BUGS: The mysterious Miss Gillett

Robert W. Longair longair at ucalgary.ca
Mon Nov 6 12:06:30 EST 2000

I may not disagree with the conclusions concerning the name of the
checkerspot, but I have to take issue with comments concerning C.P.
Gillette. To describe C.P. Gillette as a Colorado aphid specialist would

be like describing E.H. Strickland as an Edmonton wasp or fly
specialist. Both these individuals (and I confess to being only slightly

familiar with the history of either) were entomologists with broad
interests, like many of their time. I don't find it surprising at all
that Gillette's name might have come up in conjunction with specimens
collected in Yellowstone - it sounds like Wyoming and Colorado are half
a continent apart, unlike Illinois and Wyoming, of course!

How about a little background on Gillette? From Howard Evans' "The
Pleasures of Entomology":

"For a moment, it is worth digressing to say a word about Gillette, who
did so much to increase knowledge of the then little-known insect fauna
of the Rocky Mountains. He was born and educated in Michigan, but in
1891 was given an opportunity to take charge of the new Dept. of Zoology

and Entomology at Colorado Agricultural College, in Fort Collins. Later,

he became Colorado's first state entomologist, still later director of
the Agricultural Experiment Station, and eventually vice-president of
the college (now Colorado State University). Well aware of the problems
in tackling such a largely unknown insect fauna, he proceeded to build
up a collection of Rocky Mountain insects, which by 1897 already
included 40,000 specimens. He kept up an active correspondence with
entomologists all over the world and published many papers on aphids and

leafhoppers as well as on insect problems of concern to Colorado

The passage goes on describing Gillette's travels about the West by
train, meeting with farmers. I hardly think a "Colorado aphid
specialist" does him justice. Maybe the butterfly is named after him.

A little uncertainty never hurt anyone! And yes, I'm a graduate of
Gillette's Colorado State University Dept. of Zoology and Entomology
(which no longer exists, like another department at U. of A. from which
I graduated), and spent many long hours in amongst C.P. Gillette's
material (though mostly looking at Howard Evans' wasps).

Another note of interest? The real aphid specialist at CSU was Miriam
Palmer, who assembled a large and comprehensive aphid collection, which
was the basis for her monograph, Aphids of the Rocky Mountain
Region (1952).

Rob Longair


   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit:


More information about the Leps-l mailing list