The Insects of Cedar Creek

John Haarstad
Dr. John A. Haarstad

John Haarstad (1946-2008) was a lifelong naturalist, dedicated to learning, documenting, and communicating to a wide range of audiences about nature and science. John’s life passion, however, was insects. He earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the U of M for his studies on the ecological relationships among dragonflies and resource competition among burying beetles at UMN’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) in East Bethel, MN. Following the completion of his degrees, he stayed on at CCESR for the next 30 years as the resident naturalist. In this position, he developed and curated an extensive insect collection from the grasslands, forests, and wetlands of the site. The photos he took of many of these specimens are shown at the links on this website. His insect collection and identification work in the long-term observational and experimental studies peppered across CCESR led to several new discoveries about the role of plant biodiversity and global change in controlling insect species identities, abundances, size distributions, and feeding habits. He shared his love of insects by writing about their habitat preferences at CCESR, compiling checklists, and making his curated insect images freely available to anyone accessing the CCESR website. He also had a talent for drawing and a rich sense of humor, and he was known, among other things, for the humorous signs he left on the CCESR trails to teach about insect emergence patterns. In one year, the signs advertised the approach of deer fly season, showing shriveled undergraduate interns, drained of blood by biting flies or a deer fly sitting at a restaurant, perusing a menu offering fresh intern blood. In addition to his extensive physical and photographic insect collections and his important contributions to knowledge about the ecology of insects, Dr. Haarstad led interpretive walks to educate Minnesotans about the wonders of the natural world and to encourage support for biodiversity preservation. A trail on the south shore of Fish Lake, at the edge of CCESR is named in his honor.

John Haarstad was an amazing field biologist, prolific collector, and valuable contributor to the University of Minnesota Insect Collection. His is the only detailed documented survey of the entire insect fauna of a region in Minnesota. As such, it provides unique insight into what we might expect to find in the rest of the state. This website of insect images and his physical specimens curated in the UMN Insect Collection in St Paul, MN are among his many contributions to current and future generations of naturalists.

Written in 2024 by Elizabeth Borer (Professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Department, UMN) and Ralph Holzenthal (Professor Emeritus, Entomology Department, UMN), with acknowledgements to two 2008 Star Tribune articles by Ben Cohen.

Please note that the linked site is not maintained and may contain out-of-date taxonomic information.