This page accompanies a 5-minute talk by Chris Wirth given at Encontro de Coleoptera [Coleoptera Meeting] on March 15, 2021 (available here).

Specimens pictured are from the Purdue Entomological Research Collection (PERC); please contact the director, Dr. Aaron D. Smith, or the author, graduate collections assistant, Chris Wirth, with questions or loan requests.


From November 1922 to March 1923, the Indiana entomologist Willis Stanley Blatchley (1859–1940) visited six South American countries. On this trip he met with numerous fellow entomologists and, “where opportunity offered,” collected insects. (For part of the trip, he traveled with a recent acquaintance, Mr "X, a manufacturer [in] a near by Indiana city").

Blatchley returned to his winter home in Florida having collected “probably 5,000” insect specimens. The majority were Coleoptera, along with Hemiptera and Orthoptera. Regrettably, the labels Blatchley attached to the mounted specimens were very brief, often with place names abbreviated (as in the labels [not to scale] for the cicindelid below). Sadly, the current location of Blatchley’s field notebooks—including the original notes from this trip— is not known.

Although Blatchley did not publish papers about or identify many specimens, in 1934 he privately published a book, titled “South America as I Saw It” containing a chronological account of his trip, made up of detailed, daily entries, nearly verbatim from his notes. In these Blatchley describes his insect collecting effects, including the localities, habitats, and methods used, often with enough detail to match specimens.

In 1935 Blatchley sold his collection, totaling approximately 63,000 specimens, to the department of Entomology at Purdue University. This became part of the foundation for the PERC. However, the South American specimens were historically not all recognized or labeled as coming from Blatchley’s trip. They were separated from material collected in the United States. And Blatchley’s account of the trip, with its additional collection data, was not associated with the specimens.

Recently, I re-associated Blatchley's 1934 account with the specimens he collected:

Below, verbatim label data for specimens are presented above specimen images, with a slash indicating line breaks, accompanied by excerpts from Blatchley's entry for each day.

Rio.J., Brazil / W.S.B. Coll. / Dec. 9 1922

Saturday, December 9 [1922]. … missed the 7:30 Alta de Boa Vista car, and had to wait until 8 o'clock. … Reaching a station where a road turned to the right the conductor put us off … some five miles [from] the end of the line. … [S]tarted slowly onward along the broad paved roadway, I sweeping the scant road side herbage and X chasing butterflies and tiger with a lighter net. … We soon reached the "falls," a beautiful cascade tumbling down some 400 feet over alternating slopes and precipitous ledges. … I was getting a few beetles and bugs at every round of sweeping, so we climbed slowly onward. … At one point we crossed a shallow, rapid flowing stream and in the low grounds bordering it I swept from herb age three fine species of cockroaches and some large weevils. On account of the dull more or less drizzly day we saw few butterflies and these mostly of the genus Heliconia with long, slender wings. One species of Cicindela (tiger-beetle) was quite common in the road but very wild. When hard pressed they sometimes alighted on the wayside foliage and then were more easily taken with the net. We captured only five of them and X took from the bole of a tree a single specimen of a larger handsome form, green with red legs. At 12:45 we reached the end or terminus of the paved automobile road. … [I] started on, not to climb Tijuca, whose crest and almost precipitous slopes had loomed far above us all the morning, but possibly one of the smaller peaks, if the ascent was not too long and steep. … I slowly climbed and reached the summit, not of one of the smaller peaks but of Tijuca itself. … After enjoying to the utmost the view for several minutes, I collected with the sweep-net a few insects from the woody shrubs on the summit, then, taking a long, last view and thanking the fates which had led me on and upward to the crest itself, I began the descent. .. I found beneath the folded edge of a palm leaf a colony of Cossinid beetles and in the road way a fine, large Curculionid lying on its back and kicking at space.

Rio.J., Brazil / W.S.B. Coll. / Dec. 10 1922

Sunday, December 10. … [T]ook the aerial car to Urca, the first stop, 220 metres, on top of a lower peak and from there, 440 metres to the top of the higher "Sugar Loaf." It was a novel experience, perhaps not to be duplicated on the American continent. … While the western and northern slopes of both Urca and Sugar Loaf are precipitous rocky slopes bare of vegetation, the upper slopes on the opposite sides are less steep and are covered with shrubs and other vegetation. Zigzag pathways are laid out on them descending for a distance of 100 feet or more, and there I collected by sweeping and beating 60 or more species of beetles and a few good Heteroptera. By looking over the sides of the car as we descended we could see large birds with white spots on their wings soaring far beneath us, and the vegetation of tree pines and other shrubs appeared so dense that a pin could hardly be dropped between its masses.

Wednesday, December 13. [C]aught a tram-car leading to Sylvestre, the lower terminal of the cog-wheel railway running up to Corcovado … went up to near the crest. There I started back afoot, collecting on both sides of the old stone aqueduct. … By the side of this pathway, in a typical southern Brazilian forest the collecting was very good. Some fine Cerambycids were found on the trunks of trees, but for the most part the beetles as on yesterday were Chrysomelids and Rhynchophora. Numerous small Heteroptera, two Mantids and four species of cockroaches were taken, the latter from beneath bark and stones. … The silence on these wooded mountain slopes is most impressive. Only a few brief notes of birds and but one of a cicada were heard. A single cicada pupal case was noted. … Near noon I reached a station on the cog-wheel railway and took the first car back to Sylvestre.

Rio.J., Brazil / W.S.B. Coll. / Dec. 13 1922

Mendoza, Arg. / W.S.B. Coll. / Jan. 9 1923

Tuesday, January 9 [1923]. … [W]ent to the Trans-Andean station and took a local train over the narrow gauge railway to El Paso Los Andes, about 20 miles to the west of Mendoza. From the name we judged it to be a pass within the mountains, but it proved to be within the irrigated region of the foothills which here were 100 to 300 feet in height. The valleys between the hills are cultivated, while the hills themselves are prob ably of glacial origin and thickly covered with boulders both large and small. We climbed one of the ridges and collected along its crest and slopes for a mile or more. The vegetation, mainly cacti and low shrubs, was not very productive of insects. A short-winged Melanoplus and two species of blackish katydids, Tettigonids, both shrub-frequenting species, were the most common Orthopterons. Several kinds of Tenebrionid beetles were taken from beneath stones and dead cacti and two or three Nitidulids from cactus flowers. A striped ground lizard was very common on the slopes of the ridge and we flushed a sparrow, akin to our white-throated Zonotrichia from her ground nest which contained four eggs. We collected till about 12:30 o'clock, then went by a crude roadway back to the station. … We got back to our hotel about 3 P.M. and I sorted and packed my catch for mailing.

Wednesday, January 10. As the westbound trains on the Trans-Andean railway run only on Mondays and Thursdays, we are killing time as best we can until tomorrow. After breakfast I went to the Museum where Prof. [Carlos S.] Reed gave me examples of about 50 species of Coleoptera, Heteroptera and Orthoptera from his duplicates; also a box for the mailing of these and the specimens I had taken personally. … In the afternoon X and I took a tram-car and rode out to the ruins of an old church in which hundreds of the people flocked for refuge at the time of [the 1861 earth]quake. Its walls collapsed and almost all were killed. It is still retained as a memento and picturesque show-spot, the old partly standing walls being covered with ivy and the spaces between them planted to flowers. … Reed came in about 7:30 P. M. and brought about a dozen large beetles taken today by his man in the mountains. We went out to the nearby San Martin Park and took a number of others at electric lights.

Mendoza, Arg. / W.S.B. Coll. / Jan. 10 1923

La Paz, Bol. / W.S.B. Coll. / Feb. 18 1923

Sunday, February 18. … I put on my heavy shoes and with sweep net took the tram-car for Sopocachi. There I swept the flowers and foliage of the herbs growing on the steep sloping sides of the stone lookout, then down by a very steep zigzag pathway to a terraced meadow. From lupine, sunflowers and other plants I took 50 or more specimens of a striped Malachiid beetle and numerous Mirids. Two or three species of flea-beetles (Halticini) and a small Apion were also frequent. A number of Bolivian boys and girls gathered about me when I opened the net and pointed out each bug within it. The boys then went to sweeping with their straw hats and brought me several specimens. Climbing back again to the lookout I went to the western end of the park and down its slope past a field where a game of soccer football was in progress. … Beyond this, along the margin of a bean and pea patch I took in numbers three species of Bruchids and from beneath a stone near a marsh a large Carabid. … Returning to the lookout on Sopocachi I watched for a while the unsurpassed grandeur of the eternally snow capped peaks of Sorata and Illimani, then took the tram-car back to my room.

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