Entomology Research


The Entomology Collection has been a part of the NSF-funded Symbiota Collections of Arthropod Network (SCAN) since 2013. The goal of this project is to support arthropod collection digitization efforts, including databasing, imaging, and data sharing. The SCAN data portal contains thousands of arthropod occurrence records from over 30 collections. The CU Entomology Collection has prioritized digitizing ground-dwelling insects and spiders and has developed effective workflows for high-resolution macrophotography of specimens using a focus-stacking system. Check out some of our images and learn about our workflows here (COMING SOON). You can search all of our shared data and images in the SCAN Portal.


The Entomology Section is helping on a highly collaborative project to understand how land-use and land-cover change may affect bee abundance and diversity in agricultural ecosystems, particularly biofuel crops. Currently, we are studying bee communities in grassland habitats in eastern Colorado. This project is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. With increasing demand for biofuels expected to alter land-use and land-cover in agricultural landscapes, it is imperative to identify and measure potential impacts on wildlife within these agroecosystems. In particular, there is growing concern about how bees and other pollinators will respond to these altered landscapes and land-use practices. Our research aims to 1) complete comprehensive surveys of bee communities in agroecosystems of eastern Colorado, 2) explore patterns of bee abundance and diversity in relation to agricultural land-use and practices, and 3) provide information needed for identifying potential risk factors for bees and for developing strategies for pollinator conservation. To find out the latest news about this project, visit the Project Website Bee Blog.


With the support of the National Science Foundation, the Entomology Section curated and databased the Gordon Alexander Orthoptera Collection (The Gordon Alexander Collections Improvement Grant). This collection is largely composed of 24,000 grasshoppers collected near the Front Range of Colorado. An important subset of these specimens was collected along an altitudinal gradient near Boulder, Colorado by Gordon Alexander and John Hilliard during the summers of 1958 to 1960 (Alexander and Hilliard 1969; see grant for citation source). We are currently resurveying the main collecting sites used by Alexander and Hilliard to determine how climate change and land use patterns may have impacted the grasshoppers of the region over the last 50 years. To further explore this project, visit our Grasshoppers and Climate Change website.


In 2013, we launched a contributory citizen science project called The Bees’ Needs. The goal of The Bees’ Needs is to monitor and better understand native, solitary, wood-nesting bee diversity in Colorado. Roughly 300-400 bee blocks are distributed to volunteers each year, and citizen scientists report biweekly data on bee nesting activity from April through October each year. The Bees’ Needs partners closely with the Entomology Collection to analyze data and voucher bee specimens collected as part of the project. To get involved or learn more about the project, visit our website.


Riverine habitats are important for many bee species. River and stream habitat, especially in arid regions, provide important floral resources and nesting sites for bees. Surprisingly little is known about bees’ responses to flooding. Some species have apparent adaptations to flooding, using resins or secretions to waterproof cells, however, such adaptations may be insufficient during extreme weather events and catastrophic flooding. In September 2013, an unprecedented flood occurred along Colorado’s Front Range, and some areas in the mountains of Boulder County received as much as a year’s worth of rain during this one week. The St. Vrain Greenway is an 8 mile trial that runs east-west through the city of Longmont, mostly along the St. Vrain River. It passes a variety of habits: agricultural, urban, city parks, industrial zones, wetlands, and a ranch that could support many of the 600+ bee species that occur in Colorado’s Front Range. We conducted pre- and post-flood surveys of the St. Vrain Greenway to determine the effects of catastrophic flooding on bee populations. For the latest news, check out our Publications & Posters (COMING SOON).