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Bee Museum Houses World-Class Collection

By Marcia Wood
July 20, 2000

One of the world's top 10 bee museums--the U.S. National Pollinating Insects Collection in Logan, Utah--safeguards specimens of nearly 1 million bees, wasps and other insects. The collection not only houses little-known bees that are native to the United States, but also boasts a unique array of colorful, exotic bees from around the world including Mexico, Costa Rica Argentina, and Spain.

The collection is part of the Agricultural Research Service’s Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, located on the campus of Utah State University in Logan. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief research agency.

Bees repose snugly in neat arrays within the museum’s 1,600 drawers. The insects range in size from the petite Perdita minima, a light tan, 1/8-inch-long bee that lives in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, to the imposing 1.5-inch-long Xylocopa frontalis, or carpenter bee, a brown or blackish-brown insect from Central and South America.

A steady stream of requests to help identify bees pours into the laboratory all year, according to curator Terry L. Griswold, a research entomologist. In 1999, the museum identified a record-breaking 15,100 specimens sent in from all over the world plus an additional 75,000 specimens collected by Griswold and colleagues.

Some requests come from beekeepers who need help identifying strange bees that have wandered into wooden blocks meant to house other species. Other inquiries come from agricultural officials who inspect cargo at airports and shipping terminals, looking for invasive insects that could threaten America's fields and orchards.

Homeowners beleaguered by bees that have taken up residence in the walls of a bedroom or garage similarly want to know the identity of the unwanted house guests. And, researchers eager to learn about bees they've recently collected from places near and far will often find out from Griswold that they've discovered a new species.

Scientific contact: Terry L. Griswold, ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, phone (435) 797-2524, fax (435) 797-0461,