Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes

Upcoming Events

Discussion of 2018 gathering

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

Photos of insects and people from the 2014 gathering in Virginia, June 4-7.

Photos of insects and people from the 2013 gathering in Arizona, July 25-28

Photos of insects and people from the 2012 gathering in Alabama

Photos of insects and people from the 2011 gathering in Iowa

Photos from the 2010 Workshop in Grinnell, Iowa

Photos from the 2009 gathering in Washington

Voucher Collections

This idea has been brought up in the midst of another topic, so I thought I would present it separately to keep it from getting buried:

In the field of academic publishing, the practice is for the authors of publications or researchers (even anthropologists or linguists) to have specimens collected and preserved of any organisms whose identity is significant to the data in question. These are called "voucher specimens", presumably because they would "vouch for" the accuracy of the identifications used in the publication or research.

Why should we do this at BugGuide?

First of all, there are numerous taxonomic groups in BugGuide that are difficult or impossible to identify completely from images. It has been observed that details of genitalia reflect taxonomic differences more consistently than anything visible externally, so dissection of specimens is considered the best way to be sure of identification. There are also groups like the Tachnidae that require careful examination of things like minute bristles for reliable identification. Even in earwigs, the group I'm most familiar with, IDs can hinge on details of the feet and antennae that are visible without dissection, but rarely in good focus in images. Then there are details that can only be seen by turning the subject over and looking closely (true of a great many spiders).

There are also cases where it's discovered that what was considered one species is really several. Likewise, an identification may be called into question based on new information or changes in theory. The visible differences to examine for confirmation may not be captured in the original images, because no one knew what to look for- or there may be no visible difference. If you have a voucher specimen, you can always go back and reexamine it or test things like DNA. Or there may be questions no one has even thought of yet that could be answered someday using the specimen.

In short, an identification backed by a voucher specimen is better in just about every way than an identification based on an image alone.

So we should immediately have everyone take voucher specimens for every picture- right?

Actually, no. There are practical and theoretical factors to consider first:

First of all, a high-volume site like ours could conceivably overwhelm anyone that agreed to take the specimens if care isn't taken to be selective: we have over a quarter-million images accumulated over just 6 years, with the rate no doubt still increasing. The bugs represented by even a small fraction of those submissions would take a lot of labor to process and space to store. Does anyone really need thousands of specimens of common, no-brainer-ID species like Wheel Bugs in a time of shrinking resources?

Second, education about techniques and quality control is important. We've all seen images posted by folks who want to know if the spider they stomped is a Brown Recluse- imagine that spider after a trip through the mail. And ID is theoretically possible if a sphinx caterpillar is tossed in an envelope and mailed- but I wouldn't want to be the one opening that envelope!

Third, we need to think about legal and ethical pitfalls- there are locations like national parks and threatened populations that should be off-limits, for instance. What restrictions are there on sending pest species across state lines? What about species that might incur risks in order to collect them? How do we make sure we're not leading people to do something illegal and/or dangerous and/or wrong?

Fourth, people tend to look through the guide until they find something that looks like their bug. Are we misleading people by posting images of bugs that can't be identified that way? What do we need to do to educate people in such cases?

Not that these are fatal problems or even require much thought- it's just easier to deal with things you're aware of beforehand.

So, what should we do?

Some of this is already going on. Tom Murray, for instance, regularly collects some of the bugs he photographs, and he has informal arrangements to send specimens to various experts if requested. Some experts have offered to accept and ID any specimens sent them that are within their specialties. Mark Dreiling, among others, provides specimens for the Barcode of Life lepidopteran-DNA project, and in return gets IDs.

I think we should expand on this and work out ways to match contributors to IDers/repositories, but without inviting the world to indiscriminately dump on the latter. Perhaps we can come up with a system of gatekeepers or intermediaries who receive requests for a place to send specimens, then provide address and contact information when it's appropriate. Some recipients are set up for dealing with the public, so it won't be necessary- but I think we'll get much better participation if we have such an option to offer.

We should arrive at ways to encourage people to take voucher specimens where they're needed, and educate them about the limits of IDing certain taxa from images- at the very least through wording on guide pages, if not some system of codes, etc. Some of this might take the form of an article outlining specific groups that should be vouchered- though a comprehensive list would be too big to be practical.

We should also have an article explaining standard mounting, preservation and shipping techniques, with a list to refer to specify which to use for a specific type of specimen.

We also should come up with standards for documentation and cross-referencing, so the specimens received can be easily, reliably and consistently matched with the images

I know I've probably gone into too much detail, but at least it will give raw material to pick and choose from in our discussion

Voucher specimens and voucher photos
It is good to hear all the ideas proposed in this important discussion. I hope that many others chime in.
There are two ideas to be considered: 1) the collection of voucher specimens and 2) the use of "phototypes", "photo vouchers" or "representative images". Whatever the name it would be very helpful to start discussing which images qualify as vouchers and which don't. For instance, I have seen a number of, say, beetles, wasps or moths IDed to species without a single piece of information added to the image or to the guide page. The bugs in question could be just any of several species, at least to my untrained eye.
I have had this dialogue in some occasions:
- How was this IDed?
- Professor X IDed the specimen.
- Do you know what the defining characters are?
- No, professor X used characters that are not visible on the photo.
In my opinion such an image has little value without those comments plus mention of where the voucher specimen is kept. The new species page created for such image is practically the equivalent of an empty page.
So, if that information (or lack of it) were added both to the image and guide page, then the image would become a place holder (not a photo voucher) for the voucher specimen stored somewhere.
On the other hand, some images, or rather series of images, qualify as "photo vouchers" or "phototypes" if they are as complete as Jay's example of Pelegrina proterva.
I may add that in a very modest way we are already doing some of it in overview pages where we carefully choose images with reliable IDs that show clearly the identifying characters.

"BugGuide's Phototype" vs "photo-voucher"
have different meanings in my opinion. For example, Tom Murray has graciously sent me scores of carabid specimens that are linked to his posted images at BugGuide. They are all "photo-vouchers" because I processed them as such, that is, the mounted labels with collection data and collector's name also bear the unique BugGuide photo number. Tom's donated specimens are incorporated into my reference collection of North American Carabidae. They eventually will find an institutional home in the Insect Research Collection of UW-Madison. But not every photo-voucher provided by Tom, an excellent photographer, is likely to be a "phototype" at BugGuide since that distinction is reserved only for the "best" or most representative image regardless if the best is linked to a vouchered specimen or not. Ideally, the phototypic image would also be a photo-vouchered image. Be aware therefore of the distinction of "vouchered phototype" from "non-vouchered phototype".

Good point
This is a good point. The benefits of having images of vouchered specimens outlined by Chuck include the ability of an expert to identify microscopic characters needed to make a definitive ID. When those microscopic characters have been photographed with images uploaded and linked to the habitus views (as done by Jay), that particular purpose of having a voucher no longer remains. A voucher is more important if the expert is unable to take pictures of the characters used for definitive identification, such as Peter is doing. In that case, the retention of the voucher fills the purpose of “vouching for” the accurate identification because there are no images to demonstrate the accuracy of the identification. Therefore any list of experts should probably include whether or not that expert has the equipment and skill required to photograph those microscopic characters in addition to (or instead of) vouchering the specimen. Both are very useful, but it is important to keep the difference in mind.

As Beatriz notes, some species do have definitively identified images that are placed on the Guide’s Info pages. Perhaps there is no need to identify a single “BugGuide phototype” but rather good images that help make definitive identifications should be added to the ID section of the guide page. Using multiple images on a guide page to demonstrate normal variation (or lack of variation) in an important character may be very helpful in the event that multiple images of that character are available.

I do not photograph insects and so the best I can do in select important cases is to recommend to the photographer additional closeup views of taxonomically important structures. However, even "camera-ready" experts who receive unidentified photo-linked voucher material are likely too busy to take & post additional confirmatory photographs for us to see. I would estimate that at least a third of the well photographed carabid specimens by Tom Murray still do not provide sufficient photographic clues for accurate species identification - mainly because of inherently inadequate camera/monitor resolution of needed closeups. For such difficult images I usually spend more time discussing the photo-linked specimen as in this example.

I do like the idea of temporarily putting the best examples (photoypes) on the Info Page until BugGuide 2.0 gives us a better option. I am open to the suggestion of more than one phototypic example per Species Info Page. But will the current Info Page and its contents be mostly missed by casual visitors to BugGuide searching for species images? Visitors need first to find and select the Info page button. For a species search, I'm hoping that version 2.0 will show first something like our current Info Page filled with diagnosis/synonymy/bionomics/range plus selected phototypes. Then another button would take you to the mass of other images for that species.

voucher vs photos
"When those microscopic characters have been photographed with images uploaded and linked to the habitus views (as done by Jay), that particular purpose of having a voucher no longer remains."

Unless the entire specimen is photographed at high magnification, photographs can never come close to taking the place of a voucher specimen even for that purpose. What may be a reliable character today may be obsolete after the next revision of the group. This discussion reminds me of David Wagner quoting Jane O'Donnell in his ENA caterpillar guide as saying "If a picture is worth a thousand words, a specimen is worth a million."

Diagnostic images vs. vouchers
This gets back to the difference between “value” and “purpose.” As I understand it, this forum was intended to discuss the images of actual vouchers, and not images useful for identification. The confusion stems from the fact that many images of vouchers (but certainly not all of them) are also useful for obtaining species-level identification. However, most images in BugGuide that demonstrate diagnostic characteristics are not of vouchered specimens. I’ve included links to two fire ant images to demonstrate the difference. My image of S. xyloni is not distinguishable from S. invicta, although I could see the distinguishing characters under the microscope. I tried, but I am not that good with taking these pictures, and don’t have the time to learn to get better at this point. I have the ant pictured in my collection; it is a voucher. (Clearly I am not disputing the scientific value of vouchers.) My image is “representative” of the species, but the image is not very useful for diagnosis, and so it should not be included on the Info page for that purpose. In contrast, Mario’s amazing image of a live S. invicta reveals what I could not, and should be incorporated into the Info page; it does fulfill that purpose.

Although there may be substantial over-lap I think it is important to keep the discussion separate because they are used for different things. Images useful for making a definitive identification (e.g. palps) should be incorporated into the relevant Info pages, whether they are of voucher specimens or not. This allows an explanation to be given so that others wanting to confirm an identification of that species can learn how to do so. In contrast, the purpose of sending specimens to an expert may be to confirm (or obtain) an identification and to voucher the specimen. I don’t think many experts take pictures of specimens sent to them for identification, but most will retain the (good) specimens in their collections. The system now in place seems to be a haphazard effort between collectors that go through the hassle of preparing and mailing a specimen and the expert that goes through the hassle of identification and curation in order to add scientific value to BugGuide and the specimen. This was certainly an important part of the motivation for both the collector and identifier of this sticktight flea. I think Chuck started this forum in order to figure out how to facilitate this cooperation.

I've missed out on most of this discussion, but would just like to confirm David's two valid points. Particularly the second, that photographic images, no matter how many or how detailed, will never replace being able to hold the specimen in your own two hands, so to speak --- direct examination under the microscope.

Thus, although there are many valid reasons for wanting to have photographs of these microscopic features (time and interest permitting), the greater value is in having catalogued specimens that have not only been closely examined and compared with the extant literature during the determination process but also preserved.


Not to mention...
Some cryptospecies that may not be visibly distinguishable, but have behavioral differences and are shown to be distinct by differences in DNA.

The seasonal species among the Azures (Celestrina spp.) come to mind. There's also an effort underway to revise the genus Stenopelmatus using the concept of "song species", that are mostly distinguished by differences in songs.

I'm sure most of these cryptospecies have at least one or two subtle morphological differences from similar species, but I'm not aware of any theoretical barrier to a separate species only distinguishable by behavior and DNA. Of course, I'm not a taxonomist or even an entomologist, so I could be wrong.

Photo-linked voucher specimens
always keep their scientific value as long as they are processed as such with the BugGuide photo numbers and their corresponding posted images (convincing or not) are not deleted. Conversely, posted images of reasonably good quality retain their elevated scientific value as long as the corresponding voucher specimens are not lost. Some may argue the difference between "value" and "purpose" here.

An important value of photo-linked vouchers
As a studier of Oecanthinae, it is very disappointing to examine actual specimens that were collected many years ago. Tree crickets do not maintain their color -- after time they all appear pale tan. Their beautiful long antennae are quite often broken off. Their limbs come off with even a slight bump against the specimen pinned next to them while removing them from the drawer.

So for this SubFamily, photo-vouchers are important for referencing the various species. I think I'm going to have to take some classes from Jeff Gruber!

couple thoughts
I suspect that most contributors to BugGuide are posting images so that they can get an identification for a "bug" that they saw while enjoying the great outdoors, so I don't think that encouraging the collection of voucher specimens will "dump" a whole bunch of specimens into repositories/museums/kind IDers. One of the nice things about having a voucher specimen for a photo (as you intimated) is that if it cannot be ID'd from the posted photos, it may be possible to take specimen photos of certain characters to obtain a more positive ID. This does not necessarily entail swamping any experts or repositories with specimens, as if the specimen is properly ID'd from subsequent specimen photos, a decision can be made as to its worth in a public collection or, if it can't be ID'd from pictures, but might be something interesting, then maybe it's worth donating/sending the specimen for follow-up. Any encouragement of collecting could always carry a caveat about this sort of thing.

I am very much aware of issues having to do with invertebrate conservation. In general, although there may be a few exceptions, collecting a couple-few voucher specimens is not going to adversely affect a population, so while the remote possibility should be mentioned, I don't think that worrying about people collecting rare species is much of an issue. Not collecting any vouchers, and thereby not properly and publicly documenting a population of a rare species, is much more of a threat, unless of course the species is legally protected.

I'm surprised that there's not an article about standard preservation and labeling techniques and would be willing to help with that.

Minority view
I see a wedge being driven between entomologists and nonprofessionals whose main interest in bugs isn't taxonomy (and who perhaps can't take great pictures). I sometimes post photos to learn more, to extend the range, or to record something about behavior or development (e.g., Psyllobora eclosion). Usually the species is common and known. For life-cycle postings, if I've raised something from egg to adult, I feel responsible for its welfare. I'm not going to kill it purposely. If it dies in my care, I feel bad. Yep, an entomological bleeding-heart softie whose mind won't be changed by strong encouragements. Isn't there room for us, too?

I see my post as more of a bridge than a wedge
Someone who isn't a scientist can still contribute to science, and make their image more than just what their photographic skill would allow. I think your life-cycle series are great in their own right, without any voucher specimens.

Of course, bugs aren't that long-lived, so you could wait until one died a natural death, or dispatch one that would be dieing soon anyway if you let it go (You can chill it to put it to sleep first).

The reason I put my second question in there was to balance my extolling of the virtues of voucher specimens with the caution that it's not practical or desirable to have them for every image.

There's all the room in the world for people to submit images of bugs without capturing and/or killing them- but people who want a more solid ID and the chance to contribute to science should have the option of taking and contributing a voucher specimen.

Amen, from behind the pew...
I've been failing to psych myself up for whacking next year's egg-to-adult life cycle subjects; I wouldn't mind keeping them in captivity till they died of natural causes and vouchering them then, but I'm sure I'd have to add a "Certified Wimp Collection Delay" tag. ("Here's what it looks like six months after emerging from the pupa...")

Actually, come to think of it, I did whack one of my beetles; it had a bad eclosion and the wings were twisted. Not only couldn't it fly, it couldn't even walk except in a frantic circle, and wouldn't eat when aphids were put in front of it. So it spent the very brief remainder of its life in the office freezer. And I felt dreadful for a few hours. Although now I wonder if it's still there, because it was a Hippodamia and I'd like to look at the tarsal claws under magnification...


It's like the difference between birdwatching and ornithology, writ small; but unlike ornithology, acquiring a specimen (i.e., whacking the critter) requires no formal special training and not many permits, none at all if it's on your own property.

Criminy again, it's bedtime; I hate this "having to go to work in the morning" thing, after almost a week on BugGuide vacation. Good night...

So what's your point? -- hard for me to follow.
The purpose of this particular page is to discuss constructive ways for creating and maintaining a registry of specialists willing to process photo-linked vouchers. Opinions against sacrificing insects for scientific purposes are not relevant to the present discussion.

I don't see, in Abigail's post,
an opinion against sacrificing insects for scientific purposes in general. She did, after all, sacrifice numerous aphids to feed her beetles in order to get a life-cycle series. I will also kill insects in certain circumstances.

And the page isn't only about creating and maintaining a registry of specialists to process vouchers. It's also, necessarily, about getting photo submitters to provide those vouchers.

The parts that alarmed me were these: (1) If you follow some of Chuck Entz's statements to their logical ends, you have to conclude that the specimen should be kept for any photo, since an ID can always be questioned later and microscopic examination requested. That would mean capturing, killing, and preserving every bug I photograph. (2) From John Carlson's post, vouchers are especially important for life-cycle series. Without a voucher, the photo series is less valuable. However, not everyone has the attitude of detachment that makes it acceptable to kill something after caring for it for months.

It's morning here, I don't have the flu, and I'm as rational as ever.

Adding more?
The changes that insects go through do not stop after reaching adulthood. Adding images as the insect ages would also be useful. For example, Oriental cockroaches can go from pure black to dark brownish, making them look very much like immature Periplaneta cockroaches. A tooth character that differentiates two species of dampwood termites is lost after it is used for chewing up wood over time. Mosquitoes loose diagnostic scales. Keeping an insect through to the end would add even more value, and perhaps after that end some people would be willing to send specimens in for difinitive ID? Regardless, your series are wonderful on their own, and none of this detracts from that. I am not trying to insult people doing good work!

I don't mind sending 'em when they're dead!
It would be a waste to throw them away after all the time spent rearing and documenting them, after all.

Some lady beetles change color dramatically as they age - Anatis labiculata starts out gray, turns red, and ends up purple. I'd love to document one of them from egg to elderly adult, and would happily voucher the corpse when it eventually died.

Just that it was too close to midnight?
I saw something a friend wrote and responded to it as if it were a general forum because I've had the flu and was overtired and feverish and not in the best or most logical frame of mind.

Sorry about that.

I think my actual point was that I wanted to talk myself into a way to do something entomologically useful when I'm coming from the birdwatching, "nature through binoculars" way of thinking. Doing it by rambling (feverishly, in several senses of the word) in this particular thread was not the best place to go about that.

I need to stop posting after 11 p.m., I just get myself in trouble.

I see no problem
Keep doing what you are doing; you don't need to change. Nobody expects you to collect or to kill anything. Your contributions are valuable just the way they are. Others will bring other approaches and we will all enrich the guide in different ways.

I agree
While I think that collecting and vouchers are very important, the images on BugGuide are incredibly useful and no one who does not feel comfortable with collecting should ever be made to feel inferior in any way if they are contributing images. The images are what drives this site and differences of opinion about collecting should never get in the way of that.

An "official" registry of specialists
willing to identify and process specimens as photo-linked vouchers would raise BugGuide to new scientific levels and respect in the academic community. I have no problem with the coined term "Phototype" if it is defined as the current "best" that can be properly replaced at any time. For critics of the term, the notion of permanence (as in "Holotype") is removed if "BugGuide's Phototype" is used initially, followed by the shortcut "phototype" in discussions.

Someone now needs to create an "article" in the current version of BugGuide that welcomes specialists to the new registry. Active members I am sure will want to alert/invite their specialist contacts to join it. Hopefully forthcoming version 2.0 would include a direct tool bar link to the registry. The individual conditions required by specialists need to be respected. Those conditions could be communicated in the registry itself or simply referred to in the specialist's profile (see mine). I would expect that busy specialists only want to examine specimens that are interesting to them, for example, those that are unusual, rare, new range extensions, or simply a species potentially new to BugGuide. Only the best photograph (or the only one existing online) should be deemed "phototype". I have not addressed here the procedure for actually deciding which photos should be given this designation.

As far as packaging goes
Beetles are the easiest, since they have a hard exoskeleton. I've been placing ones I collected on the same day in the same location together in a ziplock snack bag with a piece of paper towel and a little alcohol to keep them damp. The collection location and date are written in pencil on a piece of plain white paper, along with the bugguide photo number (like 228840) for easy reference. Then I place all the snack bags inside a large ziplock bag to guard against alcohol leakage in the box.
Soft-bodied bugs like flies and spiders would be squished using the first packaging method. So with them I use plastic vials instead of the snack bags, and a little alcohol with a cotton ball to hold them from banging around in the vial. This seems to work well, but I do go though a lot of vials.
One of the most important things to do is label everything right after photographing the bugs, including the bugguide number (at the top left of the picture). Otherwise if you get backlogged with a bunch of specimens and rely on your memory, there might be some that aren't labeled right.

And like you said Chuck, we don't want to have common easy to identify specimens collected. But to have some idea of what should be collected for voucher specimens comes with some experience. Most of the regulars that have been here for a while get to know what's common, or just not identifiable to species from a photo. Besides, it takes a lot more time and commitment for this process. I try to work on saving a few families of bugs for voucher specimens, and just ones I think are needed, because sometimes it feels like a job doing all the extra work. But when I get something identified to species from a specimen, and it's new for the guide, it feels great that my contribution helped.

Phototypes, or a process for dealing with the images of vouchers
The keyword "phototype" was used in this comment by Tony Thomas, and also in the last paragraph of this comment by me.

I feel, and I'm looking for constructive input on this, that the two combined comments, along with my selective usage of images on the example P. proterva page, represent an optimal starting point for the proper handing of images that can be confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt as belonging to a particular species.

Your statements are all extremely valid IMO, and you can count me in as a "follower". Your questions, as well, are valid and deserve consideration.

Minimum standards should definitely be in place for the quality of specimens AND images that are taken to be used for these reference images. The somatic details of the specimen should closely match, or at least not be different, from the actual description of the species from its most recent and valid taxonomic work. The photos should be reference quality. I will add that, wherever possible, "the photographic proof" should be posted along with the habitus image(s). i.e.: "This is species 'x' (image 1), and here's why (image 2)."

Wow -
great discussion on a topic that is near to my heart. My goal (unfortunately seldom realized) with spiders I find is to get a nice live habitus shot, collect the spider and identify it to species (usu. via palp or epigynum image) and then post both types of photos on BG. As I've expressed before, I have concerns about some of the spider ID's on BG that are made on the basis of color patterns, etc. without confirmation using less variable characters like genitalic morphology. I'm curious as to how many folks like to see the palp/epigynum image on BG itself versus just commented on? Some of the spider folks seem to prefer to only include the habitus shots on BG.

Diagnostic character shots
are great, and probably more useful than just a habitus of a sp that could be confused with others except for that character.

It would be helpful
if such diagnostic characters would be listed at the genus, family, or other appropriate level for us non-entomologists. On many occasions, after taking a habitus picture, I looked in BG for what else might be important to photograph, with little success.

I've created a basic article here.

Thanks Lynette,
I bookmarked it.

We can't remember anyone
complaining about palp/epigynum images being added to the guide. On the contrary we always seem to see people asking for them. They should probably be marked as non-representative, but we certainly think they are very appropriate additions to the guide.

Thanks J&J and David -
to clarify, no one has complained - I've just noticed that some of our spider experts only submit a habitus photo to BG and leave the palp/epigynum image as a link at another site, if at all. I'm fine with that - just want to make sure no one minds the photomicrographs, as many contrbutors and browsers may not recognize or care about them.

Actually, a photo of a diagnostic characteristic might be more aptly "representative" than a nice habitus photo that could be any of a couple-few spp.

Clicking off representative does not keep anyone
from seeing the image. It just keeps the software from using the image when it randomly chooses images to put on the header of a guide page or in a list of images in BROWSE. The serious spider enthusiast can always click on Images to see all of the images or, if an editor, can add the image to the guide page for the species. For the average BugGuide user, we have always tried to keep the top of the guide pages and Browse free of bug parts, giving them full habitus images instead to search through. Of course just because something has been long standing tradition here doesn't mean it shouldn't change. You would just have to post a forum topic asking for such a change and see what response you got. We can tell you that we would vote for sharp, appropriately colored, full-bodied shots for representative images, for whatever that is worth.

I agree
Most people are going to search for the insects that match their full-body view, then check out the minute details to pick which one is the best/exact match. I can't imaging anyone going through a guide full of spider pedipalp images trying to find family then genus then species from their pedipalp image. It might be nice to have a genus info page full of palp views for each species, but it would be just as nice if it also had full-body shots for each species.

both would be best
You may be correct about the habitus being the representative because that's what most people would look through, although in variable and closely-related spp that are told apart by minute characteristics, they may be misleading. For instance, for Phyllophaga May/June beetles, I would much rather flip through genitalia closeups, as they are the defining character for most spp. But if I was someone who didn't know that the specimen was Phyllophaga, they would be better served with habituses (habiti?). Might be best to have both be representative for these types of spp.

Life cycle vouchers
This concept is especially useful for life cycle series in which a definitive identification of immature specimens is accomplished by using characters eventually present on the adult. Photography can “preserve” specimens at multiple stages of development, and I find that to be an especially exciting use for the ever-advancing technology of photography. I am very impressed with many of the life cycle series that some of you have already posted. Even rearing cockroaches nymphs to adulthood can provide unexpected identifications. I would suggest that anyone putting in the time to rear out immature specimens (photographing them along the way) be especially encouraged to mail their specimen to someone capable of verifying the identity of the adult and providing proper curation of the specimen.

As demonstrated by the P. proterva page, this is very useful both for ensuring that we feature accurately identified specimens in the Guide, but also for educating BugGuide users about the limits to identification via photography alone. Any visitor to that page will quickly realize what the species generally looks like (habitus views), but also that it takes an expert to definitively identify the specimen to the species level (microscopic characters- very well done by the way). The only potentially misleading part of the term “phototype” is that it connotates the permanence of the “types” used in taxonomy. I imagine that these phototypes would be replaceable if better quality specimens were obtained, or as taxonomy changes over time. Perhaps “photovoucher” or another such term would be more accurate? Perhaps I am over thinking this?

Comment viewing options
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click 'Save settings' to activate your changes.