A DNA barcode based on 650 bp of mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase I is proving to be highly functional in species identification for various animal groups. However, DNA degradation complicates the recovery of a full-length barcode from many museum specimens. Here we explore the use of shorter barcode sequences for identification of such specimens. We recovered short sequences — i.e. ∼100 bp — with a single PCR pass from more than 90% of the specimens in assemblages of moth and wasp museum specimens from which full barcode recovery was only 50%, and the latter were usually less than 8 years old. Short barcodes were effective in identifying specimens, confirming their utility in circumstances where full barcodes are too expensive to obtain and the identification comparisons are within a confined taxonomic group.