Insect, Mite & "Bug" Identification

Summary: Our id and consulting service is currently on leave. Please contact your local Cooperative Extension office or a nearby university for assistance with bug ids.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Bug identification and/or general pest control questions

Our id and consulting service is not available at this time. If you have a good idea what your "unknown" is you can check the 'Bugs Index for a page that will guide you through identification and control. Otherwise for id services please contact your local Cooperative Extension service or a nearby university for assistance.

For questions regarding mysterious bug bites please see our guide below.
scabies mit

Mysterious bug bites

We get a lot of questions about "unknown and mysterious bug bites ". Most of the time the complaint is that someone in the family is being bitten by an unseen bug. If you are experiencing itchy "bites" but can't find any insects or mites to id please see Causes of Mysterious Bug Bites.

Tips for photographing insects and mites

Even inexpensive digital cameras are capable of producing excellent photos of small objects like insects and mites when used correctly. Unfortunately, the camera in your cell phone may not work since most cell phone cameras don't have a true macro/micro setting that allows you to focus on small objects (see Tip#1).

Tip#1 Focus - poorly focused, blurry images are the biggest problem I see. To get closer than about 12" (exact distance varies with camera) you may need to switch your camera's "mode" to "Macro" or "Micro". This setting allows you to move the camera very close to the subject and still get sharp images. The mode setting switch is often marked with a flower/tulip - check your camera manual. Sometimes when the camera is in macro mode the focus is fixed at a certain distance. In this case you'll need to move the camera toward the object until it is sharp. Finally, make sure the camera is pointed at the subject when the auto-focus is activated (shutter pressed). See the image of the bird mite here for an example of macro mode, close-up photography.

Tip#2 Lighting - Many images sent to us are too dark. One simple solution is to use an ordinary flashlight to light your subject. See the image of the tick here for an example where we used a flashlight to add more light to the subject area.

Tip#3 Exposure - This is a bit more complicated and can result in images that are either too dark or too light. Keep in mind that the camera's exposure meter "assumes" that you are pointing the camera at a subject of "average" brightness ("middle grey") so if your subject is on a white background, such as a white wall, the camera will automatically darken the scene, and if your subject is on a dark surface the camera will lighten the scene, often making your subject too bright.

Proper exposure is easy if you follow this simple trick: Place the palm of your hand near your subject, facing the camera. The trick here is that your palm, regardless of your skin tone, is pretty close to the "average subject" that was used to calibrate the light meter at the factory. So if you point the camera at your palm and lock this exposure, usually by partially depressing the shutter release, the auto exposure will be set correctly. Now, without lifting your finger off the shutter release move the camera to your subject and take the picture. This might take some practice but it is not hard once you get the hang of it.

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Mission: To provide accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information for solving common insect and mite problems around your home, business and landscape using least-toxic methods.

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