Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

A word of warning about iNaturalist

I know this is not a true BugGuide topic, but I also know there are a lot of shared users among the two platforms. And there might be people who pull data from both.

And I also know some of this has been covered in 'frassing' threads, but I wanted to have it more 'visible' as it's own topic.

I have been an iNaturalist user for a few months now. While for many groups of animals the concept of consensus IDs might work, for a good many groups (especially among the arthropods) the concept of consensus IDs is actually a very bad idea. There are just too many laypeople offering up faith-based IDs. They don't have the training needed to properly ID something but feel the need to chime in anyway because they think they know what something is. And then people jump on the bandwagon because they think that person knows his/her stuff. This really mucks things up as it becomes difficult for an expert to 'move something where it needs to be'.

There does not seem to be much (expert) quality control on IDs, at least for certain groups. I recently went through the Phalacridae observations and weeded out about 20-30 things that were not phalacrids. These misIDs included several families of beetles and a bunch of bugs (mostly pentatomomorphan, but some Auchenorrhyncha as well). Some of these had been 'sitting in the Phalacridae' for months. The submitter (or system?) made an initial guess at the submitted taxon and it just sat there and languished in Phalacridae until I came along and 'tried to correct it'. I say 'tried to correct it' because even if I correctly suggested a misIDed phalacrid was a nitidulid, I couldn't 'move it' to Nitidulidae because my suggestion only counts as much as the original bad suggestion. It would languish in a higher-level beetle taxon until the bad suggestion(s) were withdrawn or someone came along and backed up my correct ID.

Sorry for the long-windedness. I just wanted to share my experience and offer up a warning to those BugGuide users who also pull and use data from iNaturalist.

Be very careful when pulling data from iNaturalist. Verify each observation you use in the data you pull. There seem to be a lot of misIDed observations in certain areas and it is much harder for experts to 'move something to the correct' spot than it is here.

If anybody needs examples I can point to them. Let me know quickly as I don't plan on being a presence there for much longer.

Not really on topic ...
But if somebody has an account and wants to help and add a correction ...
By chance, I found this picture on iNaturalist
definitely it is not Mozena lunata. The shape of the pronotum and the color of the antennae not fit.

experts ⋃ mentors
Hi Jeff,

I completely understand where you're coming from. iNaturalist only works to the extent that there are people with expertise like yourself who are willing to volunteer not only their expertise but also their time engaging/educating/inspiring people who may just be starting out. This is thankless work and not for everyone so I completely understand if you don't plan on using iNat much longer.

That said, I strongly believe that an individual person can go a long way towards 'tending' the data quality of a group to a sufficiently high standard and also cultivate a community of expertise around a group to share the load and make it less dependent on the work of a single IDer. John Ascher and his incredible contributions to bees and wasps (among other groups) is a great example. I tend to focus on Oniscideans and can relay a couple of things that work for me to make 'tending' this group rewarding work while also continually helping teach and learning from a growing community of Oniscidean experts.

1) focus on a managable group. For example, given your interest in Histeridae maybe start by checking this list of US Histerids represented by observations
Scroll to the bottom to see species with just one observation - these are often misIDs that are easy to spot. And if they aren't they're often super interesting records that are well worth researching more.

2) Check the identify tool (here set to Histeridae from the US) to look at recently posted observations in your group. The identify tool makes it pretty easy to quickly add IDs to a bunch of observations in a few minutes for a group you're familiar with

3) Try to cultivate a community of expertise around your group of people you can mention (e.g. @loarie) to back you up when multiple IDs are needed to correct a misID (or to get confirmation when something looks really interesting that you might want a second opinion on, or to get help yourself if you're unsure). You can see a list of top IDers of Histerids here

4) Part of the philosophy with iNat is to try to surface misIDs so that as many people will see it / increasing the likelihood it will get fixed by someone. Though I realize this also likely turns off a lot of people whose response to seeing misIDs is to leave rather than fix it and stay. However, if if you're more concerned with making sure that the 'research quality' data that gets out into the scientific community via GBIF etc. has fewer mistakes than you are with educating/engaging beginning naturalists I would focus on the 'Research Grade' subset for your group which you can see by adding the appropriate filter to the links mentioned above:

I continue to be at awe of the expertise and incredible knowledge of so many entomologists in the bugguide and inat communities. But, I'm even more in awe of those individuals who not only have so much expertise but are so generous with thanklessly sharing it with others like myself who have so much to gain from it. I'd also be very curious what sort of changes to iNaturalist people think would make ID'ing amateur observations a more rewarding experience for professional entomologists.

"a warning to.. ...users who also pull and use data...
Anyone who pulls and uses data uncritically from any source without consulting (and crediting) those who built the dataset and understand its fitness for use is likely to achieve a foolish (and exploitative) result. As with specimen data, citizen science data must be validated, preferably by one or more experts in taxonomy, biogeography, and identification, and ideally one with experience with the particular site/dataset, before it can be reliably used.

This is not a problem particular to inaturalist data. Digitized specimen records from our famous museums require serious scrutiny before use.

These issues extending to anyone mining online biodiversity data in a way that prioritizes expediency.

iNat data can improve....
So, I have collected some data from iNat over the last couple days, looking at click beetle identifications from the US and Canada. So I do not have to type much, when I go to enter an ID, I often look at the 'suggestions' just to see if the correct answer is there and I can save time by clicking (read: lazy LOL). Anyway, it seems the suggested IDs for North American clickers has improved.

Over the last couple days I looked at the clickers and after I made my ID attempts, I classified them based on one of four categories:

1. Correct ID. The ID the submitter gave (whether suggested or they did their homework) is correct and I was unable to take it further (i.e., it was correctly identified to a species or a genus for which a species-level ID was not possible, such as undissected Melanotus).

2. Expanded ID. The ID was correct at the level the original submitter gave, but I was able to take it further (family to genus; genus to species; subfamily to species, etc.). Many of these were initially posted at the family level.

3. Incorrect. The ID was in an incorrect taxon, regardless of level (wrong species, wrong genus, etc.).

4. Unknown. These are for those where the image was not clear enough for me to confirm or correct the ID.

I recorded my data comparing the original ID with my ID (I did not take into account others' attempts at ID.

Also, I excluded Alaus from Texas, as it's virtually impossible to separate A. oculatus and A. lusciosus from images unless the morphology is textbook and the geographic location in TX favors extreme east or southwest.


Total submissions studied: 279

1. Those correct: 93
2. Those correct and I expanded the ID: 128
3. Incorrect: 40
4. Unknown: 18

So, the vast majority were correct at the taxon originally posted at. By correcting data over the past 1.5 years, it looks like suggested IDs are improving and/or people are learning from corrections to their posts.

I will monitor this data for a little longer and see how things look :)

This is great -
thanks for the analysis, Blaine!

Both sites have some problems .
Don't get to taken with yourselves . We have all seen mistakes and problems on Both Sites . But, in the end they all get ID with some work . Ego sometimes can be the real Nail in the Tire . Be objective and understanding . Our personnel can be 91 to 10 years old . The 10 year old could end up being Director of the L.A. County Museum , we do not know . So , do you job for ID's, be open minded , and be progressive . In these tough times , we need to have a steady hand at the tiller in all things . Cheers and Stay Healthy in Body and mind ! Respect the time in work set down on Both Sites . Gene St. Denis Sierra Nevada Research

Yes, it is certainly a little frustrating when you try
to tell someone what their insect is and they refuse to listen. But as we said earlier, it is a website with a different philosophy. Here at BugGuide we believe there are experts whose words should be weighted heavily. At iNat they believe all suggestions should be weighted equally. That frustrates us sometimes when we work on iNat, just as we would guess iNatters are frustrated when they come to BugGuide. You just need to go with the philosophy of the website.

"when you try to tell someone what their insect is and they refu
Best solution is to send the inaturalist link in question to one or more reliable colleagues among curators/identifiers so that they can reinforce the correct identification. One primary expert cannot fix the site but a team can do so.

I would say...
less in the philosophy and more in the functionality of the sites.

On BugGuide, to suggest and ID, you make a comment but leave the image(s) where they are.

On iNat, when you suggest and ID, it moves it to that taxon, which can be very problematic without adequate quality control in place (e.g., making an attempt to verify taxa before blindly excepting software-suggested IDs). That was the idea behind my concerns below. It means people accepting IDs on iNat need to be extra cautious before doing so, otherwise it generates a lot of bad data (especially on a site that claims to have a function of archiving data points!!!).

Thank you.

Two examples of blatant carelessness:
1. A fly identified as the click beetle in the genus Agriotes:

2. A grasshopper identified as the click beetle Orthostethus infuscatus:

doubling down
Heh! Check this one out -

System generated and observer accepted Phalacridae ID. I attempted to get it moved out of Phalacridae on a direction to its correct spot. The observer withdrew the initial ID and 2 more precise IDs were added. On correct path. Then the observer re-instated the Phalacridae ID. Why was observer allowed to move it a step backward???? They obviously do not know what they are looking at!!!

Anyway, I decided I no longer wanted to be part of that observation so I withdrew my ID. That dropped it back to Pterygota.

At least it's not back in Phalacridae! ;-)

Darn computer generated Ids.
Darn computer generated Ids. Obviously someone that had no clue and just chose the first name on the list.

The small symbol to the right of the word 'maverick'
in the line which says "girlsquirrel suggested an ID" (not sure what the symbol is) indicates that girlsquirrel accepted a computer vision suggestion, so it is an AI suggestion. The AI is just learning. Presumably it will get better.
It is a very different site from BugGuide with a different purpose. One can make a submission to iNat without even having an image. The goal is to get people to open their eyes to nature. Having well identified clear images is a bonus, but it is secondary.

I spend a good bit of time ov
I spend a good bit of time over on Inat myself. As has been mentioned both the Ai and the identifiers can be a problem. There are several identifiers of ants which are constantly making species Ids based on images barely good enough for a subfamily or genus Id let alone a species Id. Then there are the followers which blindly fall in line with the erroneous Id and when called out on it state something like "Oh I trust his ID so I am sticking with mine. Alot of these problem Iders are kids and although they do have a good bit of knowledge they have not been out in the real world much and are basing their ID on second hand information. Yes I to sometimes make a mistaken Id but if called out I make the change and appreciate it greatly.

picture quality...
I've seen at least one expert there adding another flavor of issue. On some images where the picture quality is such that a beetle is not really IDable even to family, they'll add a comment suggesting what the beetle might be. They will add this comment instead of actually adding a suggested ID. Then people jump on the bandwagon based on the comment. If the expert was not confident enough to actually add a suggested ID they should have not made the 'ID suggestion' comment either, but instead should have fashioned the comment to say it was not IDable due to picture quality.

They need a frassing mechanism there as well.

here is a classic example...
of carelessness with a post on iNat.

Agrypnus murinus is not in the US. A simple Google search would reveal that. Had the contributor done a little due diligence, they would not have suggested A. murinus as an ID.

People post "Asian Honey Bees" from the USA every day
No big deal. No need to get too upset.

I simply propose the correct ID of Apis mellifera and move on.

I don't know if it's the submitter or the AI making the ID suggestion in that case. The submitter may have just accepted what the AI suggested. I don't know if the page distinguishes between the two situations verbally. Ideally if the submitter did not know what the thing was and they accepted the suggestion of the AI, it would state just that.


girlsquirrel suggested an ID Agrypnus murinus


girlsquirrel accepted AI suggested ID Agrypnus murinus

In any case, the submitter should have withdrawn the ID by now. That's what leads to a lot of the mess there. People not cleaning up after themselves when something has been corrected.

The second type above, 'accepted AI suggested ID', should be made removable/voidable by users with more expertise. I.e. If the submitter submits a nitidulid and the AI suggests Phalacridae and the submitter indicates they do not know what it is and accepts that Phalacridae ID, I myself am able to suggest a Nitidulidae ID but should also be able to 'withdraw' the AI suggested Phalacridae ID. That would allow me to overrule the AI without having to enlist the votes of others to get something moved to 'the correct spot'.

AI for a lot of insect groups is not 'there' yet. If I'm going to be contributing my work there, I should not have to fight against a 'buggy' AI ID process for my work to take immediate effect.

girl squirrel
The contributor’s name is girlsquirrel – probably a kid.

Entomologists appear to have spent too much time in museums, breathing in dermestid dust and pesticides, peering through microscopes at dissected genitalia and drawing dick doodles.

They need to get outside, get some fresh air and ‘due diligence’ about the lowly commoners that inhabit this earth.

'research grade'?
The AI issue is indeed a big part of the problem, but there are bigger issues with some of the other things they allow.

Look at this 'research grade' example.

1) The quality of the photos is such that this submission should have been 'frassed' to begin with. Is it IDable to family let alone species?
2) You have a totally anonymous user (imas*ngster) participating in making this submission 'research grade'. No real name or other info on profile.
3) You have a partially anonymous user (rayquaza$aur) participating in making this submission 'research grade'. First name only, no location or other identifying info.
4) You have users, particularly (imas*ngster), participating in making this submission 'research grade' that do not list their qualifications for making this 'research grade' ID.
5) You have at least one unqualified user (imas*ngster) participating in making this submission 'research grade'. This user originally either agreed with AI suggestion of Phalacridae or suggested Phalacridae himself. On Feb 11, when I suggested it be 'moved to' Coleoptera, this person enlisted the help of others to get an ID and that help was forthcoming. A little later that same Feb 11, this same user who originally thought it to be a phalacrid and asked others to ID it earlier that day, had gained enough knowledge to rule out thousands of other beetle species and identify it down to species even with the less than ideal photos. Extremely quick learner? ;-)

That all these things are allowed severely cheapens the term 'research grade' in my mind.

At the time of my above comment (9 March, 2020 - 7:07am), that observation was 'research grade'. It has since been moved out of 'research grade' status. Just wanted to avoid confusion.

That I, myself, do not list my qualifications in my iNat profile is not lost on me. I should not be able to contribute to 'research grade' IDs there. I will resolve that shortly.

Problem in a nutshell
You laid out perfectly the problem with "Research Grade", especially with beetles. Everyone wants to ID beetles to species which seldom even happens here without a specimen (or even with one). But the AI always suggests one. That example is pretty bad. And the lack of qualifications is often a problem for making ID's and then having them reinforced. They're treated as holy writ when there's no expertise (at least listed) to back up an ID.

Thankfully nobody even wants to go near my group and some actually tag me for help (which is often followed by "can't tell, sorry"). It's weird.

I guess I missed the mark on your initial post Jeff. I've been relying on your expertise for over a decade which is why I'm comfortable with something you've determined. And I'm very skeptical when I don't recognize someone who is ID'ing difficult groups with no credentials listed.

pros and cons
I work only on Oecanthinae (tree crickets) on both sites. Yes, there are many times when folks agree with a misidentification on iNaturalist, but its biggest value is having photos from all over the world submitted. I personally have been involved with describing one new species from Mexico (with three more in the works)...and two more (Baja and Oaxaca) that I am trying to get someone to investigate. There are several very interesting submissions from South America as well.

If you have a family or subfamily of great interest to you, I highly recommend checking out iNaturalist. My link is set up to automatically bring up unreviewed photos of Oecanthinae. I try to add a comment as to why I'm choosing the genus or species I have with each photo....which cuts down on out in left field ID's from folks with less experience.

I know that the size of the user base compounds the issues we see, but it also is super helpful. There are way more people posting over there, so I'm able to ask folks to post especially interesting observations over here. Already added one new Asopine genus to the guide from a couple of observations in Florida!

And I understand the frustration other folks have, but I would preach patience. There are a lot of people trying their best and interested in learning and it's important to try to foster that interest. A thousand people with a basic understanding going out and photographing the world around them can cover a lot more ground than one expert.

Accurate data is important, but so is outreach. I've been on here since I was an early teenager and have probably made more mistakes than most. Luckily, people were warm and welcoming, and willing to engage and explain. I never would have pursued entomology as a career without the support from the Bugguide community, so I try to pass a little of that patience on to other citizen science outlets as well.

Same here
I never would have gone into entomology without Bugguide. I also have met some great people like yourself on iNat!

Well said, some people over a
Well said, some people over at iNaturalist have found very cool flies that would be new for BugGuide that I have encouraged to post here. Some of those users I believe are also on BugGuide. I too would ask that we be patient.

Good and bad, but needs quality control.
iNaturalist has actually been amazing for me because I've made contacts who want to help with my research and are collecting for me or sending me specimens. We've been able to greatly improve our reference collections and DNA banks thanks to people on that site. Many of the Okanagana species on Bugguide are posted from iNaturalist at my request.

That said, I agree with Blaine that for scientific purposes, QA/QC is essential, and best done yourself if you want to use the data. The Okanagana has required some SERIOUS QA/QC. iNat often pulls up the genus "Cicada" which is Old World as the first choice, and often people select it, and then we need to get it changed, often with a short note that it isn't a NA genus. It's the AI that is the problem with iNaturalist first and foremost since it often puts people on the wrong path to begin with.

I have to correct my own ID's all the time. Did it this morning after the genitalia on a specimen I'd spread clearly showed it wasn't what it appeared to be when I first examined it, despite a very close match to the original (and long) description of the other species. I got lucky with my group: most species have excellent descriptions, yet without a specimen 85% can't be ID'd from a photo except a few species.

the point I am trying to make below...
is that if one wants to contribute to science, we cannot be haphazard about it. Sure, we all rush identifications that need to be corrected; I myself have done it multiple times on this site. And it is completely understandable for anyone to mix-up the identification on a couple morphologically-similar creatures that live the same general area.

But, if the software suggests an ID, it is ultimately up to the contributor to do the due diligence to make sure the morphology and zoogeography are consistent with the suggested ID. If the software suggests a Palearctic species in the US, it should send up a red flag that would alert the contributor that more work needs to be done before the ID can be confirmed.

Like it or not, people use iNat and BG data for websites and publications, and one must minimize the amount of incorrect data that gets published, because once incorrect information is out there, it can perpetuate and be hard to control. I see it in my field not uncommonly. A good example involves psychodid larvae. Years ago, someone found drain fly larvae in their toilet and it was reported as causing 'urinary myiasis' (a 'condition' which to this date has no described pathology). Now, there are dozens, if not hundreds of claims of urinary myiasis caused by psychodids where there is no physical evidence they cause that condition. Every now and then I am asked to review a paper on this subject for a journal and I always reject it to prevent the spread of this information. The presence of psychodid larvae in toilets is an incidental finding.

Summary: One significant misinformation
published in the scientific literature has the potential of spreading like a novel contagious virus. I guess rejection would be the "vaccine".

I like what you did there.
I like what you did there.

A plea for patience...
I have been a contributor to BugGuide for many years now, and I can't say enough about how wonderful it is to have so many experts reviewing my photos and helping me to learn more about the wonderful world of bugs. I see BG as the most authoritative resource available to me online for insect ID, and I have utmost respect for those who dedicate so much time to this project. I also have been contributing to iNaturalist for several years, and I do agree with much of what has been said here about problems on iNat, especially the automated ID process, and the ability of beginners to make bad IDs for others.
However, I find several reasons for why iNat has been a good experience:
1. iNat allows me to contribute to and to learn about other life forms beyond arthropods, including plants that may be hosts for my bugs.
2. While BG tends to look for quality ID photos and new records for states, iNat "feels" more open to submitting photos that may be only useful for my purposes (local records, or still trying to figure out why I can't ID something correctly).
3. While I think that BG IDs tend to be more authoritative in most groups, I think more people look at individual photos on iNat, and that often helps me to look in a new direction when I get stuck.

I know that BG identifiers are so generous with their time and expertise, but I would suggest that those who are able to also contribute to iNat can really improve it. It is already much better than a few years ago, and the team behind it is working hard to make it even better. I think it adds something unique to the community, and I hope to see both platforms move forward in harmony.

It is improving
and will surely continue to do so

It's a mess there,
but it's still a great resource if you look at the images objectively. I make corrections there occasionally (especially when I see someone regurgitating mistakes on facebook) but the sheer scale of it burns me out rather quickly and I feel my time is better spent here. There are a few people volunteering there who are fairly competent at IDing spiders (my interest) but they can't possibly keep up with everything that's submitted there and probably skip over submissions from regions they're not familiar with. Being global I find it to be very helpful when I want to find something outside of North America, and if I see something on there that's poorly represented online I ID it.

Happy -
to hear you are on iNat sometimes, Laura - if you would be willing to share your iNat "handle"/username with me, I could tag you occasionally with observations of good quality and special interest, for you to ID?

I'm already ...
following you there and have IDed a couple things for you. :) I'm the one who just confirmed a Pardosa ID for you.

Gotcha -
thanks Laura! If you don't mind, I will occasionally "tag" you (something I can't do on BG!) on cool spider that I think you could help with... )

Sure. :)

burn out
A big part of the problem is how hard you have to work to get something moved to the 'correct spot'. You can't just correct a bad ID. You often have to either enlist colleagues to back you up by suggesting ID or enlist the people who submit bad IDs to withdraw their IDs. Much of the time people don't pay attention to old observations for which they have suggested IDs. So getting withdrawals is part of the problem. With the volume there, all this work to correct bad IDs turns experts off.

Thaaaaaannnkkk Yooooouuu!!!
I have been meaning to start a similar dialogue.

I have been on iNat for a little over a year now. It is a mess. The overall problem is someone blindly accepting some computer-derived identification and then the next person just blindly agreeing, with the contribution then becoming 'Research Grade' (for whatever that means).

In my first few days, I made over 300 identifications to North American elaterids, and the vast majority were corrections, not identifications. The most common mistake I saw was any slender brown click beetle being called Athous haemorrhoidalis, a Palearctic species that, while has been introduced to the US, is still fairly focal in its distribution (most of the specimens were actually Melanotus!).

This introduces two alarming trends in the concept of 'Citizen Science'. Overall, the concept is a good idea - it allows everyday people to contribute to science and natural history. However, the ethics of science are the same whether you are an amateur or a professional, and if you want to play scientist, you need to learn to act like a scientist.

The two biggest problems I see are:

1. Blindly following a computer-generated ID without doing due-diligence (and this applies more to iNat rather than BG due to its format). If the software suggests an ID it is up to the contributor to actually see if the specimen/image meets the criteria of the ID. I have seen moth pupae and cockroaches with suggested IDs of the eastern eyed click beetle?!?!?!?! A quick comparison of other photos should alert the user there is no way a sphingid pupa or a cockroach should be called an eastern eyed click beetle. I can understand misidentifying morphologically similar taxa (e.g., Conoderus vs. Melanotus), but I feel most contributors are just blindly accepting the computer's suggestion without any level of quality control.

2. Making generalizations based on online data. I have seen many contributions, both on BG and iNat, where someone says it 'must' be a given species because it is the only one on (BG/iNat) from a given state. For example, posting an Aeolus from Tennessee and saying it must be A. scutellatus because it is the only species on iNat from Tennessee. Posted images are random phenomena and due not necessarily reflect a organism's true or whole distribution. In addition, when people seem to make definitive claims based exclusively on online data, it makes me realize that people seemed to have forgotten there are over 200 years of published data on natural history in America. I feel people have forgotten the concept of opening a book (or a journal article), and have lost the capacity to see anything beyond their screens/monitors.

Luckily BG is much better managed due to its format and the ability to easily move things away from where they do not belong (plus with BG being older, I think, it has more expert-level input).

I also got long-winded, but it is important to be cautious of any online data that is not based on a voucher-identified specimen or at least has been confirmed by a reputable collector or otherwise expert in the group.

I have been tossing around the idea of leaving iNat, too...I just love looking at pictures of insects too much...

Let’s talk about ethics
“However, the ‘ethics’ of science are the same whether you are an amateur or a professional, and if you want to play scientist, you need to learn to act like a scientist.”

Ethics is a set of moral obligations that define right and wrong, honesty and integrity in science. When ethics are violated, through lack of research of the subject, or a lack of independent analysis of the results, the journal article is retracted.
Bad ethics are naming a new species based on only one specimen, or like Mitchell, (1962): Stelis Cuckoo Bees, where some species were ignored and replaced with new species names; just one example is Stelis coarctatus = S. vernalis. These bad ethics are repeated ad nauseum throughout entomological literature for most synonymous species of insects in ‘peer reviewed’ journals and have never been retracted because it’s easier to create a synonym.

A good, current example of lack of ethics is the drop in DNA percentage differences at BOLD from 7% in 2011 to 1% today due to pressure from entomologists. There is no proof that a 1% difference in DNA equals a new species, no cross- or back-breeding has been done.

As a result, Eric Metzler, associated with Michigan State University has discovered 600 different species of moths in, of all places, the White Sands desert (275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes) in New Mexico.
The story of Metzler is in Smithsonian Magazine.
“Entomologists don’t agree on what defines a distinct moth species, says Robbins [Robert Robbins curator at Smithsonian entomology], and some argue that Metzler’s moths aren’t all distinct. But by widely accepted standards of having different genitalia and molecular barcodes, he says, the 600 different White Sands moths do stand up as distinct species.”

How to act like a scientist - Ethically?

The lazy amateur entomologist who won’t crack open a book
“... people seemed to have forgotten there are over 200 years of published data on natural history in America. I feel people have forgotten the concept of opening a book (or a journal article), and have lost the capacity to see anything beyond their screens/monitors.”

Lets take the Click Beetle Athous haemorrhoidalis mentioned above, just as an example for the lazy amateur entomologist who won’t crack open a book.
With the original description written by Fabricius in 1801, there should be well over 209 years of information in journals, correct?
1. What is the name of the publication in which Fabricius describes Athous haemorrhoidalis?
2. What is the name of any other European or British publication that is still available, and written in English, with a description of A. haemorrhoidalis?
3. How many articles on the description of A. haemorrhoidalis have been written in North America? The answer is one - Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario, 2011, Vol. 142:
Recognition. Athous haemorrhoidalis is a shiny, black or brown elaterid, 10-15 mm long with pale pubescence dorsally. Diagnostic characters are described above in the treatment of Hemicrepidius niger.
Under Hemicrepidius niger:
Recognition. [After a lengthy explanation of why keys won’t work], we find this:
Hemicrepidius niger can be distinguished from A. haemorrhoidalis by its broad antennomere 3, which is most similar in shape and rough texture to antennomere 4 (most like the shape and smoothness of antennomere 2 in A. haemorrhoidalis).

So, after 6 hours of research, this is the only description of Athous haemorrhoidalis in North America. Adequate for positive ID? by anybody?

Apparently present in Massachusetts (no date) but represents the first record of the species, misidentified by entomologists.
Apparently present in Ontario since 2003, misidentified by entomologists.
Apparently present in Maryland since 2006, misidentified by entomologists.

And who is it exactly that needs to crack open a book (or a journal article)?

Here’s the joke:
the only description in English in North America is at Wikipedia and copied to iNaturalist.
and it wasn’t written by an entomologist.

You have just proven my point
Dozens (if not hundreds) of iNat uses confirmed the presence of A. haemorrhoidalis in the US without there being any solid indication it is widely established here.

A simple Google search will show it is a Palaerctic species. I just did a Google search 'Athous haemorhoidalis North America' and the first hit was that 2011 paper in about 10 seconds (not 6 hours; and, it is open access). And if that paper had been read, the reader would have understood the species has been introduced with a fairly focal known distribution, and as such brown click beetles in Florida, California, etc. are probably not this species and should not be confirmed at the species level.

The fact that most A. haemorrhoidalis records on iNat are in Europe should suggest to the user that this is probably not in N.A. and that one shouldn't confirm the species based on a vague comparison in a photo.

And you didn’t answer my questions
1. What is the name of the publication in which Fabricius describes Athous haemorrhoidalis?

The original description of Athous haemorrhoidalis is in Systema eleutheratorum secundum ordines, genera, species adiectis synonymis, locis, observationibus, descriptionibus, 1801, Vol. II by Fabricius.

2. What is the name of any other European or British publication that is still available, and written in English, with a description of A. haemorrhoidalis?

Leseigneur, L. 1972. Coleopteres, Elateridae de la faune de France Continentale et de Corse. Bulletin Mensuel de la Societe Linneenne de Lyon 41: 1-379. In French

Platia, G. 1994. Coleoptera, Elateridae. Fauna d' Italia 33: i-xiv, 1-429. In Italian

Britain has some information, but publications with descriptions are not available.

Synonyms: Elater haemorrhoidalis, Grypocrarus haemorrhoidalis.

That was 6 hours of research.

And you missed the point
The lazy amateur entomologist who won’t crack open a book did so, and found no useful information to ID the species. The point is lack of credible information in journals to make an informed decision on identity, NOT on location.

For the 1st instance of an introduced species into N.A., it would help other entomologists if a full description of the species were included in the Journal of the Ent. Soc. of Ontario article (lack of ethics). Since the article was written in 2011, the species has been present for at least 8 years.
And you think the lazy amateur should make a decision on how far it has spread?

Our famous BOLD has DNA on Athous haemorrhoidalis from Ontario. So, it is in North America.

Lazy scientist
Why do you consider it incumbent upon the scientific community to spends months of our lives re-describing a species that other entomologists can ID for your sake and then have the audacity to call it a lack of ethics on our part?

Insects are unfortunate in that field guides seldom cover even a tiny fraction of relevant species, but if you want to identify this species, that paper is all you need. It describes Hemicrepidius niger in detail and tells you how to tell Athous haemorrhoidalis apart since they're otherwise so similar yet different from all other species. If they're similar down to a few small differences, and you have a description of the first species, then you ought to have a good idea what the second looks like. Or is asking the reader to infer something being an unethical lazy scientist?

Bent Out of Shape
It doesn’t take much to bend the Ento group out of shape. Happens every time. Their cheapest shot is personal attacks, and they are very good at it. But, that’s not the problem.
Slamming the folks on iNat and BugGuide is the problem. Then in the next paragraph, Ento announces they are using the information submitted by these folks in their publications. Much easier than field work?

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Every time Ento starts in on amateurs either on BugGuide or iNat, they will get the same back from me.

The same goes for bullsh*t - here are a few publications, just for Hymenoptera, with full descriptions of introduced species.

Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Ontario, 1991, Vol. 122, Anthidium manicatum (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), an interesting new Canadian record by Ian P. Smith.

University of Kansas Natural History Museum, 1999 Special #24: Anthidium oblongatum (Illiger) by Hoebeke and Wheeler, pp. 22 to 24.

Psyche, 1980, Vol. 87: Two European species of Chelostoma established in New York State (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) by Eickwort, pp. 315 to 319.

Psyche, 1970, Vol. 77 by Eichwort: Hoplitis anthocopoides, a European mason bee established in New York State (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), pp. 190 to 201.

Well, can't argue with this one
Well Lee, I really can't argue with you on this one.
Entomologists often do get bent out of shape with what we perceive as amateurs (and often with other entomologists). And sadly it shows, I'm just as guilty of the condescending treatment from time to time as well like laying into you. Research often keeps me going when things aren't going well in my life and attacking the process seems like a personal attack to me (yeah, I know I'm oversensitive).

It really can be absurd that we want the mass data collected yet complain that it isn't "research grade". I think what is the problem a lot of people (and not just experts) have with iNaturalist is that the AI feature while a brilliant achievement in technology really messes things up for insects and can give absurd answers that are then confirmed as correct by people trusting it but not being familiar enough with the group (and also people get obsessed with upping their number of identifications as a contest and will confirm anything). Beetles are especially bad; I studied them (well, tried) for quite few years and even with keys and all the resources I had available often couldn't even get something to genus (and that's with detailed descriptions and good keys), yet iNat will always suggest a species (usually the same one every time), even if it is in the wrong order, or on a different continent and it gets confirmed because people don't question it. If Jeff, Blaine, or myself needs good range data, we then need to go in and correct an awful lot of things. I have waded through all 1500+ Okanagana observations looking for interesting things and making sure they're at least the right genus and I'm hardly the first to do it.

You're absolutely right: some papers that aren't actually new species description do take the time to describe the species in detail, and I'd actually prefer them, but it isn't always relevant and sometimes it just doesn't fit the journal in question. You sound quite familiar with the process of publishing; some scientists are sloppy, some are meticulous and the sloppy ones infuriate other entomologists more than anyone because we have to deal with the ridiculous fallout more than most. Cicada people have one author who has since passed that screwed up things so badly for a couple species he described (really, really badly) from a single road in CA and nobody has seen since that it's painful.

So again, I apologize for giving you crap.

'research grade'?
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