Colorado State University, as the land-grant college of Colorado, was founded in 1870. To assist the institution with its major missions in teaching, research, and extension, an insect collection was established by Clarence P. Gillette, an entomologist of international reputation. Gillette expanded and curated the Collection from 1891 to about 1930. He assembled a collection of insects that was excellent in its breadth and quality of material, especially in his groups of interest, Homoptera (Cicadellidae, Aphididae) and the gall wasps (Cynipidae). His protege, Miriam Palmer, assembled a large and comprehensive aphid collection, which was the basis for her monograph, Aphids of the Rocky Mountain Region (1952). The eminent dipterist, Maurice T. James, was curator from 1934 to 1947. During this time he increased the Diptera holdings, especially families of Brachycera, and enriched many other groups. In 1948, Theodore O. Thatcher was appointed curator and held the position until 1973. In 1973, the internationally recognized scholar and entomologist, Howard Ensign Evans joined the Department of Zoology and Entomology, bringing his vast experience gained at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. Over the next several years, he directed the transfer of all material into unit trays and Cornell drawers and the 16,000 aphid slides into new steel cabinets. During his tenure (1973-1986), Dr. Evans added hundreds of thousands of specimens of Hymenoptera and other insects from his and his students\’ numerous studies of western wasps and other groups. He greatly enriched the general alcohol collection, including valuable voucher specimens of immature Hymenoptera for his chapter in the manual, Immature Insects Vol. 1 (1987, Kendall/Hunt Publ. Co., Dubuque, Iowa; edited by F. W. Stehr). Boris C. Kondratieff assumed duties in 1986, and has added approximately 300,000 specimens of insects, especially aquatic species but also representatives of all orders. He has added numerous secondary types and voucher specimens for species of stoneflies and several families of flies including the Simuliidae and Mydidae. Approximately 80 publications by Kondratieff have been based on material from the Collection.
Other significant contributions have been made by the following persons:
- Dr. George M. List (1913-1955) added many secondary types and voucher specimens of Cimicidae (Hemiptera) and Curculionidae (Coleoptera).
- Dr. Robert E. Stevens (1983-1987) added many secondary types and voucher specimens of forest microlepidoptera.
- Dr. John L. Capinera (1976-1987) added many voucher specimens of Caelifera (Orthoptera) and Noctuidae from his studies: Grasshoppers (Acrididae) of Colorado, (1982) Colorado State University Experiment Station Bull. No. 584S and Field Key for the Identification of Adult Cutworms, Armyworms, and Similar Crop Pests Collected From Light Traps (1983) Colorado State University Experiment Station, Bull 514K.
- Dr. W. Don Fronk (1967- ), assembled a large and comprehensive spider collection representing most Rocky Mountain species and also began the aquatic insect collection.
- Dr. Mary Alice Evans (1973- ) curated the Odonata until 2006. She added much new material from the Rocky Mountains. She has published a distributional list of Odonata for Colorado (1988, Checklist of Odonata of Colorado, Great Basin Nat. 8: 96-101) and New Mexico species (1995, Checklist of the Odonata of New Mexico with Additions to the Colorado Checklist, Proc. Denver Mus. Nat. Hist. Series 3 (8) 1-6). Dr. Sidney W. Dunkle, Plano, Texas, a well-known Odonatologist has determined much additional material from other regions of North America.
- Dr. John T. Polhemus, Englewood, Colorado and faculty affiliate of the Department, an internationally known expert on aquatic Heteroptera, has organized the Amphibicorizae, adding numerous secondary types, voucher material and other specimens of world (especially Neotropical) genera and species.
- Dr. Paul A. Opler, a noted lepidopterist has curated the Lepidoptera section since 1987. He identifies and donates approximately 10,000 specimens annually. His duties (formally with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now the National Biological Service), have included studies of Federally Endangered species of insects, of which vouchers have been deposited. Additionally, material from the collection has been used for several of his books including the 1992 Peterson Field Guides, A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies,1999 Peterson Field Guides, A Field Guide to Western Butterflies, and the “Moths of Western North American” and “Lepidoptera of North America.” The latter publications are printed by the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity and are available for purchase from the Museum.
- David A. Leatherman, entomologist, Colorado State Forest Service and Joint Academic and Administrative Professional with the Department, adds approximately 5,000 specimens of wood infesting insects, especially Buprestidae, Cerambycidae, Colydiidae, Curculionidae and Scolytidae annually. Additionally, he has donated rare species of Diprionidae, Ichneumonidae, Pamphiliidae, Pompilidae (Hymenoptera) and Sesiidae (Lepidoptera).
- Dr. Donald E. Bright, systematic entomologist formerly with Canadian National Collection, joined the Museum in 2005. He has assumed responsibility for the Curculionoidea. He is currently studying the systematics of the world scolytinae. Dr. Bright has added numerous rare species to the collection of this subfamily.
- Dr. John MacDonald, a well known Dipterist, routinely works with the collection, curating the Tabanomorpha and Empidoidea. He has added many valuable species to the collection.
A detailed account of the history of Zoology and Entomology at Colorado State University, including the early history of the Collection is available in Olsen (1973).