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Asa Fitch Type Specimen Collection

Photo of Asa Fitch

The New York State Museum has the original drawer of Heteroptera types that has been maintained in their original arrangement as prepared by Asa Fitch.

Asa Fitch is considered the founder of economic entomology in America. His early studies of various grain insects lead to methods of preventing crop damage and his volumious reports set the standard for practicing entomology. Fitch began working for New York State informally in 1838 when Ebenezer Emmons, a chief geologist working for the State's Geological Survey, hired him to assist with the publication of papers describing insects of importance to agriculture. In 1847, Fitch was employed directly by the State Cabinet of Natural History to collect and name specimens of New York insects. With his 1854 appointment Entomologist of the New York State Agricultural Society, Fitch became the first occupational entomologist in the United States. More significantly, however, Fitch used this appointment as a vehicle to help solve public problems, namely how to prevent crop damage by various insects. Many types of Fitch's species of Hemiptera are in the Museum's collection.

Fitch served as official entomologist for 19 years until he was incapacitated by health in 1873. During this time, he published 14 official annual reports on the Noxious, Beneficial and Other Insects of the State of New York. These reports set the standard for entomologists and agriculturalists. Fitch is also credited with discovering the Rodent Bot fly (Cuterebra emasculator). Today, many of his notebooks are now the property of the Smithsonian Institution.