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The P&PDL Picture of the Week
for 19 April 2004


Beware of Digital Photographs!

Tim Gibb, Insect Diagnostician, Department of Entomology, Purdue University

Occasionally we see photographs of insects that are so bizarre or odd that we really have to question their validity. Certainly the ease of posting and the distribution potential that the web offers a freakish photograph, makes this more than an unusual occurrence. The technical capabilities of most high school students with a bit of extra time and a good imagination, makes the electronic manipulation of digital photographs relatively easy. As a result it is not uncommon to see photographs on the web of outlandishly large or menacing looking insects, with equally fantastic stories to accompany them.

The photograph below, for example, was sent to me for identification. It is actually a picture of a common bed bug. However, to make the bug look more startling, someone has added color enhancements; a green face, blue eyes and a red ominous looking mouth.

We must be careful about how we respond to digital photographs with unknown origins. Certainly we do not want to validate or propagate inaccurate stories or digital images. If there is a question, common sense and a quick comparison to published text books or field guides is in order.

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Last updated: 16 April 2004/amd
The Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue University