Kirk Larsen

Kirk Larsen portrait
Professor of Biology
Biology Department Head

Office: Sampson Hoffland Lab 190E

Phone: 563-387-1558



Education: Ph.D., Entomology, Ohio State University; M.S., Entomology, Michigan State University; B.S., Biology, Calvin College

I am an entomologist with special interests in prairie ecology and insect behavior, and have been teaching in the Department of Biology at Luther since 1993. Along with keeping up with my family (my lovely wife, 3 kids plus a son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and our dog), I have a variety of other interests.

One interest involves understanding the interactions between science and the Christian faith, especially the area of creation care, looking at our relationship to the environment and our responsibilities as stewards of creation. I am a member of Decorah Covenant Church.

I enjoy gardening, playing trombone, hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming and snorkeling, fly fishing, burning prairies, and eating ice cream.

In the summer I often teach in the Black Hills of South Dakota at the Wheaton College Science Station. I’ve taught Ecology, Entomology, Field Zoology, and I currently teach the zoology portion of their Diversity of Life course.

BIO 251: Entomology

An introduction to the biology and diversity of insects, particularly the life histories, form and function, ecology, and behavior of various insect groups found in various habitats.

BIO 151: Principles of Biology: Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity

The first class in a two-course introduction to fundamental biological principles as exhibited by microbes, plants, and animals. Designed as an introduction to the biology major; required for the biology major and minor.

BIO 112: Insects, Humans and the Environment

A study of relationships among insects, humans, and the environment. Using insects as a model, biological concepts such as evolution, form and function, genetics, development, natural history, biodiversity, and conservation will be covered. Includes a presentation of why insects are so successful, giving attention to their behavior and ecological roles in nature, impacts on human society as causes of famines, plagues and epidemics, and importance in human cultures. Laboratory includes field trips and an investigative approach to learning insect biology.

BIO 247: Marine Biology (J-term Study Away)

Based at the Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences (Honduras), this course is an introduction to the ecology and taxonomy of marine and terrestrial invertebrates, fish, birds, and common plants of the northern West Indies. In addition to professor-led field excursions including extensive SCUBA diving and snorkeling on coral reefs, students develop and complete independent research projects. Several days will be spent on the Luther campus for pre-trip orientation and post-trip completion of projects.

* indicates undergraduate coauthors

Schmitt*, L. and K.J. Larsen. 2021. Moths of oak-hickory forests and planted tallgrass prairies on Luther College natural areas in Decorah, Iowa. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 75(1): 49-64.

Stivers*, E.K., J.T. *Wittman and K.J. Larsen. 2019. A comparison of adult butterfly communities on remnant and planted prairies in northeast Iowa. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 73(4): 268-274.

Wittman*, J., E. *Stivers, and K.J. Larsen. 2017. Butterfly surveys are impacted by time of day. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 71(2): 125-128.

Schuh*, Marissa & Kirk J. Larsen. 2015Rhamnus cathartica (Rosales: Rhamnaceae) Invasion Reduces Ground-Dwelling Insect Abundance and Diversity in Northeast Iowa Forest. Environmental Entomology 1–11 (2015); DOI: 10.1093/ee/nvv050.

Powers*, N.M. & K.J. Larsen. 2014. Butterflies (Lepidoptera) on Hill Prairies of Allamakee County, Iowa: A Comparison of the late 1980s with 2013. Great Lakes Entomologist 47(3-4): 114-128.

McDermond-Spies*, N., D. *Broman, A. *Brantner, and K.J. Larsen. 2014. Family-level benthic macroinvertebrate communities indicate successful relocation and restoration of a Northeast Iowa stream. Ecological Restoration 32(2): 161-170.

Larsen, K.J. & F.F. Purrington. 2013. New records of Ophonus puncticeps Stephens (Coleoptera: Carabidae) from Iowa show continued westward range expansion. Coleopterists Bulletin 67(1):16-18.

Worthington*, R.J. & K.J. Larsen. 2010. An annotated checklist of scarab beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) from Northeastern Iowa. Great Lakes Entomologist 43: 77-90.

Larsen, K.J. & F.F. Purrington. 2009. New state distribution records of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) from Iowa and South Dakota, U.S.A. Entomological News 120(5): 570-573.

Larsen, K.J. & H. Willis. 2008. Range extension into South Dakota for Cicindela pulchra (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Coleopterists Bulletin 62(4): 480.

Moya-Raygoza, G. & K.J. Larsen. 2008. Positive effects of shade and shelter construction by ants on a leafhopper-ant mutualism. Environmental Entomology 37(6): 1471–1476.

Moya-Raygoza, G., K.J. Larsen and A. Rauk*. 2005. Geographic and seasonal variation in size and color of adult corn leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) from Mexico. Environmental Entomology  34(6):1388–1394.

Gandhi, K.J.K., D.W. Gilmore, G.E. Ball, R.W. Holzenthal, S.A. Katovich, J.J. Koehle, K.J. Larsen, W.J. Mattson, and S.J. Seybold. 2005. A review of ground beetle species (Coleoptera: Carabidae) of Minnesota, USA: new records and range extensions. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington  107(4): 917–940.

Moya-Raygoza, G., J. Kathirithamby and K.J. Larsen. 2004. Dry season parasitoids of the corn leafhopper, Dalbulus maidis (Homoptera: Cicadellidae), on irrigated maize in Mexico. Canadian Entomologist 136: 119–127.

Larsen, K.J. and T.W. Work. 2003. Differences in ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) of original and reconstructed tallgrass prairies in northeastern Iowa, USA, and impact of three-year spring burn cycles. Journal of Insect Conservation 7(3): 153–166.

Larsen, K.J., T.W. Work, and F.F. Purrington. 2003. Habitat use patterns by ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) of northeastern Iowa. Pedobiologia 47: 288–299.

Larsen, K.J. & J.A.*Bovee. 2002. Changes in the butterflies (Lepidoptera) of Winneshiek County, Iowa after 90 years. Great Lakes Entomologist  34(1): 43–54.

Purrington, F.F., D.K. Young, K.J. Larsen, & J.C.T. Lee. 2002. New distribution records for ground beetles in the western Great Lakes region (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Great Lakes Entomologist 33: 199–204.

Moya-Raygoza, G. & K.J. Larsen. 2001. Temporal resource switching by ants between honeydew produced by the fivespotted gamagrass leafhopper (Dalbulus quinquenotatus) and nectar produced by plants with extrafloral nectaries. American Midland Naturalist  146(2): 311–320.

Larsen, K.J., L.M. *Staehle & E.J. *Dotseth. 2001. Tending ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) regulate Dalbulus quinquenotatus (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) population dynamics. Environmental Entomology 30(4): 757–762.

Larsen, K.J. & J.B.*Williams. 1999. Influence of fire and trapping effort on ground beetles in a reconstructed tallgrass prairie. Prairie Naturalist  31 (2): 77–88.

*Coyle, D.R & K.J. Larsen. 1998. Carrion beetles (Coleoptera: Silphidae) of Northeastern Iowa: a comparison of baits for sampling.  Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science 105(4): 161–164.

Purrington, F.F. & K.J. Larsen. 1997. Records of thirteen ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) new to Iowa. Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science  104(2): 50–51.

Dr. Larsen leads the entomology research laboratory at Luther College. The mission of the entomology research laboratory at Luther College is to provide students meaningful research experiences in insect ecology and opportunities to explore entomology as a subdiscipline of biology, while contributing to our knowledge of and the conservation of insect diversity in northeast Iowa.

The laboratory’s overall research question is: How does habitat and habitat management affect insect biodiversity in northeast Iowa native ecosystems? It has two goals:
1. To document insect diversity in northeast Iowa through surveys of selected taxa in native habitats and maintaining a research insect collection.
2. To communicate our research findings with the broader entomological and scientific community through presentations at scientific meetings, publications in primary research journals, and reports to conservation agencies.

Contact Dr. Larsen if you would like to participate in this research.