- Last updated on 2001.05.07 by Frans Janssens
Checklist of the Collembola: In Memoriam: Pete Bellinger

In Memoriam
Pete Bellinger

The death of Peter Bellinger on November 20th 2000 was a great loss, not only to his family and friends but also to the whole Collembola research community. Those of us striving to fill the void left by his death are probably most fully aware of the essential role he played in our research, but many collembolists relied on his information base and knowledge at one time or another.

Peter was born on June 15th 1921 in New Haven, Connecticut. While still in secondary school he developed an interest in butterflies, and later he joined the American Lepidopterist society. He continued a side interest in this field all his life. He attended Yale and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1942. After a thee year stint in the U.S. army he returned and received his doctorate in 1952. His doctoral research was done on the soil fauna of the University of Connecticut's research area, with emphasis on the Collembola. After receiving his doctorate he joined the faculty at the University College of the West Indies in Jamaica. There he taught and continued his research on Collembola until 1956 when he returned to Yale as an instructor. I remember him telling me that he loved Jamaica but felt he had to return to the U.S. before he became too soft.

In 1958 he moved to California where he joined the faculty of California State University, Northridge and remained there as a much valued faculty member until his death. He made extensive valuable collections in Hawaii on a sabbatical leave from September 1966 until February 1967. These were the foundation of our later Collembola of Hawaii. Peter's love for the study of Collembola was matched by his love of teaching. He was fully engaged in all aspects of his profession, from carefully planning and documenting lectures to directing students to appropriate scholarships. He made a significant difference in the lives of many students and fellow faculty members. It was always impressive how many independent student projects he was able to keep going smoothly.

While at Yale he attended the 1957 meeting of the Entomological Society of America in New York. His presentation there was reported on amusingly as part of an article on the meeting in the New Yorker Magazine:
"...Our unhappy impression that entomologists are preoccupied exclusively with death was dispelled by the next item on our itinerary: 'A new Actaletes ( Collembola ) with Marked Sexual Dimorphism - a treatise on love' . A youthful blond, romantically handsome Yale man , his hands in his pockets , was talking about cross sections of a bug on a screen behind him... 'This Actaletes is an excellent jumper , as I found to my displeasure when I was trying to catch him. Most oddly there is a large spur on the anterior surface of the tibiotarsus. I'm afraid I'll have to speculate a bit as I found these Collembola just before I left Jamaica but it looks to me as though the spur might well be a clasping agent. Generally, as you know, the male deposits stalked spermatophores, which the female picks up at a later time. There is no contact in most cases. Here, however, it seems to me there is direct evidence upon which to postulate a form of contact. I regret to say that I was compelled to leave the island before I was able to go into this experimentally.' He slouched to his seat amid general disappointment,"

He was married in 1945 to Lucille McDermott who died young in June 1947. Peter married to Mary Carolyn Jones in April 1953. They had two children, Christina Elizabeth in 1963 and Frederick Peter in 1964. Both have pursued careers in science. Carolyn's death in February of 2000 after 47 years of loving marriage was a blow from which Peter never fully recovered. I remember him telling me a few months before his death that it was hard to have two much loved wives die ahead of him.

Peter and I first met in 1949 while he was working on Collembola for his doctoral thesis, and we soon became fast friends. We kept up a lively correspondence and started working jointly in 1970. Over time this resulted in twenty papers and two books authored together and joint works with Janssens and Greenslade on WEB generic keys and a geographic distribution of all species of Collembola.
By 1973 we found that the problems of identifying North American Collembola were so great that we vowed to try to remedy this by producing a Collembola of North America. After eight years, several research grants and the aid of more than twenty students, we published the first version in 1980 - 81 and revised it in 1998. We did this in spite of a number of misfortunes such our publisher going bankrupt after accepting the manuscript and before the book was sent to the reviewers. In addition to these works Bellinger's classic works with Ellis on annotated generic names and original descriptions and his works with Mari Mutt on the Catalogue of Neotropical Collembola have proven invaluable.

Peter will be greatly missed by all who knew him. For the Collembological community his incredible memory, diligence in reading, digesting, recording and codifying written Collembola research gave us an invaluable resource. His willingness to read and criticize work in a friendly but thorough fashion was of great importance to many of us. His loss will long be felt but we can console ourselves with the understanding that he lived a full and rewarding life and left the world a better place for his having been here.

April 27 2001,
Kenneth A. Christiansen