It’s in the cards

I am getting totally entranced by the Digital Collection from the New York Public Library.  Well over half a million items are digitized and searchable on their database.  What does that mean?  Entomological awesomeness of course!

Obviously, the first thing I did was search for insects.  I’m like a kid opening presents, I am

Otherwise known as rove beetles (Staphylinidae).

so excited I just don’t know what to look at first!  I am a huge fan of art (as all you who follow me know), and where entomology and art intersects is just brilliant.  You can see the one image I posted on facebook earlier this week.  What has really intrigued me is these cigarette cards.  There is a series of 50 that depict many insects, spiders, and other arthropods in pretty good detail.  Not just a pretty picture though, the back of the card has info on the species.




I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what these were aside from old pretty pictures.  Turns out, these were trading cards issued by the tobacco manufacturers.  Not just for fun though, they were intended to stiffen the cigarette packaging to protect the cigarettes and for advertisement.  I am NOT advocating the use of tobacco, however, these insect ones are pretty cool.  This particular series is called the “Garden Life” series and was issued by the W.D. & H.O. Willis company.  They were the first UK company to include these cards in their packaging starting in 1887.  I think my favorite might be the lacewing (No. 5).

Capture 2
Front and back of the card featuring the lacewing.


That could be because I just like lacewings.  They are such delicate looking little creatures as well as being incredibly beneficial.  But as demure as they look, they voraciously chow down on plant feeding insects like aphids and mealybugs.  Like a starving man at a buffet, they can devour 200 pests per week.  No wonder they are sometimes called aphid lions.


index (1)
Back of the card suggests destroying by “phospho nicotyl, about 1/2 oz. per square yard”.

These cards are collectors items now and some are worth a good bit of money.  They are also hard to find in good condition; paper degrades and they were never meant to hold up that long.  So good on you NYPL for conserving these images and preserving some entomological awesomeness!


Don’t you have someone you want to share this with?


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