Accurate identification is key to a successful pest management program

The foundation for any good pest management program should be accurate identification of the pest. Early identification provides time to monitor pests and determine the best plan of action.

The spring of 2014 is getting off to a slow start, but there certainly will be insects, weeds and diseases that require identification and management as we move though the growing season. Scouting fields regularly and accurately identifying the pest that is causing damage are the first steps in management. The Michigan State University Diagnostic Services lab is a good way to ensure accurate identification.

Accurate identification begins with a quality sample. Michigan State University Extension has three easy steps to improve the quality of samples you submit.

1. Collect

  • Samples containing the entire plant are ideal; roots, stems, foliage and soil or media. When submitting a plant, roots and all, make sure the soil is contained so it does not make contact with the foliage.
  • Submit several plants so there is plenty of material to work with.
  • Collect samples that show a progression of symptoms; healthy, marginal and severely affected.
  • A picture is worth 1,000 words. Digital images show symptoms in the field and patterns of damage. Including wide angle and close-up shots can give both big picture and detailed perspectives. You can also email digital photos directly to Diagnostic Services at for diagnosis.

2. Package

  • Quality samples yield quality results. Package and handle to ensure samples arrive at the lab in good shape.
  • There is no specific requirement for container type, just be sure it will survive the trip and is properly labeled. Avoid using envelopes to ship samples as they are easily crushed.
  • Insect samples should include the insect in a leak-proof vial of alcohol or vinegar, and a sample of the damage.
  • Larval stages of insect should be lightly boiled while still alive then placed in alcohol, or submitted alive.
  • Moths or butterflies should be frozen for 30 minutes then shipped in a vial with tissue paper.
  • When submitting nematode samples, collect both soil and roots, place in a plastic bag and label. Samples should contain a pint to a quart of soil and should not be exposed to high temperatures.

3. Submit

Diagnostic Services
Center for Integrated Plant Systems
578 Wilson Road Room 107
East Lansing, MI 48824

Each year brings a new set of challenges with pests. Keep an eye on your fields! Early identification is the best defense.

See additional information on submitting samples to Diagnostic Services.

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