Department of Entomology Newsletter | Fall 2023

bug bites logo - maroon BUG yellow BITES

Message from Department Head, Sujaya Rao


Sujaya Rao

With Fall 2023 drawing to a close, I am pleased to share our achievements in this issue assembled beautifully by Ellen Reed (Thank you, Ellen)!

Earlier in the semester, we welcomed the President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, new graduate students, and a Graduate Program Coordinator while undergraduates in the Insect Science Minor launched a new Insect Club! As in years past, our staff and students received numerous awards at ESA 2023, while we connected with alumni and friends during the 7th virtual UMN Ento Alumni Social and the in-person ESA Mixer at National Harbor, MD.

Happy Reading! Send us your thoughts and ideas for the department – we welcome your feedback!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Welcoming New Members to the Department

President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Cristian Beza-Beza

Christian Beza-Beza

Dr. Cristian Beza-Beza, who was selected earlier in the year for the prestigious President’s Postdoctoral Fellow Program, joined the department in August 2023 and hit the ground running!

Dr. Cristian Beza-Beza, a native of Guatemala, is an insect evolutionary biologist/systematist. He obtained his PhD from the University of Memphis and was a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina State University (NCSU). He has a broad range of expertise in insect systematics (taxonomy, field collections, curation, species description), insect phylogeny, including current molecular methods of data collection and analysis (target capture phylogenomics, bioinformatics, microbiome sequencing), and analysis of historical biogeography and diversification of faunas. At NCSU, his research focused on understanding the role of the microbiome in the evolution of parasitism in blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) and wood-feeding in bess beetles (Coleoptera: Passalidae). At UMN, he is studying the biogeographical patterns of the passalid fauna of the West Indies. Additionally, he is examining the evolutionary mechanisms that underline microbial and insect symbiotic relationships, including the possible co-evolution of passalid beetles and their wood-digesting symbionts.

Since his joining the department in late August, Cristian has published a book chapter for the “Biodiversidad de Guatemala” book series (Volume III) which includes an update on the list of bess beetles from Guatemala and a discussion on the spatial distribution of taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of the passalid fauna of Guatemala. Along with international collaborators from Mexico and Colombia, Cristian has secured funding to visit and assist in the curation of the collection of Passalidae at the Instituto Nacional de Ecología in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Additionally, with members of the Entomology Department’s Native Bee Lab, he has initiated collaborations related to the systematics and conservation of native bees in Minnesota.

Graduate Program Coordinator, Sarah Cowan

Sarah Cowan

Thanks to support from CFANS, Sarah Cowan joined the department in September 2023 as the Entomology Graduate Program Coordinator to assist graduate students with completing their MS and PhD programs.

Sarah obtained a MA degree in Literature from the University of Minnesota and has several years of experience with supporting students in higher education. Since 2019, she worked in Student Services at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, and taught courses at the University of Minnesota. As GPC she plans to provide personal and dedicated program support to help graduate students access the tools they need to thrive in their programs. Since joining the Entomology Graduate Program in September, she has met with our students and worked closely with the admissions committee to streamline review of applications while also updating the program handbook.

Many thanks to Tammi Pekkala Matthews for her dedication to our graduate students and their successes while serving as GPC for the past 8 years.


Welcome to UMN Entomology, Cristian and Sarah!

Congratulations to our Summer & Fall Graduates!


Congratulations graduates
  • Josephine (Josie) Dillon 
  • Gloria Melotto 
  • Sally Nelson


  • Julia Brokaw 
  • Rosa (Tina) Lozano 
  • Ismael Ramirez

Welcoming New Graduate Students

Welcome students poster with UMN M

MS Entomology 

  • Jay DeLacy 

PhD Entomology 

  • Sayesha Khanna 
  • Mary Powley

Field Notes from Frenatae

Frenatae logo - hummingbird moth in the center

submitted by President Emily Althoff

Hi all! The graduate students have been busy as bees this year making the big move from the Refuge to our new graduate space…THE PUPARIUM! While the refuge has been a great space to house our group in past years, it was time for a change in scenery. Frenatae is planning to have an unveiling and open house in the new space in January, highlights of which include a Frenatae on-campus outreach space, a new and improved arthropod set up, and great lunch and meeting destination for graduate students. In the meantime, feel free to stop by the first floor of Alderman to peek in at our insect zoo! 

That’s not all! We have been working closely with the undergraduate Insect Club & Frenatae members have gotten to speak about our research and hold graduate student panel discussions with undergraduate insect enthusiasts. Additionally, we have been talking about insects to anyone and everyone including with 4 H groups at the county fair in Waconia, our annual State Fair Booth, local farmers markets, and Fall Fun Fest at Zyweic’s Garden Center. Next up: some of our officers will be appearing on the Three Rivers Park District’s Podcast! Stay tuned. 

Finally, our highly anticipated Honey Sale took place in early December on the St. Paul Campus. The unbearably good prices and some pretty sweet deals on honey, student-designed t-shirts, stickers, cards, and calendars kept us busy during all three days of the Honey Sale.

3 images from frenatae activities in the Fall 2023

Insect Science Minor Spotlight

We are pleased to welcome, since Fall 2022, 20 students across five colleges to the Insect Science Minor - a new record! Currently 39 students are enrolled in the Insect Science Minor – another new record!

College of Biological Sciences (CBS) 

  • Patrick Rosium (Biochemistry) 
  • Zuaplia Xiong (Biology) 
  • Ta'Nayiah Hampton (Biology) 
  • Seth Campbell (Ecology, Evolution/Behavior; Neuroscience) 
  • Lyra Alonso (Microbiology; Neuroscience) 
  • Tyler Swiatkowski (Neuroscience)

College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)

  • Maya Kramer (Environmental Science, Policy and Management) 
  • Jenna Duncan (Environmental Science, Policy and Management)
  • Kane Farmer (Plant Science) 
  • Nina Benysh  (Plant Science) 
  • Tyler Wellens  (Plant Science) 
  • Haidyn Larson  (Plant Science)
  • Aemon Heaney (Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology) 
  • Valentine Sattin (Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology) 
  • William Pradel (Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems)

College of Liberal Arts (CLA)

  • Morty Tallman (Biology, Society, & Environment) 
  • Akshi Mistry (Computer Science)

College of Science and Engineering (CSE)

  • Isabelle Maddalena (Chemistry) 
  • Morgan Laramy (Mechanical Engineering)

Carlson School of Management (CSOM)

  • Gabriel Ernst (Marketing)

Reflection by a Recent Insect Science Minor Graduate

Ellie Meys (Major: Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology)


Ellie Meys

I came into college having no idea as to what I wanted to study. After deciding to take the Insect Biology course on a whim, I got an interest in entomology, leading me to join the Insect Science minor. Through the minor and getting involved in research in the Department of Entomology, I have been able to get amazing opportunities to lead multiple research projects, present at conferences, be a co-author on two extension articles, present at a grower field day, be the lead author on a journal article, and a co-author on another journal article. These opportunities made me realize that I want to continue research and have a career in entomology. I am so excited to be starting graduate school at the University of Illinois in January, studying natural enemies for insect pest management in high tunnels. I believe the classes I have taken and my research experiences have prepared me well to succeed as a graduate student and beyond. I want to say thank you to the faculty members and graduate students who have given me these opportunities and have supported me over the last two years!

 New Insect Club launched!

UMN Insect Club logo

Co-founded by Jenalyn Ostendorf and Liz Perelman, and supported by the department, the UMN Insect Club was launched this fall. This student-lead club is providing arthropod lovers with community, experiences, and connections within the field of entomology. Bi-weekly meetings range in topics from pollinator conservation to medical entomology. Some additional events including field trips to museums, insect collections, and more! Members also participate in outreach events to share their knowledge and skills with the public. The Insect Club welcomes all UMN undergraduates and encourages those fearful of insects and related arthropods such as spiders to step out of their comfort zone and learn about the most important organisms in the world!

UMN insect club - 2 photos from activities in the fall 2023

Insect Science Pathways Scholarship

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, once again, we will be awarding two scholarships is Spring 2024, each $1,000. Word has spread and the number of applications doubled! 

The Insect Science Pathways Scholarship aims to increase student diversity in our Insect Science Minor while also enhancing awareness about the Insect Science Minor. If you would like to make a gift to help build a pipeline of diverse entomologists for the future, please make an online gift here. 

Give to the Insect Science Pathways Scholarship today!

UMN Entomology Successes at ESA 2023

ESA 2023 at National Harbor, MD, was an exciting event for UMN Entomology with excellent oral and poster/infographic presentations in the student competitions for the President’s Prize, several of which won awards, the ultimate trifecta of UMN students winning all three of the national student awards in the Plant-Insect Ecosystem (PIE) section of ESA, and the UMN Pollinator Education Toolkit receiving the Science Communication Award. Also, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Mixer buzzed with alumni chatter! 

Student Competitions for the President’s Prize

Graduate Students:

  • 10-min oral presentations: Pheylan Anderson - First Place, P-IE: IPM - Field Crops 4 
  • Posters: Gloria Melotto - First Place, P-IE Biocontrol 
  • Infographics: Hailey Shanovich - Second Place, Ecology, Taxonomy, and Education


10-min oral presentations:

  • Pablo Stilwell (Insect Science Minor)- First Place, PBT: Biochemistry Physiology and Toxicology
  • Ellie Meys (Insect Science Minor) - Second Place, P-IE: IPM

P-IE (Plant-Insect Ecosystem) Section Student Awards (All student award recipients from UMN!)

  • Undergraduate Student Achievement in Entomology Award - Ellie Meys 
  • Master's Student Achievement in Entomology Award - Gloria Melotto 
  • Kenneth and Barbara Starks Plant Resistance to Insects Graduate Student Award - Hailey Shanovich

Professional Awards

  • ESA Science Communication Award - Pollinator Education Toolkit developed by Elaine Evans, Anne Turnham, Bridget Mendel, Katie-Lyn Bunney, Sarah Foltz Jordan

Minnesota/Wisconsin Mixer

The well-attended ESA Mixer jointly hosted by Entomology Departments at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, gave us an opportunity to catch up in-person with alumni and friends.

3 images from the ESA mixer, fall 2023

Professional Development Visits for Graduate and Undergraduate Students

The department has been sponsoring professional development visits for graduate and undergraduate students every semester. This fall, after ESA 2023, our students visited Capitol Hill where they had the unique opportunity to meet with staff members of the Committee on Agriculture, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and US Representative Betty McCollum. Earlier, they attended the Nobel Conference Insects: Little Body, Big Impacts at Gustavus Adolphus College, St Peter, MN, where they listened to a presentation by 2017 Nobel Laureate, Dr. Michael Young. They also visited 3 Cricketeers, a local edible insects family business and MGK, which sponsors the department’s MGK graduate fellowship, where they connected with 5 alumni while a panel of employees shared their professional journeys that led to their current MGK positions, and tips for preparing for industry positions. 

We are seeking professional development opportunities for 2024 – if you know of one, please drop an email to

3 photos from the professional development opportunities
Capitol Hill Visit, Nobel Conference, Tour of MGK
3 photos from the professional development opportunity at 3 cricketeers
3 Cricketeers - local edible-insect family business

Endowed Chair in Honey Bee Research

Thank you to all contributors to the Give to the Max Day drive in November for the Endowed Chair in Honey Bee Research! We are closer now to the $5M goal!

Marla Spivak

The Endowed Chair in Honey Bee Research will carry on the legacy of honey bee research in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Marla Spivak who  has led the Honey  Bee Research Lab in the Department of Entomology for over 30 years will be retiring at the end of 2024. Through the endowed chair position, we seek to ensure that essential honey bee research continues long into the future!

“An endowed chair will mean that we continue our long tradition of training leading bee researchers that work around the world.  Supporting and sustaining bee research is how we can invest in a resilient future: nutritious food and robust ecosystems depend on healthy bees.”

- Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow, Distinguished McKnight Professor, Department of Entomology


For questions/information, please contact - Amy Alch - or 612-625-2924

Donate to the Endowed Chair in Honey Bee Research

Alternative check option:  List as the recipient The University of Minnesota Foundation and mail your check  to:

The University of Minnesota Foundation
P.O. Box 860266
Minneapolis, MN 55486-0266

Indicate on the memo line that the donation is for Fund #24428 Honey Bee Faculty Endowment Fund

UMN Entomologists in the News

Scientists document over 500 bee species in Minnesota - Zach Portman

U of M researchers work towards sustainable, pest-resistant soybeans - Robert Koch 

Minnesota CropCast - An Update from the MN Extension Soybean Entomology Program: Dr Robert Koch is improving insect management for Minnesota’s soybean growers - Robert Koch

CBS MN - Good Question: What's with all the grasshoppers this summer? - Anthony Hanson

Soybean Research and Information Network - A North American Moth is Expanding its Turf to Soybeans - Robert Koch

Retired faculty spotlight

Roger Price - Caucasian man, glasses, holding a calendar with a moth on the cover

Prof. Roger Price (submitted by Val Cervenka - BS 1981, MS 1987)

Roger Price began his career in the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology in 1955, retiring in 1991.

During his tenure there, Roger taught Medical Entomology and Introduction to Entomology. According to one of his former graduate students, Dale Clayton (now at the University of Utah), Roger is “one of the most influential taxonomists ever to have worked on [chewing] lice.” He published more than 250 papers, including the descriptions of more than 600 new species or subspecies and 25 higher louse taxa, accompanied by illustrations that are among the best in the history of work on lice. Many of the most active researchers on louse biology today depend on the foundation Roger laid down.

Having retired to Arkansas, Roger now lives back in the Twin Cities area where he can be close to family. Roger and I enjoy frequent, lively conversations about the old days in the department. He is 94 years old.


Joint Retirement Celebration for Prof Tim Kurtti and Prof. Uli Munderloh

In August, we invited alumni and friends to join the department in celebrating the amazing careers of our Tick Lab leaders - Prof Tim Kurtti and Prof Uli Munderloh. Our first-ever hybrid social event included 15 on zoom and over 30 in-person attendees from across the US. Alumni, employees, and colleagues shared exciting and humorous experiences with Tim and Uli over the years.

3 photos from Tim and Uli's retirement celebration
2 photos from Tim and Uli's retirement celebration

Virtual UMN ENTO Alumni Social

UMN Ento Alumni Social - maroon butterfly on a yellow background

The 7th UMN Ento Alumni Social on November 3 featured research in Functional Genomic of Insect Symbioses by Dr. Amelia Lindsey, recent recipient of a $ 2M NIH grant and our incoming graduate students.  We shared with the 26 attendees at the virtual event updates on the growing undergraduate Insect Science Minor, fellowships, awards, and honors received earlier in the year by faculty, staff, and students, department sponsored trips to local agencies for professional development of graduate and undergraduate students, and our exciting outreach and social events in summer and early fall!

Mark your calendars and join us at the 8th UMN Ento Alumni Social to be held on March 29, 2024.

Fall Welcome

The Fall Welcome in October drew 60 attendees – a record, representing our recovery from the pandemic! While enjoying ice cream treats, incoming graduate students and new hires met members of the department while undergraduates from far and wide met Insect Science Minor students to learn about the program.  

2 photos from the fall welcome fall 2023

Upcoming Events – mark your calendar and stay tuned for details!

  • 8th Virtual UMN Ento Alumni Social - Friday March 29, 2024, 3:00 to 4:00 pm. 
  • The Great Minnsect Show - Saturday April 20, 2024, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 
  • Celebrate Entomology & Hodson Graduate Alumni Seminar – date and location to be determined


Stay connected! Submit this form to get email alerts for all the department's upcoming events!

Small Wonders

small wonders logo

Small Wonders is a regular feature that profiles insects and other arthropods found in Minnesota. These are intended to inform our citizens and generate interest in entomology! 

Interested in writing about your favorite arthropod in upcoming features? We are currently in need of contributors for 2024. Contact Ellen Reed ( to sign up!


Alumni, get involved! Join the Maroon and Gold Network, a free, online platform for career-related advice and networking that has grown to more than 18,000 alumni and students in over 70 countries! Participating is easy and it just takes a couple of minutes to sign up. Then, you can reach out to fellow alumni for informational interviews while also mentoring students who reach out to you.

Join The Maroon & Gold Network today!

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Thank you to all donors and their support of our faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students!

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