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Students set up bug tents to learn more about the critters in Cullowhee

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By Julia Duvall

Western Carolina University has been garnering a lot of buzz recently with bee and mosquito projects, but faculty and students are also interested in learning more about other critters that call Cullowhee home.

As part of a field entomology course at WCU, Luiz Lima Da Silveira, biology professor, and Sarah Parsons, professor of geosciences and natural resources, have teamed up to monitor insect populations on campus.

“Long-term monitoring of insect populations can tell us a lot about how humans are impacting ecosystems at both local and regional scales,” Parsons said.  “For example, we can address how climate change or urbanization is affecting insect populations in our region. By looking at insect diversity over time, we can track which insect species are declining in response to changes humans are making in and around campus.”

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Insects provide many important ecosystem services, such as pollination, pest management and nutrient cycling services. 

“When certain species, which provide those services, are affected by human disturbances, these changes in insect populations may indicate that we need to explore ways to better manage our land or practices,” Parsons said. “Malaise traps, like the ones we have up around campus, are good at catching some insect groups, especially flies, wasps and some moths. They also catch some species of beetles and bees.”

Parsons and Silveira hope to partner for future May-mester sessions to set out malaise traps on campus for long-term monitoring of species in the Cullowhee area. 

Parsons also hopes to set up the traps with environmental science courses during other parts of the year.

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These malaise traps are located at current and future pollinator garden sites on campus that were identified by WCU Grounds and a fall 2023 environmental science capstone class.  

“The goal is to plant these sites with pollinator gardens to increase pollinator habitat and resources on campus as part of Bee Campus USA,” Parsons said. The malaise traps will help us monitor which bee species are currently present on campus and how installation of pollinator gardens will affect bee populations over time. Our hope is that the presence of more pollinator gardens on campus will help increase both bee abundance and diversity on campus and ultimately help us meet our Bee Campus USA goal to promote pollinator conservation on campus.”

The campus community and visitors are asked not to disturb the traps.

To get involved with Bee Campus USA and promoting pollinator conservation on campus, contact Parsons at

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