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Insect, Plant and Plant Disease Identification at the Diagnostic Lab

A close-up image of a hemlock woolly adelgid's woolly mass on a hemlock twig
Woolly mass of hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA),
commonly seen on the undersides of hemlock
branches on infested trees

The Forest Health Diagnostic Lab is committed to helping the citizens of New York resolve their troubles with insects, trees, and plants. We are available year-round to identify your insects, plants, and plant and tree diseases for free.

If you need something identified you can e-mail a digital image, or bring or mail your specimen to the lab. The more information you can provide about the insect, plant or plant problem, the easier it will be for us to identify.

When submitting a specimen, please provide:

  • Submitters' name, address, phone number, and email address
  • Address where the specimen was found
  • Details on where/how you found it (e.g., an insect on the side of the house or a maple tree, a plant in a ditch, orange spots on leaves, etc.)
  • A description of the damage caused by the insect or disease (pictures with something next to the specimen for scale work best)
  • The submission forms listed below are provided as a convenience. They are not required in order identify your plant, insect, or disease.
  • A close-up view of a canker growing on white pine bark
    Caliciopsis pinea fruiting bodies cause cankers
    on the bark of white pine trees, which leads to
    the trees' decline
  • The more information you can provide, the easier the pest or disease will be to identify.

Send your specimens to:
NYSDEC Forest Health Diagnostic Laboratory
Attn: Jessica Cancelliere
108 Game Farm Road
Delmar, NY 12054

How to Collect and Ship Samples

Plants

For general plant problems, try to send several affected plants showing a range of symptoms. Dead plants rarely are informative - avoid sending completely dead plants. Try to send entire plants, if possible, since some above-ground symptoms can be attributed to a problem with the lower stem or roots.

A green beech leaf with some brown between the veins
Beech tree leaf that is symptomatic
of beech leaf disease

When digging the plants up, try to keep the roots intact with the soil to help prevent the sample from drying out. The roots and soil should be wrapped in damp (not wet) paper towels, and wrapped in a separate plastic bag (tied off at the stem) to prevent soil from coming in contact with leaves. Wrap foliage in dry paper towels (to absorb moisture and to prevent decay), and the entire sample should then be placed in another, loosely folded plastic bag. Do not allow leaves, paper tags, or labels to contact with soil.

Insects

Put specimens inside a small, squash‐proof container (vial, Tupperware), then into a box or strong envelope with padding and/or packing material. If the insect is abundant, send more than one individual (up to 5). Place insects in the freezer overnight to kill them before shipping.

Hard‐bodied insects, like beetles, flies, butterflies and wasps should be gently placed in layers of tissue paper and then packaged in a squash‐proof container. Soft‐bodied insects (grubs, caterpillars, mites) and spiders will lose their coloring very quickly after death. These should be sent in as quickly as possible, after freezing overnight in a paper towel to absorb moisture after they thaw. Large soft‐bodied insects require additional preparation. Place specimen in boiling water for 30 seconds and then wrap in tissue paper or a paper towel before shipping in a container. Note the original color of the specimen on the information sheet.

Mushroom and Fruits

Wrap mushrooms or fruits in dry paper towels or newspaper and place in sturdy box to avoid crushing. Store sample in a cool, dark place until shipped to the lab.

Helpful Forms

Additional Resources