Role Of Amateur Entomologists

Professionalization and an improved image as scientists has been an issue for entomologists since the 19 th century. From their origin in amateur lepidopterist clubs and local societies of collectors interested in the taxonomic position of their specimens and little else, entomological societies grew into associations of applied scientists who recognized the contribution of a client base of agriculturalists but did not make a place for them or for hobbyist entomologists (amateurs) in their national organizations. Once applied entomologists in the United States organized into the AAEE, they neither encouraged nor discouraged nonprofessional participation, but instead created two classes of membership. One was a professional category, which required educational qualifications and vocational activity; the other was an "associate" category, which was a second-class membership for amateurs and others with inadequate qualifications.

Yet, amateur entomologists, who had been the founders of the field and its earliest supporters as collectors and bene factors, continued to make contributions. Early societies at times depended on wealthy amateurs for support. The best example is the support given to the American Entomological Society (AES) by one of its founders, Thomas B. Wilson, an executive of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He paid for the AES's building and was patron of its library and collection. Wilson provided a sinecure for E. T. Cresson, Sr. (one of North America's greatest hymenopterists), as his private secretary, which in reality supported Cresson as curator of the AES collection and its corresponding secretary for many years. When Wilson died, Cresson worked for an insurance company for the next 40 years (1869-1910). "The Wilson Fund" was still supporting AES publications in 1984, almost 120 years after their provider's death.

The first national Canadian entomological society was formed in 1863 by a 25-year-old divinity student, Charles J. S. Bethune, and a 28-year-old pharmacist, William Saunders. They founded its journal, The Canadian Entomologist, in 1868 and were the sole contributors to its first two numbers. Each went on to distinguished careers in Canadian entomology (Bethune as Professor of Entomology and Zoology at Ontario Agricultural College, Saunders as the first Director of Experimental Farms [agricultural experiment stations] for the Dominion of Canada) but they both had begun the Entomological Society of Canada as amateurs.

Amateur entomologists were always welcome to publish in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society. Annie T. Slosson was a NYES founder (in 1892) and the largest financial supporter of its journal—her donated specimens of Lepidoptera raised the most money at the Society's auctions. She was a well-known collector and contributed many journal articles, though she did not publish new taxonomic names for the species she gathered; she preferred to send them to specialists to describe.

The Cambridge Entomological Club was saved from extinction by an infusion of amateur members. The Club was founded at Harvard in 1874 with 12 members. It reached 48 members by the time of incorporation in 1877, but had declined in 1902 to just 7 (of whom only 3 or 4 attended meetings at any one time). The Club combined with a local amateur society, The Harris Club, with its 38 members, in 1903, and active amateur members have been an important component of the Cambridge Entomological Club ever since. The participation by amateurs was encouraged in these early days by ant specialist, Professor William M. Wheeler, who supported amateur naturalists and said, "We have all known amateurs who could make an enthusiastic naturalist out of an indifferent lad in the course of an afternoon's rambling, and, alas, professors who could destroy a dozen budding naturalists in the course of an hour's lecture."

In the first volume (1908) of Annals of the Entomological Society of America, the Canadian entomologist H. H. Lyman, himself an amateur, urged the society "to secure the support and cooperation of the great body of amateur entomologists." This has not been accomplished. Almost 80 years later, in 1986, a survey of the ESA's 9111 members found only 31 (0.5% of the 5505 respondents) who described themselves as amateurs. But amateur entomologists have found welcome and a home in regional and local societies devoted to taxonomic specialties (Coleoptera and Lepidoptera predominately, but Odonata have become popular) or geographically restricted. Since 1939, the Amateur Entomologists' Society (United Kingdom) has been a flagship of the great amateur enterprise, publishing its bulletin and a large number of identification guides and handbooks.

A survey of adult amateur entomologists in 1987 by Janice Matthews found that they often suffer from being stereotyped by professional entomologists as less qualified or educated and get a cool (or even hostile) reception from professionals. Amateurs actually produce the great bulk of educational outreach on entomological topics (for example, programs for school children, other amateur naturalists, and the public at large). Adult amateur entomologists' professional lives align very closely with those of professional entomologists: Amateur entomologists are doing science and math in their daily work; they are in education; they are in service occupations (by comparison, pest control work is also a service occupation). The science background of amateur entomologists can be as strong as that of professionals, but is often in a related field. None of the respondents to Matthews' study reported that a professional entomologist influenced their childhood interest in insects; the failure of the Youth Development Scheme of the Royal Entomological Society (London) in 1990 was attributed to just this kind of lack of interest on the part of its members toward young entomologists.

That amateur entomologists have made, and continue to make, great contributions to entomology is unquestioned. From the great coleopterist P. F. M. A. DeJean (Napoleon's general and aide-de-camp at Waterloo), to 19 th century lepidopterist William H. Edwards (a lawyer and coal company president), to civil engineer Richard H. Stretch (who first warned of the economic dangers of cottony cushion scale in California in 1872), through a long list of physician—entomologists (for example, H. Bernard Kettlewell, who was a general practitioner while pursuing his studies of melanism in Lepidoptera), to the great student of leaf-mining flies, Kenneth Spencer (an electronics executive, he published 74 papers before retiring in 1969 and then published 45 more papers in the next 20 years), to the Parisian taxi driver Pierre Morvan (honored with the Rolex Enterprise Award in 1987 for his biogeographic study of Asian ground beetles, he is a self-taught entomologist and author of over 50 scientific publications), entomology advances through the efforts of its many amateur practitioners.

See Also the Following Article

History of Entomology

Further Reading

Allen, D. E. (1976). "The Naturalist in Britain: A Social History." Princeton

University Press, Princeton, N.J. Connor, J. T. H. (1982). Of butterfly nets and beetle bottles: The

Entomological Society of Canada, 1863-1960. HSTC Bull. 6, 151-171.

Mallis, A. (1971). "American Entomologists." Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ.

Matthews, J. R. (1988). Adult amateur experiences in entomology: Breaking the stereotypes. Bull Entomol. Soc. Am. 34(4), 157—161.

Osborn, H. (1952). "Brief History of Entomology." Spahr and Glenn, Columbus, OH.

Sabrosky, C. W. (1956). Entomological societies. Bull. Entomol. Soc. Am. 2(1), 1-22.

Salmon, M. A. (2000). "The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and Their Collectors." University of California Press, Berkeley.

Scientific Reference Resources (2001).

Smith, E. H. (1989). The Entomological Society of America: The first hundred years, 1889-1989. Bull Entomol Soc. Am. 35(3), 10-32.

Sorensen, W. C. (1995). "Brethren of the Net: American Entomology, 1840-1880." University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.


John E. Brittain

Natural History Museums and Botanical Garden, University of Oslo

Michel Sartori

Museum of Zoology, Lausanne

Mayflies (order Ephemeroptera) date from Carboniferous and Permian times and represent the oldest order of the existing winged insects. They are unique among the insects in having two winged adult stages, the subimago and imago (Fig. 1). Adult mayflies do not feed; instead, they rely on reserves built up during their nymphal life. As adults they generally live from 1 to 2 h to a few days, and mayflies spend most of their life in the aquatic environment, either as eggs or nymphs. The nymphal life span in mayflies varies from 3 to 4 weeks to more than 2 years. The length of egg development varies from ovo-viviparity (i.e., the release of live offspring) to a period of up to 10 to 11 months in some arctic/alpine species.

Because of their winged adult stage and a propensity for drift (i.e., downstream movements) as nymphs, mayflies are often among the first macroinvertebrates to colonize virgin habitats. However, over longer distances their dispersal capacity is limited, owing to their fragility and short adult life. Mayflies are found in almost all types of freshwater habitat throughout the world, although in the Arctic and in mountain areas above the tree line there are few species. Mayfly faunas on oceanic islands and isolated mountain areas have few species, and they are usually restricted to the Baetidae and/or Caenidae. Their greatest diversity is in lotic habitats in temperate and tropical regions, where they are an important link in the food chain, from primary production by algae and plants to secondary consumers such as fish. Mayflies are used extensively as indicators of pollution and environmental change.

FIGURE 1 Mayfly life cycle showing the alternation between the aquatic and terrestrial environments. Mayflies are unique in having two winged stages, the subimago and imago. The adult life is very short and most of the time is spent in the aquatic environment.

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