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Identification

Provides information and resources to help you identify unknown species that may be invasive. Species identification is important in helping gardeners, land managers, and landscape architects identify invasive species that can be harmful to local habitats. Concerned citizens are often the first line of defense in reporting signs and the spread of invasive species. Awareness and education are extremely important as prevention is key to combating invasive species.

An important caveat is it can be difficult to identify species properly on the Internet. If you are unable to identify the species in question, you may want to contact your county office in the Cooperative Extension System (see Land Grant University Website Directory - Extension) and work with Extension personnel to obtain assistance from an area agent or state specialist (select state to see state pest detection contacts). Or, you may want to use the Ask Extension feature of eXtension - Invasive Species.

See related information: Smartphone Applications and how to Report Invasive Species


Spotlights

  • What Looks Like an Asian Giant Hornet

    • May 2020
    • North Carolina State University. Extension.

    • Learn about some of the common species of wasps, bees and other non-wasp species, such as hover flies and robber flies, that superficially resemble the Asian giant hornet.

  • Busting Bugs: USDA Creates Online Tools to ID Pests

    • Aug 14, 2013
    • USDA. Blog.

    • ID Tools helps agency staff to quickly identify pests, including insects, diseases, harmful weeds, and more, through an efficient, online database system. ID Tools currently includes more than 30 websites covering a vast array of pests and pests associated with specific commodities.

  • Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health Mobile Applications

    • University of Georgia. Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.

    • Center staff design and publish comprehensive mobile applications that engage users with invasive species, forest health, natural resource and agricultural management. Previous apps were designed for specific areas of the U.S. Two new apps were recently developed for reporting throughout the U.S.:

      • EDDMapS app  - the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System app will allow invasive species reports to be submitted from a smartphone while outdoors. Anyone can report an invasive species sighting, submit photos, provide sighting details, and document a negative survey. In addition to its reporting function, the app contains information on the top invasive species including common names, scientific names, general descriptions, habitats, and reference photos to aid with identification.
      • EDDMapS Pro app - designed for professionals; includes the ability to download offline map data if users are going to be in areas where internet coverage may not be available.
  • iNaturalist

    • California Academy of Sciences; National Geographic Society.

    • iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over 750,000 scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! By recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. Experience and record nature with species identification technology by downloading the iNaturalist app (Android and iPhone) --  See Getting started:

      • Find Wildlife - it can be any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold or evidence of life found in the wild
      • Take Pictures - be sure to notice the location
      • Share Observations - upload your findings to iNaturalist

      Seek by iNaturalist is an educational tool and provides a kid-friendly alternative. Seek allows you to identify plants and animals from your photos by harnessing image recognition technology, drawing from existing data collected from observations on iNaturalist (no registration is required, and no user data is collected).

Selected Resources

The section below contains highly relevant resources for this subject, organized by source.

Partnership
  • IDaids Supporting Identification of the Introduced Box Tree Moth

    • Jul 2021
    • USDAAPHISPPQCPHST. Identification Technology Program.

    • In May of this year, USDA confirmed the presence of box tree moths in the U.S. The pests likely hitchhiked here via infested plant material imported from an Ontario, Canada nursery. APHIS has initiated an emergency response including a Federal Order (PDF | 162 KB) halting host material from crossing the border pending risk analysis. Here is a set of resources supporting identification of this pest to help protect America's boxwoods.

  • ID Aids for the Spotted Lanternfly

    • Mar 29, 2018
    • USDA. APHIS. PPQ. CPHST. Identification Technology Program.

    • Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly has quickly spread since its initial detection in 2014. The insect is not a strong flier, yet its U.S. range is expanding, mostly due to the movement of vehicles, outdoor furniture, or other objects to which females glue their inconspicuous egg masses. Includes ID aids to help identify the spotted lanternfly in all its life stages, from egg mass through adult.

  • iMapInvasives - Invasive Species Identification Guides

    • Nature Conservancy. iMapInvasives.

    • Includes a variety of published guides and internet resources (videos) for use in identifying invasive species that are found in the participating states, provinces, and regions of the iMapInvasives network. The iMapInvasives network is currently comprised of various U.S. states and one Canadian province (Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia, and in Canada - Saskatchewan).

  • First Detector Program

    • National Plant Diagnostic Network.

    • First Detector, a program of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN), equips a nationwide network of individuals to rapidly detect and report the presence of invasive, exotic plant pathogens, arthropods, nematodes, and weeds. If you suspect the presence of a high-impact plant pest or pathogen, contact a diagnostician and submit a sample for diagnosis.

  • National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN)

    • National Plant Diagnostic Network.

    • NPDN is a national network of diagnostic laboratories that rapidly and accurately detect and report pathogens that cause plant diseases of national interest, particularly those that could be deemed to be a biosecurity risk. The specific purpose of the NPDN is to provide a cohesive, distributed system to quickly detect and identify pests and pathogens of concern.

  • North American Invasive Identification Guide and Checklist

    • Discover Life.

    • Provides free on-line tools to identify species, teach and study nature's wonders, report findings, build maps, process images, and contribute to and learn from a growing, interactive encyclopedia of life with 851,136 species pages and 681,390 maps. See also: IDnature Guides

  • Training: Species Identification

    • Michigan State University. Midwest Invasive Species Information Network.

    • The invasive species education modules will help you become more comfortable with identifying these species in the field. Includes detailed information for terrestrial plants, aquatic plants, crustaceans, fish, insects, mollusks, and pathogens. Each module includes a short ten question quiz at the end to help you assess your newly acquired knowledge.

Federal Government
  • APHIS Pests and Diseases

    • USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

    • APHIS created the webpage to make it easier for its customers to find critical information on pests and diseases of concern. With this tool, members of the public will have the information they need to report pests and diseases and together we can protect America’s agriculture and natural resources. This page lists all pest and disease programs managed by APHISas part of its mission to protect American agriculture and natural resources. Users can search by type (plant, animal), keyword (avian, fruit fly, cotton), or by the specific pest or disease (coconut rhinoceros beetle, brucellosis). You can also scroll through the page, which lists the pests and diseases alphabetically and includes a corresponding image.

  • Hungry Pests - Free Mobile Apps Put Identification Tools in Your Hand

    • USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

    • Now you can bring along robust identification tools from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Identification Technology Program (ITP) for the information you need to support accurate field screening and identification. These apps put professional-level identification keys in your pocket. When invasive pests may be on the move, it helps to have trusted information at hand.

Academic
  • AIS in Minnesota - Aquatic Invasive Species Identification Guidebook for Minnesota

    • 2021
    • University of Minnesota. Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.

    • This ID book contains tips for identifying a number of aquatic invasive species (AIS) that are considered high-risk to Minnesota waters, as well as some common native lookalike species. The 3rd Edition of the guide was released in 2021and includes information for aquatic and wetland plants, invertebrates, and fish. The ID book can be accessed by downloading a printable version, or you can purchase it through the University of Minnesota Bookstore, or you will receive a copy if you become an AIS Detector.

  • UC IPM Weed Photo Gallery

    • University of California. Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.

    • The UC IPM Weed Photo Gallery includes many, but not all, weed species commonly found in California farms and landscapes.

  • Identification Resources: Insects, Plants & Diseases

    • University of Florida. IFAS Extension. Solutions for Your Life.

    • Many Florida residents find unknown plants growing in their yard, unknown bugs in their houses or gardens, and apparent diseases on what were previously healthy plants. But Florida residents may not know what resources are available to identify these disease, plant, and pest organisms.

Professional
  • A Proliferation of Ivy

    • Mar 10, 2022
    • North America Invasive Species Management Association.

    • Different invasive ivy species may have different habitat preferences and kill techniques. Learn how to identify among different species — then report them to EDDMapS so researchers can access data!

  • NPIC - How to Identify Your Pest

    • Oregon State University. National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).

    • Whether your pest is a weed, insect, animal, microbe, or another organism, correct identification of your pest makes controlling it easier and often more effective.

Commercial
  • Distinguishing Invasive Buckthorn from Native Alderleaf Buckthorn

    • Corteva Agriscience. TechLine Invasive Plant News.

    • Distinguishing between non-native and native buckthorn is important so that management efforts can be targeted appropriately. This article desribes and separates the two invasive buckthorns from native alderleaf buckthorn.