Sending specimens for identification

Page last updated: Wednesday, 12 February 2020 - 2:53pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Information on how to collect a specimen, where to send it for identification and the precautions to consider before collecting any plant or animal specimens.

Why is it important to report sightings?

Unfamiliar animals and plants could pose significant problems for Western Australian industries and the environment if they were to become established. Many species are capable of spreading rapidly so it is important to report sightings straight away. The sooner the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) is advised of the problem, the better the chance of successful control and eradication.

What to do if you see an unfamiliar plant, pest or animal?

If you spot something unfamiliar please take photos and make note of details like; plant name/host if known, location, time, type and duration of symptoms/damage. Report on our free smartphone or tablet apps or online; see MyPestGuide. Alternatively, contact the Pest and Disease Information Service (Exotic Plant Pest Hotline) on (08) 9368 3080 or email

Information to include

When sending a specimen for identification please include the following information:

  • your name (the collector), a contact telephone number, email address and postal address.
  • physical location and where you saw it, i.e. street address (GPS location is ideal) and where on the property or what it was growing on, growing in, found on, eating etc.
  • description of the type of damage caused or other reason for submitting the sample.
  • photograph the suspected pest and any damage. If a photo is not possible please provide a detailed description.
  • the extent of infestation, for example: area affected, individual occurance, scattered or uniformly present, present in eastern paddock on ...road or affecting a single tree in front yard of ...street.

If you are a commercial grower or farmer and are seeking routine plant pest and disease diagnosis please contact AGWEST Plant Laboratories. For animal pest and disease diagnosis please contact our Animal Health Laboratories. To report a suspected exotic/reportable animal disease please call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

How to collect and send a specimen

***Please note: If you suspect you have an exotic pest or disease, or wish to screen your sample for one, please take photos in the first instance, upload them using MyPestGuide (app or website) and/or contact the Pest and Disease Information Service (Exotic Plant Pest Hotline) on 08 9368 3080 ****

Correct identification is central to effective control of pests and diseases, and for the detection of new exotic pests and diseases which have penetrated our quarantine barrier. Please contact us before sending specimens to avoid dissapointment as backyard plant problems and disease enquriies should be directed to nurseries, gardening groups or knowledgeable friends in the first instance. 

Hundreds of plant and insect samples are received by DAFWA each year, the process for identifying them can be made a lot easier if the specimens are freshly gathered and are undamaged. Please note there are different procedures for different types of specimens:

  • Hard bodied insects should be killed by freezing for 24 hours and then mailed in a container cushioned by facial tissues - include part of the plants they were damaging. Alternatively bring insects in live inside a ventilated container with a handful or soil or leaves to prevent damage.
  • Soft bodied insects like spiders and mites should be sent live in a sealed container. If they were found in grain, seed or fruit leave them inside the infested material as this will help preserve them.
  • When sending butterflies and moths kill immediately by freezing for 24 hours or by placing them in an airtight container with a tissue or cotton wool that has been soaked in nail polish remover.
  • ants can be collected using the sticky side of transparent sticky tape and gently adhereing this to white paper. Alternatively brush ants into a container and seal shut. Place the ant sample in the freezer for 1 hours+ . Take multiple samples from inside and outside, and label with the collection location (e.g. Kitchen, bathroom, driveway etc.). For more information about ants in WA see our webpage 'Ant identification is the key to successful control'.
  • When sending samples of plants or diseased plants send the whole plant wherever practical and not just a leaf or stem. Also send examples of healthy plants for comparison. Dig up plants so the roots remain intact. Fold sample between sheets of newspaper and seal in a plastic bag.
    • Soil on the roots will keep the plant alive in transit. Seal the roots in a paper bag (it will ‘sweat’ and deteriorate faster in a plastic bag) and then enclose the whole sample in a second bag. Package with a sheet of cardboard on either side to prevent crushing during transit.
    • If a fungal or bacterial disease is suspected wrap leaves in paper and enclose in a paper envelope.
    • Please be aware that many plant diseases can only be identified by laboratory testing. This testing incurs a fee unless unless symptoms indicate a biosecurity concern.
  • In most cases animals or birds can be identified via a photograph - send in photos via MyPestGuide (app or online) or contact PaDIS on (08) 9368 3080 or 


Specimen precautions

Avoid sending in specimens of suspected exotic pests or diseases (e.g. myrtle rust, Russian wheat aphid, red imported fire ants) as this could potentially spread the suspect pest or disease. Send photographs only or call (08) 9368 3080 for guidance.

What you should do if you suspect an exotic pest, weed or disease:

  • Avoid or minimise touching or disturbing the affected plants.
  • Take a clear photo of the damage and the pest and send in clear photos with a brief description and your contact details via MyPestGuide (preferred method), email: or phone (08) 9368 3080.
  • You should mark the affected plant or group of plants with coloured tape, coloured string or waterproof spray paint so that the plants can be found again and samples collected.
  • Isolate the area by restricting people moving or working near the affected plant.
  • Clean and disinfect your hands and anything else that has been in contact with any affected plants.
  • Clean any soil or plant material from your boots and outer clothing before you leave the site of the affected plants.
  • Do not move the pest, plant or plant parts until you have consulted with our Department's biosecurity staff and are sure that the pest or disease is not an exotic plant pest.

If samples for diagnostic purposes are required, we will advise you on how to take a sample or arrange an officer to take the sample.


Sending in specimens for identification

Send or deliver to:

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Att: Pest and Disease Information Service
3 Baron-Hay Court
South Perth WA 6151

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080