By Elsa Youngsteadt
T.B. Mitchell is probably the reason we ecologists in eastern North America can identify our bees. Mitchell joined the faculty here at NC State in 1925 and distinguished himself as a meticulous taxonomist.
Although he died in 1983, more than 30,000 of his bee specimens are housed here in the NC State Insect Museum, where one can occasionally feel a little time warp.
The specimen I am examining right now, under the microscope, was alive in 1925. It was cruising from flower to flower along some North Carolina country roadside 91 years ago when Mitchell nabbed it with his net. He pinned it, identified it, labeled it, and may have studied it while writing the key that I’m using now — and I’m handling that exact bee, comparing it to one of the same species that I caught last week.
Enough of this kind of thing, and you wish you could meet the guy who made the collection. Thanks to lab alum April Hamblin’s idea to propose a Heritage column for American Entomologist, we nearly feel that we have.
April, Margarita López-Uribe, Heather Moylett, and I spent the better part of a year, off and on, going through boxes of letters and stacks of theses, reading Mitchell’s papers, and conducting interviews and correspondence — including actual paper letters. The resulting article is published in the fall 2016 American Entomologist.
We invite you to read it and get acquainted with this energetic, unflappable gentleman, his scientific contributions, and his remarkable experiences as a musician and entomologist.
Read the article at:
Elsa Youngsteadt is a research associate in the Frank Lab at North Carolina State University. Her current research focuses on how urbanization and climate change alter plant-insect interactions, using scale insects and their host trees as a study system. Follow her on Twitter at @elsa_y.