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THE BEE COURSE 2024; A Workshop on the Identification, Biology, Ecology, and Biodiversity of Wild Bees


Southwestern Research Station (SWRS), Portal, Arizona, August 18 – August 28, 2024



Bryan N. Danforth (Cornell University)

Gretchen LeBuhn (San Francisco State University)

Robert Minckley (University of Rochester)

Jack Neff (Central Texas Melittological Institute)

Steve Buchmann (University of Arizona)


Jerome G. Rozen, Jr. (Senior Curator, American Museum of Natural History; retired)


In spirit:

Ronald J. McGinley (Illinois Natural History Survey, Smithsonian Institution, and Harvard University)

Charles D. Michener (Snow Entomological Museum, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS)

Robbin W. Thorp (University of California, Davis) 


Students who complete THE BEE COURSE will develop competence in the following areas:

  • Become familiar with best practices of how to collect, pin, label, and curate bee specimens

  • Master identification keys in “The Bee Genera of North and Central America” and develop the ability to sight-identify some of the common genera in our area

  • Understand phylogenetic relationships at the family, subfamily, tribal, and generic levels as well as the current classification of bees of North and Central America and the World

  • Understand spatial patterns of bee biodiversity across North and Central America and the World (i.e., broad patterns of bee biogeography)

  • Understand ecology and biology of bees and broader patterns of bee behavior, ecology, evolution, and diversity

  • Develop skills in the diverse techniques for studying bees in the laboratory and field (making killing jars, dissecting mouthparts and genitalia, digging nests, collecting host-plant data, etc.)

  • Develop an understanding of what is needed to conduct an effective bee faunal survey, including how to sample, curate, database, and voucher bee specimens


THE BEE COURSE consists of both laboratory and field activities. On “lab” days, instructors provide lectures focused on each of the six bee families in North and Central America. Lectures cover the morphology, systematics, biology, ecology, host-plant associations, and life history of each group. During the afternoon laboratories, students use synoptic collections and their own specimens to work through keys in “The Bee Genera of North and Central America”. (We use an updated version of the 1994 book which is currently undergoing revision.)  We also offer short workshops on such topics as making killing jars, dissecting mouthparts and genitalia, pressing plant specimens, bee photography, and examining the contents of carpenter bee nests).

On “field” days, students and instructors head to a variety of sites in the area for bee collecting. Field trips provide students with hands-on instruction on collecting and survey techniques with nets, pan traps and trap nests, nest excavation, and techniques for characterizing bee-plant interactions. Field trips also offer an opportunity for students to build their own reference collection of bee genera from the Chihuahuan Desert.

Evening lectures focus on current topics in bee biology, such as phylogenetic reconstruction, historical biogeography, pollination ecology and patterns of host-plant use, nesting biology, bee-microbe interactions, conservation, and faunistics.

THE BEE COURSE cultivates an environment of tolerance and mutual respect in which students and instructors can explore the biology, ecology, and evolution of bees. We aim to develop a national and international network of wild bee biologists. The course offers ample opportunities for networking and community-building. Many student and faculty members have gone on to collaborations leading to new research after participating in THE BEE COURSE.


2024 Course Schedule




Over the past 20 years there has been an increasing awareness of the importance of pollinators, and bees have been at the top of the list. An estimated 78% of flowering plant species rely on animal pollination (Ollerton et al. 2011), and bees are the largest and most significant group of these pollen vectors. Since 2007/2008, when honeybee colonies dramatically declined over the winter, there has been an explosion of interest in wild bees and their role as pollinators in natural and agricultural habitats. A glaring gap in our knowledge of native bees was where they occurred and their diversity in anthropogenic and natural ecosystems. This has led to a dramatic increase in interest in bee faunal survey work. Innumerable faunal surveys are now being conducted to characterize bee diversity in agricultural habitats, forests, nature preserves, cities and city parks, and national parks and monuments. Statewide surveys are underway in several US states, and the US National Native Bee Monitoring Research Coordination Network (RCN) aims to develop a national native bee monitoring plan for the US.


An understanding of native bee biology, taxonomy, and systematics forms an essential foundation for accurately documenting spatial and temporal patterns of bee diversity. THE BEE COURSE offers training for students, faculty, land managers, and policy-makers in all aspects of bee biology, ecology, and identification. We also provide training to students interested in systematics and phylogenetics because these students comprise the next generation of BEE COURSE instructors.



American Museum of Natural History (with ongoing funding provided by the Robert Goelet Bee Research Fund)

Cornell University (with funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA) AFRI competitive grants program)



THE BEE COURSE was originally conceived and organized by Jerome G. Rozen, Jr, Ronald J. McGinley, and Gretchen LeBuhn. The first offering of THE BEE COURSE took place in 1999 at the SWRS and has been offered ever since (excluding 2020 and 2021, during the Covid-19 shutdown of SWRS). THE BEE COURSE has trained over 480 students from 52 countries over the past 22 offerings. Past instructors have included Charles Michener, Jerome G. Rozen, Jr, Ronald J. McGinley, Jim Cane, Robert Brooks, Laurence Packer, Jack Neff, John Ascher, and Robbin W. Thorp. A complete list of past and present instructors and assistants is provided below.   

The SWRS is located on the edge of the San Simon Valley, at the intersection of the Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexican borders. This is an ideal location for a course on bee diversity and biology because it is located at the junction of the Sonoran desert (to the west) and the Chihuahuan desert (to the east). This area hosts an astonishing diversity of bees and flowering plants. A recent study of the San Bernardino Valley (south of SWRS) by Minckley & Radke (2021) documented 497 bee species in just one 16 km2 area. This far exceeds any other site in the world and amounts to approximately 14% of the bee species described from the United States. Rainfall in this region is bimodal, with winter rains in December/January and late summer “monsoon” rains in August/September. The course is offered during the “monsoon” rainy season, when there is an explosion of flowering plant and bee diversity – an ideal time to be collecting and studying bees in this area.



THE BEE COURSE is open to individuals from an academic, land-management, policy, or conservation background who would like to learn more about bee biology, ecology, systematics and faunistics. Priority will be given to those applicants for whom the course will have significant impact on their research and/or teaching. THE BEE COURSE, presented in English, is limited to 24 participants.


Course Tuition Fee: $1200

Partial Tuition Waivers: For accepted students traveling from the U.S. and Canada there are a limited number of partial waivers in the amount of $600.  Only accepted students with NO institutional support will be considered for the partial waivers.  

Ability to pay full tuition will enhance an applicant's chance of acceptance.

Total Tuition Waivers: Students traveling from outside the U.S. and Canada who do not have institutional support are eligible for a total waiver of tuition fees.


Station Fees (Room & Board): $830 payment is required by all students.


Transportation Costs: Students are responsible for their own transportation costs between home and the Tucson Airport, where we will take you to SWRS, or between home and SWRS by car or bus. 



Dr. Eduardo A.B. Almeida

Departamento de Biologia

FFCLRP - Universidade de São Paulo (USP)

Av. dos Bandeirantes, 3900

14040-901 Ribeirão Preto, SP


Areas of expertise: Phylogenetics, historical biogeography, Neotropical bees, Meliponini, Colletidae

Dr. Silas Bossert

Department of Entomology 

Washington State University 

Pullman, WA 99164-6382 

Areas of expertise: Phylogenetics, taxonomy, diversification, Andrenidae, Apidae

Dr. Bryan Danforth

Department of Entomology

Cornell University

3124 Comstock Hall

Ithaca, NY 14853

Areas of expertise: Phylogenetics, morphology, life history and nesting biology

Nathalia Flórez-Gómez 

Department of Entomology 

Cornell University 

3126 Comstock Hall 

Ithaca, NY 14853 

Areas of expertise: Phylogenetics, morphology, taxonomy, Apidae 

Dr. Jason Gibbs

Department of Entomology

Curator J.B. Wallis / R.E. Roughley Museum of Entomology

University of Manitoba

12 Dafoe Rd., Entomology Bldg. Rm. 223

Winnipeg, MB, Canada

R3T 2N2

Areas of expertise: Phylogenetics, systematics, taxonomy, evolution of sociality, Halictidae

Dr. Victor H. Gonzalez Betancourt

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Biodiversity Institute

University of Kansas

1034 Haworth Hall

Lawrence, KS 66045

Areas of expertise: Systematics, taxonomy, Megachilidae

Dr. Olivia Messinger Carril

19 Avenida De La Paz 

Santa Fe, NM 87540

Areas of expertise: Systematics, taxonomy, faunistics, southwestern bees

Dr. Robert Minckley

Department of Biology

446 Hutchison Hall

University of Rochester

Rochester, NY 14627

Areas of expertise: Systematics, taxonomy, faunistics, Xylocopa, Andrenidae

Dr. Thomas Wood, Researcher

Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Darwinweg 2, 2333 CR Leiden

The Netherlands

Areas of expertise: Systematics, taxonomy, Andrenidae, bee-plant interactions

Tobias Mueller

Department of Entomology

Cornell University

4126 Comstock Hall

Ithaca, NY 14853

Areas of expertise: bee-microbe interactions, pesticide toxicology, exocrine glands

Past Instructors and Assistants

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