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Tips for taking detailed insect photos

Since we started reaching out to the public about reporting suspected invasive Aedes mosquito sightings, we’ve gotten a lot of mosquito photos in our email! That’s great, but insects - especially mosquitoes – are pretty small and they can be hard to identify in photos.

May contain: insect, animal, invertebrate, and mosquito
A Culiseta mosquito photographed using an iPhone 5.

Fortunately our friends at iNaturalist have been dealing with this problem for a while, and they have some tips for taking detailed insect photos with an iPhone: 

1. put the insect on a white background, like a blank sheet of paper

2. Using your phone’s camera app, position the lens a few inches from the insect . Move it back and forth to find the closest point at which it can still focus.

3. Lock the focus by holding your finger on the insect on the screen

4. Move your finger up or down on the screen to adjust the exposure. Adjust it up if the photo is too dark, or down if it looks too bright.

5. Using your thumb and finger, ‘pinch’ outward to zoom in a little.

6. Take several photos. If necessary, use a small object like a toothpick or pencil tip to move the insect around so that you can get a clear photo. If it’s a mosquito, try to get a clear photo of its thorax (back) – this is one of the areas we need to see to identify invasive Aedes mosquitoes.

7. Save the insect after you’re done. If we can’t identify it from your photo, or if we suspect it’s an invasive Aedes mosquito, we’ll need to see it. If that happens, we’ll send a technician by to pick it up, or you can drop it off at our office anytime we’re open.

You can read the rest of the tips on the iNaturalist website.

This method also works for spiders, ticks, and any other tiny creepy-crawlies you might need identified by our laboratory. However, it’s always best to save a physical sample for identification if you can.

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