Director” or SPHD.  Contacting the SPHD is necessary, as their office or designee will be responsible for 1) submitting a corresponding request in our “Agricultural Risk Management” system (ARM), and 2) emailing you a PDF domestic routing receipt once the request has been submitted.  This routing receipt will have the correct shipping address, type of ID requested (morphological, digital, or molecular), and any notes that may be pertinent.  Please print this routing receipt and include it in the package with the specimens/samples.

Complete and include one PPQ Form 391 for each specimen for each set of collection data —that is, for each combination of locality, date, and collector.  Clearly label each specimen so that it can be correlated with the corresponding Form 391. A collection number is the best way to do this.  When sending multiple printed forms, be sure to tightly correlate each form with its corresponding specimen(s).  Do NOT send a stack of forms and multiple containers that can’t be correlated.  PPQ Form 391 is available as a fillable PDF form

In general, submit fresh specimens, especially of plant material. For diseases, check with the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator first to find out whether you should submit DNA extracts in addition to symptomatic plant tissue.

Mites, snails, and nematodes should be placed in a vial of 70% ethyl alcohol.

Insect larvae should be killed in boiling water, allowed to cool, and then placed in 70% ethyl alcohol.

Insect adults should be submitted dry in vials.  When large specimens are involved, place cotton or a similar material in the vial to prevent damage during shipping. 

Avoid submitting insects (other than moths) on sticky traps. To remove insect specimens from sticky traps:

  1. Cut the insect out of the trap with scissors so that it is stuck only to a small piece of trap backing.
  2. Soak the backing with the insect in the appropriate solvent until the insect floats off.
  3. Leave the insect in the solvent until it is completely free of adhesive.
  4. When it is free of adhesive, place the insect in 70% ethyl alcohol.

This procedure works well for both delicate insects like Swede midge and solidly-built ones like emerald ash borer.

In contrast, leave Lepidoptera on the sticky cards on which they were collected to preserve their wings and wing pattern. Indicate the position of each suspect on the trap with a loop of thread or string or a paper pointer. Place each trap or card in its own separate re-sealable bags with the sticky surface separated from the bag. Include the name of the sticky solvent on the Inland Beyond Port (IBP) record. Avoid submitting more than 4 moth suspects per trap. If there are more than 4 moth suspects on a trap, select the best 4 specimens to submit.

Pack specimens in a well-padded box. Be sure to include a print out of both the 391 form(s) and the ARM generated Diagnostic Request in the box.

When you mail or ship the physical specimens, notify the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator by email at PPQ.Domestic.Diagnostic.Coordinator@aphis.usda.gov and cc: the appropriate National Pest Identification Specialist (see list below).

In the email, include the following:

  • A summary of what is in the package
  • An explanation of why the specimens should be identified (For example, will the species, if confirmed, be a new state record or a new record for the continental United States? Is confirmation needed to authorize federal or state action? Please also include this information in the remarks section of the PPQ Form 391 in case the package is separated from the cover email when the specimens are being processed.)
  • The tracking number from the express courier (express consignment operator or carrier) delivery service used to ship the specimen:

Attach a PDF of the completed PPQ Form 391 391 as well as the ARM-generated Diagnostic Record Routing Receipt.


National Pest Identification Specialists

For Insects/Mites to National Identification Services (NIS)/SEL
cc:
mary.j.burns@usda.gov
andrew.carmichael@usda.gov
IDService@ars.usda.gov

ForLymantria dispar
cc: PPQ.CPHST.Otis.Gypsy.Moth.Diagnostics@usda.gov

For Fruit Flies and Select Other Insects for Molecular Identification (ask the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator first)
cc: norman.b.barr@usda.gov

For Snails & Slugs
cc: PPQNISNTMalacology@usda.gov

For Nematodes
cc: zafar.handoo@ars.usda.gov 

For Weeds
cc: PPQNISNTBotany@usda.gov

For Fungi
cc: PPQNISNTMycology@usda.gov

For Molecular Diagnostics of Diseases
cc:
PPQ.ST.Beltsville.Diagnostics@usda.gov
aaron.h.kennedy@usda.gov

Use an express courier delivery service. Be aware that some courier services may have restrictions on shipping alcohol by air. APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine employees should contact their Safety Coordinator for details. 

As for where to mail the package, this information will be provided to you by the SPHD, as part of the shipping manifest they email you once they have entered the diagnostic request into ARM.

Notification of Results

Once a pest identification is confirmed, the National Pest Identification Specialist or recognized laboratory will enter the final identification in Pest ID and notify the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator.

If the organism is categorized as a pest (i.e., quarantine or not), the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator will relay the identification to APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine Emergency and Domestic Programs (EDP) staff.  EDP staff will simultaneously notify the SPHD and SPRO by email according to the posted Pest Identification Notification to States protocol.

If the organism’s quarantine status has yet to be determined, the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator will send a request for categorization by email to the National Identification Services (NIS) Coordination and Policy staff.  When categorization is complete, the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator will relay the information to EDP and they will simultaneously notify the SPHD and SPRO per the Pest Identification Notification to States protocol.

All notifications of confirmed identifications in ARM will include a reference to the ARM Diagnostic Request, which should allow anyone with access to the system to access the record. Arthropod specimens will be returned upon request. Do not contact the specialist who made the identification for information; contact the PPQ Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator instead.

For more information

For information, please contact the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator at PPQ.Domestic.Diagnostic.Coordinator@usda.gov.

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