story to find out more.
Sketch drawn by
entomologist Charles Valentine Riley. Click the image for more information
Entomologist C.V. Riley Featured in Agricultural
Library Collection By
Marcia Wood October 17, 2005
Graceful drawings of butterflies, moths, caterpillars and plants are
among the works of superstar entomologist Charles Valentine Riley, regarded as
America's foremost entomologist of the 1800s. Many of Riley's papers and
artifacts are preserved at the Agricultural
Research Service's National Agricultural
Library in Beltsville, Md.
Dozens of letters, some sketchbooks and hundreds of other documents
are among the Riley treasures curated by
H. Fugate and Sara B. Lee at the library.
Pioneering USDA entomologist
Charles Valentine Riley. Click the image for more information about
The collection also includes historical artifacts: Riley's roll-top
wooden desk with its small drawers and pigeonholes; the elegant medal presented
to him by the French government for outsmarting a vineyard scourge; his Zeiss
microscope and its snug wooden case, plus more than 1,000 wood-based printing
blocks used in illustrating the publications American Entomologist and
American Entomologist and Botanist, of which he was an editor.
These papers and artifacts are an important resource for historians,
entomologists and others interested not only in Rileys accomplishments
but also in getting a first-hand picture of what life must have been like in
the days of Charles Darwin (with whom Riley corresponded), explorer John Wesley
Powell (a fellow member of the Cosmos mens club that Riley helped found
in Washington, D.C.), and other notables of that era.
Riley may be best known for his pioneering work with biological
control, the still-practiced art and science of using one natural organism to
control another, harmful one. In Riley's instance, the targeted pest was
cottony cushion scale, a flat-bodied insect that threatened to wipe out
southern California orange groves in the 1880s. Riley orchestrated the
importing of a natural enemy--vedalia beetles from Australia--to successfully
combat the scales.
That accomplishment led to Riley's being regarded as the founder of
biological control in America.
A website at www.nal.usda.gov/speccoll/collect/riley/
tells more, as does an
in the October Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.