Our lab takes a multifaceted approach to understanding the evolutionary history of bees and how they interact with the plants and microbes around them.


One major focus of the lab is on understanding the phylogeny and evolutionary history of bees and related wasps (Aculeata). We use cutting-edge methods, including targeted enrichment of ultra-conserved elements (UCEs), to develop large molecular data sets for resolving phylogenetic relationships at a variety of taxonomic levels. We are currently involved in a collaborative project on the phylogeny of the aculeate wasps and bees using ultra-conserved elements (UCEs).

Bee Diversity

Much of the work in our lab focuses on understanding and documenting patterns of bee diversity on a local, regional and global scale. We rely on, and contribute to the growth of the Cornell University Insect Collection, an extraordinary bee collection that dates from the latter part of the 19th century. Our holdings include over 350 drawers and between 150,000 and 270,000 bee specimens identified to ~3600 species.

Bee-microbe interactions

Solitary, ground-nesting bees, which comprise the vast majority of bees in the world, store a mixture of nutrient-rich pollen, nectar and, sometimes, floral oils in brood cells excavated from the soil. The semi-liquid provision mass is inhabited by a diverse array of microbial species, including bacteria and fungi which we believe play an important role in larval nutrition. 

Pollination Biology

wild bees are an increasingly important part of the “pollinator portfolio” for modern agriculture. We have ongoing studies on the role of wild bees as apple pollinators in New York state apple orchards. To date we have documented a surprising diversity of wild bees contributing to apple pollination in NY – over 120 species of wild, native bees have been collected visiting apple flowers in surveys of NY apple orchards over the past ten years.


Over the last fifteen years the Danforth lab has developed protocols and primers for molecular systematics of bees.


See our refereed publications presented in reverse chronological order.

Lab News

Look at some highlights of recent activities in the lab.