Mite art

The Berlese Alphabet

These letters are from the four-volume “Acaroteca” of Antonio Berlese, (1863-1927) in which he maintained records of his named specimens. Berlese illustrated this catalogue with a large letter at the beginning of each section. The mites are examples of those whose genus name begins with that letter. Not all letters were completed before his death, and several pages have been heavily stained.

Norton, 2008

The Berlese Alphabet

Following up on unusual ways to treat (or image) mites, here is an example that is both beautiful and very traditional, following the medieval tradition of illuminated letters. This image is of a poster assembled by Roy Norton featuring most of the letters of the Berlese alphabet. In case you have never heard of Berlese, Antonio Berlese was an Italian entomologist (1863 – 1927) who studied agricultural pest insects. He put together a catalogue of his collection of mites, referred to as the Catalogue of the Berlese Acaroteca. He included about 1600 species, the entries are arranged alphabetically by species according to Berlese’s final specific and generic concept. Each section begins with a large letter featuring a mite whose genus name begins with that letter.

letter M with images of mites from the Berlese alphabet

Letter M from the Berlese Alphabet, © Cal Welbourn

The individual drawings are simply gorgeous, and most specimens can easily be identified to genus. Of course many generic names have changed since early 20th century, so I would not recommend this as a work of taxonomy, but the Berlese alphabet remains a great work of “mite art”.


About the Author: Dr. Hans Klompen is professor in the department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and director of the Ohio State University Acarology Collection.

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