Among recently rediscovered notes
of Asa Fitch were some of the very earliest observations on invasive aphid
pests to the United States, such as the cabbage aphid, "brought here...on
shipboard." Also shown below is a lithograph of the cabbage aphid that was
found with Fitch's notes. (Images courtesy ARS
Entomology Laboratory, which hosts an
Entomology Pioneer's Notes, Still Relevant, Now
Online By Luis
Pons May 22, 2006
The actual handwritten observations about aphids made by Asa Fitch, a
19th-century pioneer of U.S. insect studies, can now be viewed at an
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
website. The documents had spent more than a century tucked away in a
collection in Maryland.
The site, called "Resurrecting Asa Fitch's Aphid Notes: Historical
Entomology for Application Today," offers nearly 800 pages of notes by
Fitchsome written on recycled galley proofs and handbillsthat
discuss approximately 190 aphid species.
According to entomologist
Miller of the ARS Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL),
the notes are of great scientific and historic value, yielding glimpses of
Fitch's personality and shedding light on the language and lifestyle of the
The well-preserved writings feature data on aphids life history,
morphology, predators and host plants, much of which is still relevant today.
They include references to the cabbage aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae,
which in 1791 possibly became the first invasive aphid identified in North
America. Fitch was also first to record several other invasive aphids,
including, in 1846, Liosomaphis berberidis, whose description is found
on the site.
The website was compiled at SEL by Miller, entomologists
Carlson, and technician Jonathan Eibl.
Fitch, who was born in 1809, became the first professional
entomologist appointed by a state when New York hired him in 1854. He published
more than 200 reports and articles on insects and related topics.
When Fitch died in 1879, his entomological collection and library were
sold to collectors and the U.S. National Museum, andaccording to
Millerhis aphid notes and some specimens went to where they are today:
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Collection in Beltsville, Md., which is now managed by SEL.
SEL has laboratories and offices in Beltsville and at the Smithsonian
Institution's Museum of Natural History in
notes through SEL's homepage.
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific