A New Stink Bug Species Named After a Stink Bug Person
By Eduardo Faúndez, Ph.D.
It was nearly five years ago when I walked through my first ESA North Central Branch Meeting in Rapid City, South Dakota. I was waiting to meet Dr. J.E. McPherson. Although I had corresponded with him for a long time before that, requesting some of his papers on the biology of stink bugs, I never really expected to meet him in person. So, a little before the time comes, talking to different people, I realized that the person that I’d corresponded with was a really important one within the entomology profession. Almost every person that I talked to, when I told them I work with stink bugs, started a long talk about Jay McPherson and why I had to meet him.
So, the first time I saw him, with his shimmery “Trouble Maker” tag, he was telling jokes with everyone. (By his serious face, you never know if he is joking or talking seriously!) On our first conversation, I noted both his strong character and his histrionic personality, which later I discovered in full by his participation as referee in the Linnaean Games (in which I was also playing for the first time). After that first impression, on my second meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, I presented my first fully taxonomic work regarding my dissertation. It was about a subspecies (at that point) of an Australian stink bug. At some point Jay appeared on scene and told me that he wanted to see my poster before I left.
First of all, he offerd several grammar corrections—maybe Jay’s specialty. However, after a long conversation about stink bug adaptations and color changes and hosts, he told me that my paper was nice but that the stink bug in question looked more like a full species than a subspecies. Then I told him about the “hard to work” genitalia of those bugs, and that he may be actually right, but I had limited collection material and not many opportunities to fail doing microdissections. Following that, he told me several tricks to take out the parameres (a very important specific structure of the male genitalia in stink bugs) on very tricky species without damaging the specimen.
So, many people know Jay for different aspects of the study of stink bugs and other arthropods, but not as many may imagine him getting that deep digging into the genitalia of bugs or talking about microdissections of Australian stink bugs. However, this year saw the publication of Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species (Pentatomoidea): Biology, Higher Systematics, Semiochemistry, and Management, which is edited by McPherson. By the title, it looks like another pest-focused book; however it contains detailed general information on the ontogenic development, biology, and life histories of stink bugs. It contains the most recent review on all these topics, plus full chapters on the most important pest stink bug species. But it also has a unique chapter on systematics that includes figures, descriptions, comments, and even the establishment of a new tribe (something not common in any group of animals).
All of that is part of the effort of Jay finding the right people for each chapter, editing, pushing the authors, and of course writing his own chapters. I remember seeing Jay so happy about the in-progress book at the International Congress of Entomology in 2016, when it was close to an end. I think that the book represents a little bit of what Jay has done for several years through his life: working on different aspects of stink bugs, from biology to economics to taxonomy and systematics of these insects.
As I followed his recommendations, it turned out he was right, and the stink bug I was investigating deserved full species rank. After my dissertation was done, I started to work on the research papers inside it. This work on these Australian stink bugs was one of them. In this case, instead of finding a creative name for this species as we often use in our lab (i.e. Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, etc.), I felt a good way to say thanks to Jay for his advice, and the very good moments he brings everyone at ESA meetings, would be to name it Menestheus mcphersoni, to which my adviser Dr. David A. Rider fully agreed. Furthermore, I think it is a nice way to recognize Jay’s efforts to improve the knowledge of stink bugs, and it proved timely, almost together with the official release of his book, making a nice coincidence. Thanks Dr. McPherson!
Eduardo I. Faúndez, Ph.D., is an entomologist at the Instituto de la Patagonia, University of Magallanes, in Punta Arenas, Chile. His major research areas are systematics of the Heteroptera and medical zoology.