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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 are able to 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 ( 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 (
  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 to request specific instructions for submitting your specimen(s) for official confirmation. (Please capitalize the first letter of each word in the email address as shown.) The Coordinator will provide detailed instructions based on whether it’s a nematode, insect (including insect type), mite, mollusk, suspect noxious weed specimen, or disease sample. Instructions will also vary depending on whether the official confirmation will be morphological or molecular.

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.

Complete and include one set of records for each specimen collection—that is, for each combination of locality, date, collector, etc.  These records will either be a PPQ Form 391 for plant pathology, nematology, and malacology, or an IBP Record for entomology and acarology. These forms are defined below.

Clearly label each specimen so that it can be correlated with the corresponding Form 391 or IBP record.  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.  This form may be used for everything except arthropods (insects and mites).  Complete the electronic form and include the print out with the physical specimens to be submitted for official confirmation.  Include one form for each set of collection data.  Note: You may consider using PPQ Form 391 to temporarily hold information about arthropods you are submitting for confirmation,  but do not submit Form 391 with the specimens. Instead, include a print out of the IBP record. Failure to submit the correct paperwork may result in a delayed or lost sample.

An IBP Record is a digital entry in the Pest ID component of APHIS’ Agricultural Quarantine Activity System (AQAS).  IBP records in Pest ID must be created by the appropriate APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) personnel.  IBP records are created before arthropod specimens are submitted (see below) and for everything else after the specimens have been identified. The confirmatory report will include an IBP record for each positive disease sample tested molecularly, and for any record, positive or negative, belonging to other groups where the identification is morphological.

The IBP record must be created prior to submitting arthropod specimens. On the record, set “Priority” to “Urgent” and “Forward to” to “SEL.”  If the submission is coming from someone outside of PPQ, the State Plant Regulatory Official should work with the State Plant Health Director to request a local Area Identifier or Pest Survey Specialist to create the record.  PPQ will then provide the state or other entity with a PDF of the record. Do NOT submit arthropod specimens without including a print out of the IBP record.  Failure to follow these instructions may result in the specimen being misplaced or lost.

For any questions about this process, please contact the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator at for clarification.

When you mail or ship the physical specimens, notify the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator by email at 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 and/or IBP record in case the package is separated from the cover email when the specimens are being processed.)
  • The tracking number;

Attach a PDF of the completed PPQ Form 391 and/or the IBP record to the email.

National Pest Identification Specialists

For Insects/Mites to National Identification Services (NIS)/SEL

For Gypsy Moth

For Fruit Flies and Select Other Insects for Molecular Identification (ask the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator first)

For Snails & Slugs

For Nematodes

For Weeds

For Fungi

For Molecular Diagnostics of Diseases

Use a courier 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.

For Scale Insects, Psyllids, Thrips, and Mites (Morphological) 
Communication & Taxonomic Services Unit (CTSU)
USDA-ARS-Systematic Entom. Lab
Building 005, Room 137, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705 

(Use UPS or FedEx; do NOT use USPS) 

For Gypsy Moth (Molecular)
CPHST Otis Laboratory
Dr. Yunke Wu
Molecular Diagnostics Group
1398 West Truck Road
Buzzards Bay, MA 02542 

For Other Insects (Morphological)
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
10th Street & Constitution Ave.
Washington, DC 20560-0168

For Fruit Flies and Select Other Insects for Molecular Identification (ask the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator first) 
Dr. Norman Barr
Moore Air Base Bldg., S-6414
22675 N. Moorefield Rd.
Edinburg, TX  78541 

For Snails and Slugs (Morphological) 
Dr. Francisco Borrero/Dr. David Robinson
Malacology Identification Specialist
Academy of Natural Sciences
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA  19103 

For Nematodes (Morphological)
Dr. Zafar Handoo
USDA-ARS Nematology Laboratory
Bldg. 010A, Room 111, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350 

For Weeds (Morphological)
Mark Thurmond
10300 Baltimore Ave.
Bldg. 012, Rm 10-1 & 11-1 BARC-West
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

For Fungi (Morphological and Molecular)
Dr. John McKemy/Dr. Megan Romberg/Dr. Aaron Kennedy
Bldg. 010A, Rm. 327, BARC-West
10300 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville, MD  20705-2350 

For Other Diseases (Molecular)
Sample Diagnostics
B-580, BARC-East
Powder Mill Road
Beltsville, MD  20705-2350

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 Pest Detection and Emergency Programs (PDEP) staff.  PDEP staff will simultaneously notify the SPHD and SPRO by email according to the posted Pest Identification Notification to States protocol.

If the organism is a “new pest” (i.e., its quarantine status has yet to be determined), the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator will notify the submitter by email that the specimen(s) has been sent to National Identification Services (NIS) Coordination and Policy staff for categorization.  This notice will only specify that the organism has been submitted for categorization; it will not specify the name of the organism involved.  When categorization is complete, the Domestic Diagnostic Coordinator will relay the information to PDEP and they will simultaneously notify the SPHD and SPRO per the Pest Identification Notification to States protocol.

All notifications of confirmed identifications will include a PDF of the IBP record; negative disease determinations generally will not. 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

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