ENTOMOLOGY research uses collection-based studies, genomic data, and morphology, researchers seek to understand global insect diversity, biology, and evolutionary history. Current entomology research centers on the aquatic beetle superfamily Hydrophiloidea and the bees (Apoidea).


Black Widow

Recent Publications

• Curator Andrew E.Z. Short and collaborators have published the first comprehensive combined analysis of relationships for the aquatic beetle family Hydrophilidae.  The study has provided the most robust estimate of relationships for this diverse group of beetles, and laid the foundations for understanding ecological transitions between terrestrial and aquatic life.  The work appears in Systematic Entomology.

• Curator Emeritus George W. Byers continues his studies on the systematics of the scorpionflies (Mecoptera), recently publishing two new species of the genus Panorpa from Mexico (the work appeared in Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society).  Thanks to the lifetime efforts of Prof. Byers, KU Entomology is home to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of the order Mecoptera, inclusive of the largest collection of types in any one institution.

• The late Curator Emeritus Charles D. Michener (1918–2015) conducted extensive studies on bee biology and systematics.  His book, Bees of the World (2007, Johns Hopkins University Press), remains the definitive source of information on the subject.

• Senior Curator Michael S. Engel has studied the lives of insects from a paleontological perspective.  By looking into the deep past one may hope to gather a stronger understanding of our present diversity, and what challenges it may face as we move forward into an era of human-induced climate change.  His book, Evolution of the Insects (2005, Cambridge University Press), unified for the first time the fossil record of insects with the ecology, biology, and systematics of the millions of living species. Today he is working on entomological books and smaller, side-projects in bee taxonomy.

Light Trap

Research at a Glance

• KU Entomology is one of the most active and productive of entomological enterprises in the world, with a current focus on aquatic Coleoptera.

• In 2014 Division staff and students published over 70 articles in international, peer-reviewed journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Current Biology, PLoS ONE, eLife, Systematic Entomology, and Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, as well as several book chapters.

• In 2015 Division staff led three major NSF digitization projects to capture and retroactively database our world-class holdings.  Presently our database numbers over 1,000,000 records and is growing rapidly.

• Research activities in the Division are largely funded by extramural grants from the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, and other international agencies, along with matching funds from entomological endowments.

• The Division was home to Kansas’ first elected member to the National Academy of Sciences, the late Distinguished Prof. & Curator Emeritus Charles D. Michener.  At the time of his passing, Prof. Michener was one of only three Academy members at the University of Kansas.

Field Reserach

Field Expeditions

KU entomologists are literally circling the globe in order to explore insect diversity. From the high Arctic of the Svalbard Archipelago to the blazing deserts of southern and southwestern Saudi Arabia, from humid tropical forests of the Guyana Shield and high elevations in the Peruvian Andes, to the plains of northern India and China, our staff and students are actively engaged in exploration and discovery.

Our research is heavily specimen based and therefore requires detailed natural history observations from the field, as well as new samples for morphological and molecular work back in Kansas.  These collections support the research endeavors of not only our own staff and students, but countless other researchers throughout the world.  Through an intensive loan program the efforts of KU Entomology underpin the global enterprise of entomological research.

Associate Curator Andrew Short is working extensively across the Guyana Shield for the last several years, with numerous annual field excursions in Venezuela, Guyana, and Surinam, and these represent the Division's current field program.  Senior Curator Michael S. Engel is today working on several books, but in the past spent his time schizophrenically shifting from amber mines in India and Lebanon and limestone outcrops in the Arctic Circle, to netting lacewings and bees in Saudi Arabia, Colombia, and elsewhere throughout the world.