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James P. Pitts

James P. Pitts

Associate Professor
Curator of USU Entomology Collection
B.S., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Physics & Chemistry
Ph.D., University of Georgia, Entomology
Faculty: Biology Faculty
Location:  BNR 233
Office Phone:  435 797-8872
Fax:  435 797-1575
Utah State University
Department of Biology
UMC 5305
Logan, UT 84322-5305

Lab:                   BNR 240
Lab Phone:        797-0358


  •      Systematics of Mutillidae with emphasis on the nocturnal Southwestern Nearctic genera
    Current research includes systematics and biogeography of the nocturnal genera Odontophotopsis and Sphaeropthalma s.l., as well as the diurnal genera Lomachaeta and Dasymutilla.
  •      Systematics of spider wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae)
    Currently I am working on a comprehensive phylogeny of Pompilidae, deriving data from morphological, behavioral, and molecular sources, in attempts to validate subfamilial and tribal classifications. Ultimately my goal is to provide tests of hypothesized evolutionary behavioral scenarios of spider wasps in a phylogenetic context.

Current Graduate Students

  •   Ph. D.
    1. Cecilia Vieira, 2013– present; Systematics of Mutillidae.
    2. Michael Orr, 2012– present; Systematics of Heliophila.
    3. Emily Sadler, 2012– present; Systematics of Chyphotes.
    4. John Koch, 2011– present; Bumblebee population genetics.
    5. Cecilia Waichert, 2008 – present; Systematics of Pompilidae (co-advised with Carol von Dohlen).
    6. Juanita Rodriguez, 2008 – present; Systematics of Pompilidae (co-advised with Carol von Dohlen).

Past Graduate Students

  •   Ph. D.
    1. Kevin Williams, 2005 – 2012; Systematics of Mutillidae (co-advised with Carol von Dohlen).
    2. Joseph Wilson, 2005 – 2010; Biogeography of nocturnal wasps.

  •    Masters
    1. Sarah Clark, 2010 – 2013; Pollinator behavior of endangered plants in the Piceance Basin.
    2. Catherine Clark, 2008 – 2010; Pollinator behavior of endangered plants at Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge.
    3. Nicole Frank Boehme, 2008 – 2013; Pollinator behavior of endangered plants at Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge.
    4. Jonathan Koch, 2008 – 2011; Academic Advisor.

Current Classes
Biol 4750/6750: Evolution: The History of an Idea, Fall of odd years
Biol 4300: Plagues, Pests and People, Spring of odd years
Biol 1610/1620: Introductory Biology, Fall and spring semesters every year


Published–Peer Reviewer

1.          Tanner, D.A., C. Clark and J.P. Pitts. 2013.  Pollination biology of Astragalus phoenix with notes on the natural history of its pollinator Anthophora porterae. Western North American Naturalist (in press). UAES 8412.

2.            Tanner, D.A. and J.P. Pitts. Effects of male size on searching behaviors in the sun dance of Bembix americana spinolae (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae). Western North American Naturalist 73: 254-257. UAES 8416.

3.            *Auko, T.H, R. Silvestre, and J.P. Pitts. 2013. Nest camouflage in the spider wasp Priochilus captivum (Fabricius, 1804) (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae), with notes on  the biology. Tropical Zoology 26: 140-144.

4.            *Williams, K. and J. P. Pitts. 2013. Caribbean and Mexican additions to the Dasymutilla bioculata species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 106: 429-436. UAES 8488.  

5.            *Wilson, J.S., C.F. Gunnell, D.B. Wahl and J.P. Pitts. 2013. Testing the species limits of the tarantulas (Araneae: Theraphosidae) endemic to California's Southern Coast Ranges, USA. Insect Conservation and Diversity 16: 365-371.

6.            *Wilson, J.S., C. von Dohlen, M.L. Forester, and J.P. Pitts. 2013. Family-level Divergences in the stinging wasps (Hymneoptera: Aculeata), with correlations to angiosperm diversification. Evolutionary Biology 40: 101-107. UAES 8372.

7.            ** Restrepo-Giraldo, C., *J. Rodriguez and J. P. Pitts. 2012. Temporal activity patterns of the spider wasp Pepsis montezuma Smith (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) in a disturbed lower montane rainforest (Manizales, Colombia). Psyche. Article ID 516419, 4 pages, DOI: 10.1155/2012/516419. UAES 8491.  

8.            *Williams, K.A., D.G. Manley, M. Deyrup, C. von Dohlen,  and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Systematic Review of the Dasymutilla monticola species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Zootaxa 3554: 1-29. UAES no. 8296.

9.            *Waichert, C. and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Addition to the distributional record of Ageniella (Neotumagenia) amazonica Fernández, 1998 (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) and establishment of a neotype. Psyche. Article ID 307103, 3 pages, DOI: 10.1155/2012/307103. UAES 8395.

10.        *Boehme, N., D.A. Tanner, *K.A. Williams, and J.P. Pitts.  2012. Nocturnal Velvet Ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nye County, Nevada. Zootaxa. 3587: 1–45. UAES 8396.

11.        *Wilson, J.S., K.A. Williams, M.L. Forester, Carol von Dohlen and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Repeated evolution in overlapping mimicry rings among North American velvet ants. Nature Communications. UAES 8399.

12.        Barthélémy, C. and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Observations on the nesting behavior of two pepsine spider wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) in Hong Kong, China: Macromerella honesta (Smith) and an Auplopus species. Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 28: 13-35. UAES 8411.

13.        *Wilson, J.S. and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Identifying Nearctic cold-desert refugia through the phylogeographic analysis of Sphaeropthalma difficilis (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Diversity and Distributions, 18: 1139-1152. UAES no. 8308.

14.        *Waichert, C., *J. Rodriguez, C.D. von Dohlen, and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Spider wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) of the Dominican Republic. Zootaxa, 3353: 1-47. UAES 8397.

15.        *Wilson, J.S., C.D. von Dohlen, M.L. Forester, and J.P. Pitts. 2012. Family-level divergences in the stinging wasps (Hymenoptera: Aculeata), with correlations to Angiosperm diversification. Evolutionary Biology, DOI 10.1007/s11692-012-9189-0. UAES 8372.

16.        Kurczewski, F.E. and J. P. Pitts. 2011. Addition to the spider wasp fauna of Erie County, Pennsylvania (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, UAES no. 8315.

17.        *Waichert, C.M. and J.P. Pitts. 2011. Description of a new Abernessia with notes on the Neotropical Ctenocerinae (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 104: 1279-1284. UAES no. 8314.

18.        *Williams, K.A., D.J. Brothers and J.P. Pitts. 2011. New species of Tobantilla Casal, 1965 and a new genus and species, Golgotilla chichikovi gen. et sp. nov., from Argentina (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Zootaxa, 3064: 41-68. UAES no. 8284.

19.        *Wilson, J.S. and J.P. Pitts. 2011. Pleistocene Connection between the Nearctic Mediterranean and desert regions in the Sphaeropthalma unicolor species-complex (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Insect Conservation and Diversity, 4: 222-234. UAES no. 8174.

20.         *Wilson, J. S., **S. Clark and J. P. Pitts. 2011. Phylogeography and cryptic species for the Sphaeropthalma arota species-complex (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Journal of Biogeography, 39: 336-352. UAES no. 8226.

21.         Tanner, D., J. Gonzalez, R.W. Matthews, B. Vinson, and J. P. Pitts. 2011. Evolution of the courtship display of Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 60: 219-227. UAES no. 8206.

22.        *Williams, K.A., D.G. Manley, *E.M. Pilgrim, C. von Dohlen and J.P. Pitts. 2011. Multifaceted assessment of species validity in the D. bioculata species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Systematic Entomology, 36: 180-191. UAES no. 8203.

23.         *Wilson, J. S., *K. A. Williams, **C. F. Gunnell, and J. P. Pitts. 2010. Preliminary phylogeography of the widespread, arid-adapted antlion Brachynemurus sackeni Hagen (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Psyche: A Journal of Entomology, doi:10.1155/2010/804709. UAES no. 8207.

24.        Pitts, J.P., *J.S. Wilson, and C.D. von Dohlen. 2010. Evolution of the nocturnal Nearctic Sphaeropthalminae velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) driven by Neogene Orogeny and Pleistocene Glaciation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 56: 134145. UAES no. 8139.

25.        *Rodriguez, J., C. von Dohlen and J. P. Pitts. 2010. The genus Psorthaspis (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) in Colombia. Caldasia 32: 407-413.

26.         *Wilson, J.S. and J.P. Pitts. 2010. Illuminating the lack of consensus among descriptions of earth history data in the North American deserts: a resource for biologists. Progress in Physical Geography, 34: 419–441. UAES no. 8061.

27.         *Wilson, J.S. and J.P. Pitts. 2010. Pleistocene climatic cycles driving diversification in the Odontophotopsis unicornis species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 103: 555–565. UAES no. 8167.

28.          *Wilson, J.S., *K.A. Williams and J.P. Pitts. 2010. Preliminary assessment of velvet ant (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) diversity in the deserts of southern California. Western North American Naturalist, 70: 224–232. UAES no. 8094.

29.        Pitts, J.P., D. Tanner, **G. C. Waldren, and F. D. Parker. 2010. Facultative size-dependant sex allocation in Sphaeropthalma pensylvanica Lepeletier (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) with new host records. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 83: 6875. UAES no. 8003.

30.        *Wilson, J.S., *K.A. Williams, D. Tanner, and J.P. Pitts. 2010. First observations of nocturnal velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) nectaring. Southwestern Naturalist 53: 443–444. UAES no. 8057.

31.        Pitts, J.P., *K.A. Williams, *J.S. Wilson and *N. Boehme. 2010. Nocturnal velvet ant males (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) of Deep Canyon, California including four new species and a fifth new species from Owens Lake Valley, California. Zootaxa, 2553: 1–34. UAES no. 8192.

32.        *Brabant, C., *K. A. Williams, and J. P. Pitts. 2010. True females of the Photomorphus subgenus Photomorphina Schuster (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Zootaxa, 2559: 58–68. UAES no. 8191.

33.        *Wilson, J.S., and J.P. Pitts. 2010. Phylogeography of the nocturnal velvet ant genus Dilophotopsis (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae): enhancing our understanding of diversification in the Nearctic desert biota. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 101: 360–375.  UAES no. 8176.

34.        Pitts, J.P., *K.A. Williams, *J.S. Wilson and *N. Boehme. 2009. The velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) of the Algodones sand dunes of California, USA. Zootaxa, 2131: 1–53. UAES no. 8009.

35.        *Wilson, J.S., J. P. Pitts, and C. von Dohlen. 2009. Lack of variation in nuclear genes among isolated populations of the sand dune restricted bee Colletes stepheni (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 82: 316–320. UAES no. 8012.

36.        *Pilgrim, E.M.,*K.A. Williams, D.G. Manley and J.P. Pitts. 2009. Addressing the Dasymutilla quadriguttata species-group and species-complex (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae): several distinct species or a single, morphologically variable species? Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 82: 231–249.  UAES no. 7989.

37.        Tanner, D., T. Griswold and J.P. Pitts. 2009. Revision of Mecanthidium (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 18: 183–191. UAES no. 8098.

38.        Tanner, D., *N. Boehme and J.P. Pitts. 2009. Revision of Acanthophotopsis (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 18: 192–204. UAES no. 8066.

39.        Pitts, J.P., and *J.S. Wilson. 2009. Description of the female of Acrophotopsis (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) and synonymy of Sphaeropthalma dirce. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 18: 205–211. UAES no. 8063.

40.        *Wilson, J.S. and J.P. Pitts. 2009. Species boundaries of Sphaeropthalma unicolor (Cresson) (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae): Is color useful for differentiating species? Journal of Hymenoptera Research 18: 212–226. UAES no. 8078.

41.        *Williams, K.A. and J.P. Pitts. 2009. Eight new species of Lomachaeta Mickel and the synonymy of Smicromutilla Mickel (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 18: 227–243. UAES no. 8079.

42.        *Pilgrim, E.M., C.D. von Dohlen, and J.P. Pitts. 2008. Molecular phylogenetics of Vespoidea indicate paraphyly of the superfamily and novel relationships of its component families and subfamilies. Zoologica Scripta, 37: 539–560. UAES 7938.

43.        *Williams, K.A. and J.P. Pitts. 2008. Three species masquerading as one: updating the taxonomy of Pseudomethoca russeola and P. donaeanae (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae).  Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 17: 127–133. UAES 7921.

44.        *Pilgrim, E.M., *K.A. Williams, and J.P. Pitts. 2008. Sex association and synonymy in Southwestern U.S. species of Dasymutilla (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 84: 58–69. UAES 7866.

45.        *Wilson, J.S. and J.P. Pitts. 2008. Revision of velvet ant genus Dilophotopsis Schuster (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) by using molecular and morphological data, with implications for desert biogeography. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 101: 514–524. UAES 7914.

46.        Calcaterra, L.A, R. Vander Meer, J.P. Pitts, J.P. Livore, and N.D. Tsutsui. 2007. A survey of fire ants and their parasitoid flies (Diptera: Phoridae: Pseudacteon) in central Chile and central western Argentina. Annals of the American Entomological Society, 100: 512–521.

47.        *Williams, K.A., and J.P. Pitts. 2007. New species of predominately temperate velvet ant genera Lomachaeta Mickel and Sphaeropthalma Blake from Central America and northern South America (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Transactions of the American Entomological Society, 133: 297–326. UAES 7872.

48.        Pitts, J.P. 2007. Revision of Odontophotopsis Viereck (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae), Part 1, with a description of a new genus Laminatilla.  Zootaxa, 1619: 1–43. UAES 7874.

49.        Manley, D.G. and J.P. Pitts. 2007. Revision of the Neotropical velvet ants of the genus Dasymutilla (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Zootaxa, 1487: 1–128.

50.        Pitts, J. P. and D.G. Manley. 2007. Synonymy of Ephuta tentativa Schuster and E. pauxilla Bradley (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Journal of Entomological Science, 42: 341–344. UAES no. 7819.

51.        *Wilson, J.S., and J.P. Pitts. 2007. New host associations for New World spider wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 80: 223–229. UAES no. 7844.

52.        Pitts, J.P., **T.J. Boud, and *E.M. Pilgrim. 2007. Molecular sex association of three species of nocturnal velvet ant (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae).  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 80: 136–145. UAES no. 7812.

53.        Pitts, J.P. 2007. Description of the female of Sphaeropthalma galapagensis Williams and notes on Morsyma and Caenotilla (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 83: 95–100. UAES no. 7813.

54.        Pitts, J.P., *J.S. Wilson, and F.D. Parker. 2007. The spider wasps of Fiji (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Occasional Papers of the Bishop Museum, 91: 3–15. UAES no. 7818.

55.        Pitts, J.P., M.S. Wasbauer and C.D. von Dohlen. 2006. Preliminary morphological analysis of relationships between the spider wasp subfamilies (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae): revisiting an old problem. Zoologica Scripta, 35: 63–84.

56.      *Pilgrim, E.M. and J.P. Pitts. 2006. A molecular method for associating the dimorphic sexes of velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 79: 222–231.

57.        Pitts, J.P. 2006. Review of the Sphaeropthalma imperialis species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae), with descriptions of females and taxonomic notes. Zootaxa, 1248: 1–20. 

58.        Pitts, J.P., J.V. McHugh and K.G. Ross. 2005. Cladistic analysis of the fire ants of the Solenopsis saevissima species-group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zoologica Scripta, 34: 493–505.

59.        Pitts, J.P. 2005. Description of a new species in the Sphaeropthalma pensylvanica species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Zootaxa, 1050: 39–43.

60.        Pitts, J.P. and F.D. Parker. 2005. Description of the female, redescription of the male, and host associations of the Nearctic species Sphaeropthalma jacala Schuster (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae). Zootaxa, 1011: 1–10.


            Prior to Assistant Professor Position

61.        Pitts, J.P., F.D. Parker, and T.L. Pitts-Singer. 2004. A review of the Sphaeropthalma uro species-group (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae), with taxonomic changes. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 77: 223–234.

62.        Manley, D.G. and J. P. Pitts. 2004. Two new black species of Dasymutilla (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) from Texas and California. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 77: 644–649.

63.        Yang Zhong-qi, Sun Jiang-hua, and J. P. Pitts. 2004. First discovery of the family Tanaostigmatidae (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea) from China with a description of a new gall-making species utilizing kudzu leaves.  Journal of Entomological Science, 39: 279–280.

64.        Pitts, J.P. and D.G. Manley. 2004. Review of Lomachaeta Mickel (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) of North and Central America. Zootaxa, 474: 1–27.

65.        V.J. Tepedino and J.P. Pitts. 2003. A host record for Dasymutilla stevensi Mickel from Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 79: 256–257.

66.        *Arneson, L. and Pitts, J.P. 2003. Host records for Dasymutilla aureola and D. vestita (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) from northeastern California. Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 79: 245–246.  

67.        Pitts, J.P. 2003. Schusterphotopsis, a new genus of Sphaeropthalmini (Mutillidae: Sphaeropthalminae) from California, with notes on the closely related genera Acrophotopsis Schuster and Dilophotopsis Schuster clade.  Zootaxa, 333: 1–7.

68.        Pitts, J.P. 2003. First host record of Dilophotopsis (Mutillidae: Sphaeropthalminae).  Journal of Entomological Science, 38: 485–486.

69.        Pitts, J.P. and F.D. Parker. 2003. Description of the female and larval stage of Odontophotopsis succinea Viereck (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae), with a new synonymy and notes on the species.  Zootaxa 137: 1–10.

70.        Pitts, J.P. and J.V. McHugh. 2002. Revision of Acrophotopsis (Mutillidae: Sphaeropthalminae), with a new species from Baja California. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 11: 363–374.

71.        Manley, D. G. and J. P. Pitts. 2002. Key to the genera and subgenera of Mutillidae of America North of Mexico with description of a new genus. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 11: 72–101.

72.        Pitts, J.P. and D.G. Manley. 2002.  Description of the females of Stethophotopsis Pitts and Photopsioides Schuster (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae).  Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 104: 672–679.

73.        Pitts, J. P., E.H. Tilgner, and M.J. Dalusky. 2002. New host records for Perilampus hyalinus (Hymenoptera: Perilampidae) and Phasmophaga antennalis (Diptera: Tachinidae). Journal of Entomological Science, 37: 128–129.

74.        Pitts, J.P. and T.L. Pitts-Singer. 2001.  New host record for Pseudacteon crawfordi (Diptera: Phoridae). Florida Entomologist, 84: 310.

75.        Pitts, J.P. and R.W. Matthews. 2000.  Description of the larval stage of Sphaeropthalma pensylvanica (Mutillidae: Hymenoptera). Journal of Entomological Science, 35: 334–337.

76.        Pitts, J.P.  2000. Review of Bordontilla Fritz and Martinez (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae).  Entomological News, 111: 32–38.

77.        Pitts, J.P. and J.V. McHugh. 2000.  Stethophotopsis, a new genus of Sphaeropthalminae (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) from Arizona. Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 9: 29–33.