For epidemiological studies and control programs of leishmaniasis, taxonomic identification of the etiologic agent of the disease in the insect vector is of critical importance. The implementation of molecular techniques such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has permitted great advances in the efficacy and sensitivity of parasite identification. Previously, these investigations involved labor-intensive dissections and required expert personnel. The present work evaluates the effects of storage methods of phlebotomine samples in the optimization of PCR identification of Leishmania. Females of Lutzomyia longipalpis, from the colony of the Instituto Nacional de Salud, were experimentally infected with Leishmania chagasi (= L. infantum), from the upper Magdalena Valley (Quipile, Cundinamarca, Colombia). The infected insects were preserved in three solutions: 100% ethanol, 70% ethanol, and TE; subsamples of each class were stored at -80 degrees C, -20 degrees C and room temperature. To determine infection rates, samples were dissected and screened microscopically. Chelex 100 was used for extraction of total Leishmania DNA. For PCR amplification, the kinetoplastic minicircle DNA primers OL1 and OL2 of Leishmania were used, and the products were visualized by electrophoresis in 1% agarose gels. For each of the 3 storage conditions, amplifications were successful, producing a approximately 120 base pair product unique to Leishmania. The results demonstrated the advantage of PCR as a routine screening method for detecting infected flies in endemic foci of visceral leishmaniasis. Since storage method did not affect PCR amplification success, the most cost effective method -70% ethanol at room temperature--is the option recommended for storing entomological samples in vector incrimination studies.