A "print" is a collection of spores a mushroom drops once it has reached full maturity. A spore print is a piece of clean paper (or wax paper, card stock, index card, tinfoil, or photo paper, glass slide....) that has this collection of spores on it.
When a mushroom is almost fully mature, the cap is removed from the stem, placed on the printing "paper", and the cap will drop a pattern of spores onto the "paper" over a period of 12 hours to 2 days (depending on how long it is left to print).
A spore syringe is a mixture of sterile water and mushroom spores, contained in a syringe. Oftentimes, a spore print will be used to provide the spores which spore syringes are made of.
A spore syringe is generally used for one purpose only - to inoculate sterile substrates with spores. This can be done in a variety of ways: using the PF-tek
, using grains
, and also agar
. Spore syringes must be sterile when using to inoculate substrates with, and are sterile when purchased from a vendor
. In this case "sterile" means that they contain only water and mushroom spores and that they don't contain any bacteria or molds. This is why many people buy syringes from vendors, because they do not have the ability (or the confidence) to create sterile syringes from sterile prints, using various techniques. Please note that when purchasing a spore syringe from a vendor they are meant for "Microscopy Viewing ONLY!". What you choose to do with that syringe is your business, but you should never mention cultivating to a vendor or mention the vendor you got your spores from if you are cultivating in the forums.
A spore print can be used in several ways, and has certain advantages. First, as mentioned before, spore prints can be used to create spore syringes. Further, they are the easiest method by which spores may be shipped - a spore print can easily be contained in a letter. Spore prints are also a better way of storing prints for a longer period of time, as compared to spore syringes.
A spore print does have its disadvantages compared to a spore syringe. First, "dry" spores should not be used to inoculate substrates with, and spores stored in print form are - by their very nature - dry. Spores should be hydrated to work effectively and inoculate as many points in the substrate as possible. The "fresher" a print is (how old it is from time of printing), the less time required to effectively rehydrate spores.
Some people have stated that spores may be applied directly to substrate by scraping a print onto sterile substrate, but this is the exception rather than the norm. Further, spore prints are less "plug and play" for most beginning growers - they entail the extra step of making a sterile syringe for yourself or inoculating agar
A spore syringe also has its disadvantages compared to a spore print.
First, spore syringes are much less innocuous than spore prints, especially in regards to shipping. An envelope is much more common and passes through the mails more often than boxes do. This is something many people desire to achieve - as little notice as possible.
Second, spore syringes do not store as well as spore prints do. Spore prints' viability can last for several years, while spore syringes should be used within 6-12 months or so to maintain their full effectiveness. Spore syringes also are more noticeable than spore prints are, and "look" generally suspicious.