The U.S. National Pollinating Insects Collection is a world class collection of bees and related wasps. As part of the USDA ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit, it supports research work to enhance pollination services through the development of native bees as crop pollinators. The collection was started in 1947 by G.E. Bohart, and has expanded rapidly through general collecting efforts, pollination studies, and faunal surveys. The collection now includes over a million specimens housed in a 90-cabinet compactor. The collection has worldwide coverage with particular strengths in western U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Iran, South Africa, and Australia. It houses a number of systematic faunal studies conducted in the western U.S.: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Dugway Proving Ground, San Rafael Desert, Zion National Park, Pinnacles National Monument, and Yosemite National Park. The collection is now largely digitized; over 800,000 specimen records are captured in the associated relational database. Specimens have been given unique digitally readable codes and most localities have been georeferenced. More than 310,000 of the records are now available on the web through the Global BioDiversity Information Facility. An associated reprint collection of over 17,000 provides access to primary literature on bees and wasps.
The collection supports ongoing work on pollination, systematics, biodiversity, and conservation for PIRU scientists and the larger scientific community. Researchers routinely visit the laboratory for identification and taxonomic work.