Insect names associated with Thomas Say

Photos by S. C. White and G. A. Salsbury

Melanoplus bivittatus (Say), or two-striped grasshopper

The fact that Thomas Say first described this species is shown by the inclusion of Say's name after the italicized binomial. Parentheses around the author's name indicate that the species was later assigned to a different genus. In Le Conte (cited below), Say assigns the genus Gryllus and writes, "... on one occasion we observed this species [in great numbers] ascending to a great height in the air as if to commence a migration to a remote region."

Photograph by G. A. Salsbury.

Synanthedon exitiosa (Say), or peach tree borer

In volume 1, page 36 of Le Conte (cited below), Say assigns the genus Ægeria to this species; it was later assigned to Synanthedon. "This insect," Say writes in his six pages about the peach tree borer, "has been for years the cause of great solicitude and regret to all the lovers of fine fruit."

Photograph by G. A. Salsbury.

Blissus leucopterus (Say), or chinch bug

Thomas Say gave the first scientific definition of this insect under the name Lygæus leucopterus (Le Conte, volume 1, page 329). Adult chinch bugs are only about 1/16 inch long; the image you see here has been greatly enlarged. The top of the insect is a shiny black, often reflecting light, as is the case here. Photograph by S. C. White.

Thomas Say, often called the father of American entomology, was the first to describe several hundred species of insects in his famous volumes,

Thomas Say, American Entomology, or Descriptions of the Insects of North America, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1824-1828.

The three original volumes are now rare and valuable. The material was reprinted by Le Conte in 1859, and reprinted again in 1978:

John L. Le Conte, The Complete Writings of Thomas Say on the Entomology of North America, two volumes, Baillière Brothers, New York, 1859. Reprinted by Arno Press, New York, 1978.

A list of important insects first described by Say is given on pages 753-755 of

E. O. Essig, A History of Entomology, Macmillan, New York, 1931.

I thank Stephan C. White for permission to use these images. They and others can be viewed at the Kansas Department of Agriculture site.

Insect images, Kansas Department of Agriculture
Thomas Say, father of American entomology
New Harmony Scientists, Educators, Writers & Artists
Clark Kimberling Home Page