History of the Collection

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, Hemiptera (Cicadellidae [leafhoppers], Aphididae [aphids]) 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 the 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). Additionally, the CSUC houses the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) Soil Arthropod Collection, which is derived from the International Biological Program’s Pawnee Site Arthropod Reference Collection, the NREL Soil Arthropod Research Collection, the Konza Prairie [Kansas] Research Natural Area, Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Reference Collection, and collections from the Jornada Basin LTER [New Mexico]. Additionally, CSUC has substantial legal and/or ethical responsibilities as an official repository for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement vouchers, and for voucher collections of the U.S. National Park Service (Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site; Colorado National Monument; Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado/Utah; Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado; Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado; Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Colorado; Yucca House National Monument, Colorado; Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Hawaii; Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, Iowa; Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Kentucky/Tennessee, Virginia; George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri; Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Missouri; Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska; Homestead National Monument of America, Nebraska; Great Basin National Park, Nevada; Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico; Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina/Virginia; Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee/Kentucky; Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina; Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas; Arches National Park, Utah; Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah; Canyonlands National Park, Utah; Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Mount Rainier National Park, Washington; Olympic National Park, Washington; Grand Teton National Park, Montana/Wyoming; and Adirondack Park, New York.

Currently, 83 primary types are held and an additional >2,000 secondary types (paratypes, syntypes) are deposited in the CSUC. The CSUC houses also the Howard E. Evans Hymenoptera Collection, one the most extensive collections of Pompilidae (spider wasps) and Spheciodea (solitary wasps) in the U.S. The aquatic insect collection is one of the most comprehensive in North America, with approximately 70% of all Ephemeroptera (mayflies); 70% of all Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), 90% of all Plecoptera (stoneflies), and 70% of all Trichoptera (caddisfly) species represented by adult males. Additionally, important voucher specimens of most invasive pests into North American have been deposited by USDA.

From 2015-2018 approximately 180,000 CSUC specimens have been georeferenced and databased into the National Science Foundation’s supported SCAN systems: Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN) Symbiota_Collections_of_Arthropods_Network (Collection Index ) CSUC and LepNet.

More than 50,000 specimens were databased during contract work for the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/) are in a dBase database. More than 3,000 specimens from Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Colorado are databased into the Automated National Catalog System (ANCS+ 8.0), Discovery Software for the National Park Service.  The CSUC is an international repository for vouchered specimens for DNA barcoding and other DNA studies (Barcode of Life), The National Ecological Observatory Network. DNA from approximately 5,000 specimens has been harvested from CSUC specimens. The USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s in collaboration with the Colorado Water Science Center’s in collaboration, recently released a digital aquatic macroinvertebrate reference collection based primarily on material from CSUC for aiding in specimen verification for water quality assessments.


Dr. B. C. Kondratieff assumed duties in 1986 as the Director and has added approximately 1,500,000 specimens of insects over 31 years, especially aquatic species but also representatives of all other orders. He has added numerous secondary types and voucher specimens for species of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, and several families of flies including the Simuliidae and Mydidae. During this time the Collection was officially named the CSUC.

 Dr. P. A. Opler, a noted lepidopterist has curated the Lepidoptera section since 1987. He identifies and donates several thousand specimens annually. Formally with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USGS, his duties have included studies of Federally Endangered species of insects, especially butterflies, of which vouchers have been deposited. Additionally, material from the collection has been used for several of his books including the two Peterson Field Guides, “Eastern Butterflies” and “Western Butterflies” and the “Moths of Western North America.”

Other significant contributions have been made by the following persons:

1) Dr. George M. List (1913-1955) added many secondary types and voucher specimens of Cimicidae (Hemiptera) and Curculionidae (Coleoptera).

2) Dr. Robert E. Stevens (1983-1987) added many secondary types and voucher specimens of forest Microlepidoptera.

3) 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 Bulletin 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, Bulletin 514K.

4) Dr. Mary Alice Evans curated the Odonata collection (currently >4,000 Odonata envelopes, approximately 12,000 specimens), and she and Dr. Howard E. Evans added much new material from the Rocky Mountains. She 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). Recently, the Odonata holdings were used to produce “The Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) of Colorado: An Updated Annotated Checklist” by Bill Prather and Inez Prather in the Insects of Western North America series (ISBN 1084-8819).

5) Dr. John T. Polhemus (deceased), former faculty affiliate of the Department, an internationally known expert on aquatic Heteroptera, organized the Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha adding numerous secondary types, voucher material and other specimens of the world (especially Neotropical) genera and species.

6) David A. Leatherman, former Colorado State Forest Service entomologist and emeritus with the Department, adds approximately 15,000 specimens of wood infesting insects, especially Buprestidae, Cerambycidae, Colydiidae, Curculionidae and Scolytinae, annually. Additionally, he has donated many rare species of Diprionidae, Pamphiliidae, (Hymenoptera) and Sesiidae (Lepidoptera).

7) Dr. Don Bright, formerly with the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes and Agricultural Canada, Ottawa, Ontario and currently Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences, has organized and curates the families Curculionidae and Buprestidae. He is an international expert in Curculionoidea, especially the Scolytinae. He has added much new material of the Scolytinae to the collection. He assists in the identification of weevils and bark beetles submitted annually to the CSU from the USDA, ARS and Colorado Department of Agriculture as part of a statewide pest surveys. Approximately, 25,000 scolytid beetles have been added over the last ten years.

8) Donald R. Givens, retired U.S Department of Agriculture biologist, curates the Trichoptera collection which includes approximately 95,000 specimens. In 2011, Givens was awarded a NPS permit to conduct a study of the caddisflies of Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. This study yielded a total of 4,305 specimens (2014. Annotated List of Caddisflies (Trichoptera) Collected in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, U.S.A. during 2011 – 2013. Entomological News 124(3):153-175). He has also published a revision to the western Parapsyche (Hydropsychidae) and a scientific note elevating Arctopsyche inermis as a valid species, based on material in the CSUC. Recently his revision of the genus Ecclisomyia based on the extensive material in the CSUC was published by Zootaxa.

8) Tim McNary, a retired USDA scientist, has added more than 5,500 specimens primarily of Caelifera (Orthoptera) including a comprehensive collection of Melanoplinae. He has recently published the descriptions of two new species of grasshoppers from Nevada and Colorado, respectively, and paratypes are deposited in the CSUC. He recently made arrangements for the CSUC to be a repository for grasshoppers from the USDA-APHIS-PPQ annual Rangeland Grasshopper Survey from Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. In 2017, he established a new agreement with the USDA-APHIS-PPQ, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, Phoenix, Arizona to deposit subsamples of grasshoppers from their pesticide 2010-2017 trials.


Throughout its history, the CSUC has been available for research and scholarship with minimal restrictions to students, faculty, visiting scientists (including international researchers), the general public, and other interested people. 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).

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