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FOR REVIEW: Where Do I Post It? (Identification)

BugGuide is a big place, and it's easy to wonder if anyone will ever see your image or question. Posting to the wrong place can, at best, make a bad first impression, and, at worst, mean that the people who could identify your image or answer your ID question might not see it for a long time.

This is intended to be a collection of recommended practices from our regulars and feedback from our experts on where they would prefer to see things posted. Corrections, comment, and additions are encouraged.

•If you don’t have an image, post a topic in the General Discussion Forum asking about it
•If you do have an image, please don’t post a topic in the forums- that’s what ID Request is for. Posting a topic with images from other sites is a particularly bad idea- even sites designed for that like Photobucket or Flickr.

Many experts use the Recent tab to look for images to identify, so they'll see your image no matter where you post it. There are also some experts and other editors who look through ID Request from time to time and move things where they belong. That means ID Request is always a safe bet.
It's true that some experts concentrate on the parts of the guide that they know most about, so there are times it's better to post images there instead of ID Request. Posting to the wrong places in the guide, though, can hide your image from those experts.

Three Simple Rules:

1.   When in doubt- post it to ID Request

2.   Without breaking the next rule, post things to the lowest (most specific) level where you know it belongs (example: if you’re not sure whether it’s a grasshopper or a cricket, post it to Orthoptera, the lowest level that contains both).

3.   Avoid in-between levels. Order, Family, Genus and Species generally get the most attention. There are exceptions (see below), but otherwise, stick to those four.

Exceptions To Order/Family/Genus/Species rule:

Best posted to order if you don’t know the family, but if you’re not certain of the order, just post it to ID Request. Be careful, though: if it doesn’t have a tail with a stinger on the end, it’s not a scorpion. Also be careful about spiders: true spiders have the body divided into two parts, while there are harvestmen, mites and ticks that have only one. When in doubt- post to ID Request.

Other non-insect Arthropods:
Best posted to class. If you’re not sure what class it is- post it to ID Request.


Suborder Zygoptera

Dragonflies (If you know it’s not a damselfly):
Suborder Anisoptera

Now are in their own order Mantodea- but you still need to make sure it’s not a Mantidfly or Water Scorpion.

Now are in their own order Blattodea- but it now includes Termites- Epifamily Isoptera You can post termites there, but be careful not to mistake Webspinners (Order Embiidina) for termites.

True bugs:
Suborder Heteroptera

Make sure you know the difference between beetles and true bugs before you post to Order Coleoptera. Otherwise- post to ID Request.

Order Lepidoptera:
Caterpillars should go to:
the order page or to ID Request. "Caterpillars" that have only the six legs in front, no legs at all, or too many legs, may be beetle, fly or sawfly larvae. When in doubt, post to ID Request.

Adults should go to:
Butterflies (clubbed antennae)- Papilionoidea
Moths (antennae with no clubs or hooks on the end)- Moths
   If the antennae are very long and straight, make sure it’s not a Caddisfly (or just post it to ID Request).
Skippers (antennae with hooks on the end)- Family Hesperiidae
If this seems too complicated- post to Lepidoptera, or to ID Request.

Bees, wasps, ants, etc.:
There are so many flies, beetles, moths and other insects that try so hard to pass themselves off as bees and wasps, even experts get fooled sometimes. There are characteristics of the eyes, antennae, wings and abdomen that can be used to tell these apart, but until you know those well, it's best to post anything that looks like a bee or a wasp to ID Request. The same can be said of ants.

If you do have a pretty good idea that you're dealing with the real thing- and not a look-alike- bees should go to Anthophila, regular wasps should go to Aculeata, and ants should go to Formicidae (just be careful that you don't have a velvet ant). If it has a narrow waist and an ovipositor, post it to parasitic Apocrita. Otherwise, Hymenoptera or ID Request.

galls, leaf mines, etc.
Charley Eiseman says: "Any gall or leaf mine photos i haven't commented on after a couple of days can be moved to 'unidentified galls'(1) or 'unidentified leaf mines'(2) (this is the best thing to do even if they're known to be, for instance, cynipid galls). Any other misc. 'signs' can be moved to 'unsolved bug-related mysteries'[cite:214125]."

For all of this info. ;) JB

Time to bump up this to the top. ID request is getting out of hand.
While I am at it, I want to remind everybody to add as much info as possible, such as sex, adult/immature in addition to date and location. Even if you know nothing about insects those with wings, mating or laying eggs are adults. Those that look like maggots, caterpillars or grubs are immature. This takes care of about 80% of submissions. Unfortunately many don't bother to fill in those fields.

Once again
Bumping it to the top. Wish people would read this article before posting images to ID request. It would save extra steps.

Add to Help Page
I would venture to say that the majority of people who are new to the site probably don't read forums. Can't this article be added to the help page? I know that I look it up quite often when I don't remember where to post an insect that I can't ID.
I do use ID request sometimes to see if anybody has an idea about something. Sometimes it doesn't need to wait on an expert. There are a lot of knowledgeable folks out there. I try not to leave it in ID request more than a week before moving it to an appropriate place if it does not receive attention sooner than that.

Welcome page
It is listed on the Welcome Page. But then again, who looks at the welcome page? Nobody knows where it is. Sigh!

I know that I don't know where it is!

Cockroaches, Mantids and Termites
Based on the changes in Dictyoptera, you can delete mantids and cockroaches from this list, as they both have their own Order now. The Suborder taxa linked above are empty and marked for deletion. Termites are no longer an Order, so you may want to include the new no-taxon Isoptera page to this list. Thanks Chuck!

Why post skippers to the superfamily level (Hesperioidea)? There is only one family involved. I would suggest moving unidentified skippers to Hesperiidae directly.

just realized on 7/15/10 that the article is only about images posted for ID. I had assumed that it was for any images posted by anyone for any reason.

To the Help page...
I think we should give Chuck a chance to change the article status from 'For Review' first.

Chuck - when you are ready could you email John V. asking this be added to the help info? Is this the best spot for it?

Actually, I probably should have posted this in reply to v's initial comment.

v or anyone, if I'm certain that I've got, say, a tachinid, but I think an expert could ID it to species and I want to put it where it'll be seen by an expert, do I post it to Diptera (as I've been doing) as opposed to my lowest level of certainty?

Just checking. This sort of situation comes up all the time.

Answer: How things work
The main reason I find Chuck’s initiative so helpful (and refer new contributors to this article all the time) is that the ID Request was getting out of hand and no expert could be expected to go thru all that *stuff* looking for items to comment. It's all about keeping our inventory wieldy by breaking down the bulk of images submitted for identification into easily manageable fragments – which I believe has been achieved, to a vast extent because of this thread.

Many experts, including Dr. Woodley, our stratiomyid/tachinid guy, never visit BugGuide unless specifically prompted. (As far as I know, he comments only the submissions I bounce to him via e-mail. Same applies to dozens of other experts.)
Every time I check the recent images I add URLs to about a dozen draft messages and send them out once enough items have piled up.
(I use discretion and don’t list every image of this or that group I encounter. Naturally, I would prefer to compel experts to check their sections regularly on their own. Don’t have enough leverage for that, sorry. But this routine of mine, however tedious at times, makes me look closer at great many pictures I would otherwise skip, so I’m learning something along the way and consider it my pay.)

My procedure is inherently flawed, i.e. should I skip or miss an item the image may remain without expert attention indefinitely.
This also means that as long as I check the ‘Recent’ tab regularly, it doesn’t matter where was a tach/barklouse/beetle image posted: I would notice it anyway. I’ll keep doing what I can as long as I’m around and not tired of messing with the Guide.
The situation is fluid and depends largely upon personal/offline relationships between experts and editors; that’s why there is no point of codifying the current arrangement beyond a couple of most general guidelines. The next guy who comes around to get busy with another neglected section may have his own ideas where to look for BG job. I don’t think any flowcharted scheme would work.

* * *
Having so many dedicated people (nomina sunt odiosa) who take care of most major sections is a real blessing. The overall trend seems to be towards reduction of inventories at higher levels guidewide. Let’s keep it this way.
P.S. In my advanced age I have no hope to ever understand how some taxonomic ranks above species can be given more importance than others – all being equally made-up things, a matter of mere convention. For purposes other than establishing intricate nomenclatural rules ranks do not exist. Trying to argue that a group is a class rather than a subphylum is a futile exercise that would imply that one can define ‘class’ – as opposed to, say, infraclass or tribe. Cannot be done. All levels should be treated equally.

Thanks, v

A related question
I assume the answer to that question is "yes." But I assume it's up to the poster whether to put the image at the lowest level versus a higher level, right?

When will this knowledge be placed in Help?
Any chance these guidelines can be codified and placed into the Help section? (It has been over a year since this article first appeared.)

At the very least, the Help section should include the "Three Simple Rules" and a link to a finalized version of the complete article, for example:


Three Simple Rules:

1. When in doubt- post it to ID Request

2. Without breaking the next rule, post things to the lowest (most specific) level where you know it belongs (example: if you’re not sure whether it’s a grasshopper or a cricket, post it to Orthoptera, the lowest level that contains both).

3. Avoid in-between levels. Order, Family, Genus and Species generally get the most attention. There are exceptions (see below), but otherwise, stick to those four.

For more information, see the article "Where Do I Post My Image?"


Excellent suggestion
Placing the three simple rules in the Help section and a link to the article sounds very good. We need a way to show people how to post images and this seems a good way. Most people wouldn't bother with, or wouldn't need long instructions; the condensed form is probably more effective for them. The full article would be helpful to those who want to delve a little deeper.
I only would add:
•If you don’t have an image, post a topic in the General Discussion Forum asking about it
•If you do have an image, please don’t post a topic in the forums- that’s what ID Request is for. Posting a topic with images from other sites is a particularly bad idea- even sites designed for that like Photobucket or Flickr.

I propose three specific changes. . .
I propose three changes:

1. Add the "Three Simple Rules" (plus link to article) to the Help > Images page. I would add them under a new section "Where do I post my images?" near the top, as the second topic, right below "How do I submit..." (I would not include the "general" tips here because they pertain more directly to Forum use.)

2. Add the "General" tips" to the Help > About page in a new section called "Using the Forums."

3. Change the title of this article to "Where Do I Post My Image?" rather than "Where Do I Post It?" since posting images is the biggest challenge on the site (and the word "It" is too vague). The "general tips" could be removed from the article since they will now be in Help > About.

What people should do vs. How to get them to do it
Please see below, everyone. Is this what people should do? (Note that this is a separate issue from how to get them to do it.)

-- Contributors who can't ID their image to any group within reasonable scientific probability should use ID Request.

-- Contributors who are looking for ID help and don't have much experience with this site should use ID request.

-- Contributors who have experience with this site but are looking for a more specific ID or additional info should refer to a forum topic that says where various experts like to see various groups, but if the contributor wants to use ID request, that's fine, too.

-- Contributors posting ID'd images and not looking for help should post to the lowest group to which they can identify the image within reasonable scientific probability.

-- No one should post (or move) an image to the guide section unless he can say that in reasonable scientific probability the ID is correct.

[edit: This comment renders the above comment superfluous, but it's too late to delete that one. Please excuse if you've already read it.]

Some comments on the "three simple rules":

It seems to me that many beginners will think that "when in doubt" means something like 50-50 uncertainty. More precise language (especially including the word "scientific") would help avoid that misunderstanding. E.g., "Don't post (or move) an image to the guide section unless you can ID it within reasonable scientific probability [reasonable scientific certainty?]. Post it to ID Request instead."

After the first rule, it's probably best to refer people to this article. But that raises another issue.

The rules send everyone to this article, even the expert who doesn't need ID help this particular time. To avoid this situation, the (second) rule could say something like "If you can ID the image within reasonable scientific probability [reas. sci. certainty?], but are looking for a more specific ID or additional info, you can always post to ID Request, but please consider visiting [link] for information about where various groups are most likely to be seen by an expert and why." That way, the link is suggested for only those people who are looking for an expert.

As to the third rule and the "exceptions to the order/fam/gen/spe rule," the beetle exception is not an exceptions to the third rule. It says to post to order or ID Request. Also, some of the exceptions to the third rule are also exceptions to the "lowest level" rule, but the "lowest level" rule doesn't mention that there are exceptions to it. Finally, the "lowest level" rule says "without breaking the next rule," but in some situations, applying the "lowest level" rule in conjunction with the exceptions does result in breaking the next rule.

Fortunately, those problems are easily fixed by simply adding a line to the end of the list of the various groups, saying something like "All others should be posted to the lowest major group (order/family/genus/species) to which it can be ID'd correctly." That obviates the need for a rule three, the need for a rule two about posting to the lowest level, and the need to call anything an exception to either rule.

Hmmm . . .
I think I preferred the wording you used earlier in a decision tree format, but it looks like you erased the post. My initial impression is that using terms like "scientific uncertainty" will be off-putting to most users (and statistical concepts might be inappropriate anyway). I am not entirely familiar with the exceptions, but it seems like most of the exceptions are "Suborder" exceptions. Can the language of the first rule be adjusted to include the exceptions?

For example:


Two Simple Guidelines

1. In general, post the image at the lowest major level (Order/Suborder*/Family/Genus/Species) for which you are absolutely certain. Avoid Superfamily and Subfamily as these levels are not monitored by editors as frequently. [Is this true?]

*Use Suborder only for some types of animals as described in [the article].

2. If you are not certain of any taxonomic level, post the image to ID Request.


ID standard
The Balabans suggest that "if you have researched something and have matched your bug to images in the guide and are as certain as you can be that you have it correct, then post it there." In my opinion, that's what words like "scientific," "taxonomic," "entomological" etc. would convey.

ID Standard
Here are two comments (link one and link two) by the Balabans about potential problems with using absolute certainty as a standard. They suggest "reasonable certainty" or "relative certainty." But a significant chunk of the people who sign up for this site would probably take those phrases to mean something like "more likely than not." My opinion was that adding "scientific" would help, but I didn't mean it statistically. Perhaps "reasonable [or relative] taxonomic certainty."

Ahhh... good points.
I like "reasonable certainty." Perhaps "taxonomic..." or "scientific..." is implied by the context, so might not be needed, but I don't have a strong opinion about using or not using those words as modifiers. I was reacting more to the word "probability." I had a mental image of a new user thinking he or she had to calculate the statistical probability of a bug belonging to one family vs. another family. My imagination might have been a bit dramatic. In any case, I support whatever will help new users make a posting decision quickly.

Any thoughts on the (modified) guidelines below? I'm particularly interested in whether #1 sufficiently addresses the issue of exceptions.


Two Simple Guidelines

1. In general, post the image at the lowest major level (Order/Suborder*, Family, Genus or Species) for which you are reasonably certain. Avoid Superfamily and Subfamily as our editors do not regularly monitor these levels. [Is this true?]

*Suborder is preferred for some insect groups. See [the article] for more information.

2. If you are not reasonably certain of any taxonomic level, post the image to ID Request.


[edit much later: Disregard most of this comment. I just noticed that the article is only about images posted for identification.]

1. Is your ID within reasonable scientific certainty?
Yes- go to 2.
No- post it to ID Request.

2. Are you seeking either feedback or a more specific ID?
Yes- go to 3.
No- post to the lowest (most specific) level where you know it belongs.

3. Post to ID request or see the following chart:
* Spiders => to Araneae
* Damselflies => to Zygoptera
* Dragonflies => to Anisoptera
... [etc.]
* All others => to the lowest major level (order/family/genus/species) of which you have reasonable scientific certainty.

Reasonably certain? Prove it
Many people forget the instructions in Do's and Don'ts: "Do indicate how you arrived at an identification." In many cases beginners are better off posting in ID request. I have seen bees in flies and vice versa, or something placed at species level just because it looks like something they saw in a guide book without realizing that there are a few dozen species that look similar, or relying on previous images in the guide that may have been wrongly placed.
I am in favor of keeping the article very simple and emphasizing strongly that ID request is a very good choice for beginners.

Precise language
I agree with everything you said. Also, too many regulars wrongly consider themselves beginners, and some users who are beginners (or who just aren't interested in bugs but sign up and post an image anyway, which happens and is perfectly fine) are unaware of their limitations. That's why telling someone "If you're a beginner, you should use ID request" doesn't help them much more than saying "if you should use ID request, use ID Request" :-)

More precise language (but still simple and emphatic) would be much more helpful and more likely to get the desired results.

duplicate comment

Not sure
[edit: disregard this comment and my earlier ones. Just noticed that the article is only about images posted for identification.]

My way seems simpler to me, in which The first rule is an ID standard. If the ID meets that standard and you don't need help (e.g., it's ID'd to species, or you know it's impossible to ID further from photos), the second rule says post it to the lowest level. A third rule says that if the ID meets the standard and you do need help, then you go to this page. This page says "for animal A do this, for animal B do this, ... for animal Z do this, and for all other animals post to lowest major level."

just to move the article to the top, as Beatriz requested.

Can we finish this article, promote it to at least semi-official policy, and put it somewhere contributors will see it? For example, linked from the text at top of ID request which now reads "If you have an image of something from the United States or Canada that you would like identified, you may add the image to this page."

you may find this thread useful to eventually update your article based on the outcome of the discussion.
[and thanks again for putting together this draft -- i refer contributors to it all the time and see it working and saving time to many of us]

I've been reading it
Actually, I make a point of reading all of the forums. I always unsubscribe to my forum posts because I know I'll get to them within a few days if anyone posts a reply.

Crane Flies
Does anyone know whether it's better to move "obvious" nematocerans and/or crane flies to Nematocera or Tipulomorpha, or should all of these flies just be moved to Diptera? Has anyone talked with Chen Young about where he likes to see these?

Crane flies to Tipulomorpha
Crane flies should go to Tipulomorpha.

Gnats of uncertain family I often move to Bibionomorpha.

Dr. Belov asked me to express a preference on this matter:

It would be helpful if EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera) could be posted to their respective order pages whenever they are recognized as such. I suppose this would mostly be a suggestion for editors. "Rule #1" should prevail, of course, but any misplaced postings by other contributors at the order level could be quickly recognized and should not cause a problem.

thanks, Lloyd
[official: i'm no 'Dr.', just =v=]

My apologies...
for the mistake. =v= it is. :)

suggestions from Dr. Hamilton
"It would really, REALLY help if each image got posted from the ID Request pages directly to the Hemiptera section after anyone -- even the poster -- applies a generic name to it. It doesn't matter if the generic identification provided by others is incorrect - eventually I'll see them on the 'Recent images' file, and can correct them if necessary. Keeping them on the ID Request pages because someone said that 'Dr. Hamilton should see it first' simply clogs up the incoming files too much." [pers.comm.]
So now we all know how to process whatever needs Dr. Hamilton's attention. Another step towards streamlining the process.

Really good start, Chuck
I admire you for even 'trying' to take this on. There is really no "right" answer, just a lot of "wrong" ones:-) One thing I notice, and that I may be guilty of myself on occasion, is people who think they have the correct identification already, and post their image to the wrong guide page. I happened upon such an instance just this morning. That is why I visit "Recent" and not "ID Request."

If time permits, I will then go to "ID Request" and move images of animals I recognize, or that have already been identified but not moved (that may be the big problem), and move them. If there was a way to be in "Recent," move an image after commenting, and then be able to return easily to where you left off in "Recent," then more images would get moved as they are identified.

As incoming images start waning in the colder months, then I turn my attention to taxa I know pretty well, and start going through the "order" guide pages, on down to the genera, and place things I recognize to as specific an ID as possible.

I think I would suggest that everybody put their unknowns (and those seeking confirmations) into "ID Request." You just can't go wrong. An editor handling the ID request could go wrong, obviously, but then at least it's not your fault:-)

The workaround I use to go ba
The workaround I use to go back to where I left off in "recent" is just to use the "back" button on my browser. [edit: i agree that more people would move more images if this process were easier]

I just keep opening new tabs, but never close the old one.

I incorporated many of the suggestions below, though not some that tended toward making things more complex. I'm going to simplify things more, once I think through what parts are least useful.
There were a couple of places, though, where more explanation seemed like a good idea.

[deleted most of comment afte
[deleted most of my comment after re-reading the article and above comments]

The article contains a lot of great info. Thanks, Chuck!

Good article
It promises to be very useful. Several good suggestions have been made already, so I am just repeating some for emphasis.

1. Please emphasize When in doubt, post it to ID Request, as v suggests. That is a very important point for beginners.
But, I don't agree with eliminating the descriptive characters; I think that beginners will find them useful; so, please keep them. I wouldn't add Syrphidae, many people confuse soldier flies and bee flies with them.

2. Drop Tipulomorpha.

3. Notify the editors/experts. I have the feeling that some prefer to check ID request while others go to their taxa of expertise. Many times I post some bugs to ID request because it is my impression that certain specialists go there and overlook the ones placed somewhere in the guide. Perhaps another article would be needed with suggestions specifically for IDers.

4. Make this article available at FAQ or Help as already suggested.

Keep it simple
I agree with v's suggestion to keep it simple.

I have a few comments.

I post a lot to ID request because I thought we had an understanding that images should go there first and be moved into taxa by the appropriate expert editors. This article does represent a change from prior custom.

The long-rumored BG2 is supposed to have a tool to make posting outside of ID request work better, an "unidentified" state.

We should keep the list short for simplicity. Tipulomorpha does get expert attention but it's not in the top five or ten. We can live with new users sending crane flies to flies. Some of the editors know that moving them from flies to crane flies will get them looked at.

So we may want a short list for new users (see below) and a longer list of "taxa that experts watch" for frequent submitters.

A comment specifically saying "if you're not sure if it's a beetle or a bug, post to ID request" may be in order.

A special submission page for newish users would help. Instead of going to ID request and "add image", click a general "submit new image" button. This form would offer a choice of "other / not sure", "beetle", "bug", "fly", "butterfly", "moth", and a few more. The default choice, other, would submit to ID request.

Most helpful summary -- thanks!
My two cents:
  1. Once finalized, these guidelines should be made available under the ‘Help’ tab – as a link to the article or as full text included in the FAQs.
  2. The editors should advertise the guidelines to any prolific (especially new) contributors by inserting the link in comments – will pay off big time. We should also notify our experts.
  3. I have some reservation about the Rule 2 – I’m 100% okay with it if applied to any groups I currently curate (beetles, Heteroptera, a few minor orders), but the Balabans pointed out the messy situation in moths, with pictures of the same species scattered all over the place, and we should avoid aggravating and proliferating such practice.
  4. I would streamline the text a bit –- just to make it less hierarchical and more concise, perhaps visible at a glance without scrolling.
  5. Also, the guidelines shall mention no diagnostic features or taxonomic ranks (infraorders and stuff) –- the point is indeed, When in ANY doubt, post it to ID Request –- that’s all. The links are there. Let’s simplify compliance and rely on what people already know for sure. (Occasional caddis ending up among moths is no big deal, either: the next expert will weed them out.)
  6. We could live happily with the ID Request cleared of a dozen major groups and not care much about occasional mites, ~pedes, mantids, or cockroaches – the more concise the guidelines are, the easier they will be to memorize and follow. Just my opinion.
The summary should read something like: PLEASE POST...
  • Spiders => to Araneae
  • Damselflies => to Zygoptera
  • Dragonflies => to Anisoptera
  • True bugs => to Heteroptera
  • Hoppers => to Auchenorrhyncha
  • Beetles => to Coleoptera
  • All Caterpillars => to Lepidoptera
  • Butterflies => to Papilionoidea
  • Skippers => to Hesperioidea
  • Moths => to Moths
  • Flies => to Diptera
  • Crane Flies => to Tipulomorpha
Suggested additions I can think of, subject to consensus:
  • Hover/Flower Flies => to Syrphidae
  • Robber Flies => to Asilidae Most people know these well, and the expert community seems quite specialized.
Also: what about – currently Hymenoptera is no burden to ID Request as most Aculeata are dealt with in a blink of an eye – thanks to our dedicated experts.

Hymenoptera link needs fixin'

Posting instructions
I don't like to be disagreeable, but I have to disagree with the proposed level of detail. Sending newbies to different pages for these taxonomic groups may well overestimate the public's knowledge. Most people know robber flies well? Hmm, I've never seen one in real life that I know of. (My husband says he also doesn't know robber flies.) I evidently misidentified a spittlebug as a hopper this week. And I'm an educated person. It's just that my education was in the humanities.

And how many people can tell damselflies from dragonflies?

If you want some such breakdown, let it be simpler, something like this:

1. Spiders and scorpions
2. Butterflies, moths, and caterpillars
3. Everything else

I think...
I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that these proposed guidelines are mainly directed to the frequent contributors who post images to ID request when they already know what family/genus/etc they belong to (I am guilty of this, but after reading this thread I will try to follow these guidelines). As =v= said earlier, anytime a person is not certain about which taxon to place an image it should be posted to ID request.

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