Excerpts from A Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths
by Dieter E. Zimmer
Hamburg (Germany) 1996

Except as otherwise noted, all butterfly illustrations are by William H. Howe, who generously allowed them to be reproduced here.

Butterflies and moths bearing Nabokov's name

Genera, species and subspecies named for Nabokov

(Accents added only to facilitate pronunciation)

Clossiána (: Bolória) fréija nabokóvi STALLINGS and TURNER 1947female
wingspan 34 mm.

Clossiána (: Bolória) fréija nabokóvi STALLINGS & TURNER 1947 [Nymphálidae]; ‘Nabokov’s Fritillary’: a subspecies of Boloria freija THUNBERG (Freija’s Fritillary), a small, broad-winged, tawny to orange-brown Holarctic nymphalid at home in the north of Eurasia and America. Don Stallings, a lawyer and butterfly collector who in 1947 had turned over his collection of blues to the MCZ for Nabokov to sort and who accompanied the Nabokovs on a hunting excursion in the Longs Peak area in July of that year (Boyd VNAY, p. 121) found a few specimens of the new and very rare subspecies at Mile 102 of the Alaska Military Highway in British Columbia and named it in honor of Nabokov (The Canadian Entomologist [Ottawa, Ontario], 78, 1947, p. 134–135). The holotype is at the MCZ (#27642).

Cyllópsis pyrácmon nabokóvi MILLER 1974 [Satýridae]; ”Nabokov’s Brown”: this is a subspecies of Cyllopsis pyracmon BUTLER (the Pyracmon Brown which in its turn was dubbed ‘Nabokov’s Satyr’ by Robert M. Pyle in his Field Guide of 1981), a brown wood-satyr at home in woodlands and along rivers in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. Lee D. Miller, curator at the Allyn Museum of Entomology, Sarasota, Florida, described and named it on the strength of a specimen from the Ramsey Canyon in Arizona: ”This subspecies is name[d] for Dr. Vladimir Nabokov who first pointed out that both pyracmon and henshawi occurred in the desert southwest of the United States. His papers, as with all his literary endeavors, are highly entertaining and informative, and his work on the United States Cyllopsis (NABOKOV, 1942), as Neonympha, too long has been ignored. Nabokov (1942) had the species of Cyllopsis rather well sorted, but he did not look at Mexican or Guatemalan pyracmon; had he, I trust he would have detected the differences and described the present race.” (”Revision of Euptychiini [Satyridae] 2. Cyllopsis R. FELDER.” In: Bulletin of the Allyn Museum [Sarasota, Florida], 20, 1974, p. 1–98) James A. Tilden and Arthur Clayton Smith in their Field Guide to Western Butterflies (1986) called C. p. nabokóvi ‘Nabokov’s Brown’; thus Nabokov’s Brown is a subspecies of Nabokov’s Satyr. The holotype is at the Allyn Museum of Entomology.

Eupithécia nabokóvi McDUNNOUGH 1945 [Geométridae], ‘Nabokov’s Pug’: a ”pug” of the genus Eupithécia CURTIS which James H. McDunnough (1977–1962), a noted entomologist of Ottawa, Ontario--Brian Boyd (1991) calls him ”the then doyen of American lepidopterists”--in 1945 named after Nabokov: ”I take great pleasure in dedicating the species to my friend, V. Nabokov, from whom I have received much interesting material in this genus for study.” (”New North American Eupithecias [Lepidoptera, Geometridae],” The Canadian Entomologist [Ottawa, Ontario], 77 [9], 1945, p. 168–176.) Of the other material Nabokov had sent him from Alta, Utah, two more pugs are at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology: the holotype of Eupithecia appendiculata McDUNNOUGH (#27129, Hall 139) and an allotype of Protogygia enalaga McDUNNOUGH.
In Speak, Memory (p. 136), Nabokov tells how as a schoolboy in Russia he had dreamt of capturing an unknown Pug, one of those ”delicate little creatures that cling in the daytime to speckled surfaces, with which their flat wings and turned-up abdomens blend.” He imagined he would call it Eupithecia petropolitanáta. That dream did not materialize. ”And then, thirty years later, that blessed black night in the Wasatch Range.” This was the night of August 1, 1943, when, staying at a guest lodge owned by publisher James Laughlin (New Directions) at Alta, Utah, about twenty miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Nabokov boxed the pug on the large plate-glass window of the lounge (Boyd VNAY, p. 65). Along with other catches, he proceeded to send it to McDunnough who was to become the author of its OD. The holotype is at the MCZ (#27131, Hall 138), a few allotypes are at the Canadian National Collection, Ottawa (no. 5597). Range: Western North America.

Hespéria nabokóvi BELL & COMSTOCK 1948 [Hesperíidae]: a small True Skipper from the Carribean island of Hispaniola, with a wingspan of about 40 mm. Its wings are orange fulvous on both sides, with black veins; in the female, the primaries are light brown. At first placed in the genus Atalopédes SCUDDER, it was transferred to Hesperia FABRICIUS in 1987. It seems to be the only Hesperia occurring outside the Holarctic. The holotype was collected by D. M. Bates at Thomazeau, Haiti, in 1934 and is preserved at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. When Ernest L. Bell and William P. Comstock were revising Antillean hesperiids at the American Museum of Natural History, Nabokov sent them the male of an as yet undescribed species for analysis. They reciprocated by giving it his name: ”This species is named for Mr. V. Nabokov of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy.” (Ernest L. Bell / William P. Comstock: ”A new genus and some new species and subspecies of American Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera, Rhopalocera),” American Museum Novitates (New York), no. 1379, Jun 28, 1948, p. 19–23.

Lycáeides ídas nabokóvi MASTERS 1972 [Lycáenidae]; ‘Nabokov’s Blue2’: a subspecies of Lycaeides idas LINNAEUS. Its ”god-father” is John H. Masters who wrote: ”I take pleasure in naming it in honor of Dr. Nabokov, who first recognized its distinctness and whose papers on Nearctic Lycaeides (1943, 1944, 1949) have provided a background to make this description possible” (Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society [New Haven, Connecticut], 26, 1972, p. 151–153). The holotype was taken in Minnesota and is preserved at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Nabokóvia HEMMING 1960 [Lycáenidae]: The British entomologist and eminent taxonomist Francis Hemming (1893–1964) who from from 1937 to 1958 served as Secretary to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature noticed that Nabokov’s new generic name Pseudothécla (see in Section 2.1 of this Guide) had been used in 1910, by Strand, for another insect and thus was inadmissible. He reported: ”When in the course of my work on the families and genera of butterflies, I observed that the Plebejid genus Pseudothecla was without a valid name, I drew Dr. Nabokov’s attention to the matter in accordance with the precepts of the Code of Ethics enjoined by the Ninth International Congress of Zoology, Monaco, 1913 and suggested that he should replace this name as soon as he conveniently could do so. In a reply (dated 14th July 1959), Dr. Nabokov invited me to provide this genus with a valid name, and I agreed to do so. I accordingly now establish the following new genus LYCAENIDAE required: Nabokovia gen.nov. … I have much pleasure in naming this genus for Dr. V. Nabokov who has done so much to increase our knowledge of the Sub-Family Plebejinae.” (”Establishment of the genus ‘Nabokovia’ gen.nov. [Lycaenidae],” Annotationes lepidopterologicae, Part 2, London [Hepburn & Sons] Nov 25, 1960.) So far two species are known: fága DOGNIN in Ecuador and chilénsis BLANCHARD in Chile.

Nabokovina: an infratribe of South American polyommatines designated by Bálint and Johnson in 1995 (see in Section 1 of this Guide, Lycaenidae). It is comprised of the genera Echinárgus NABOKOV 1945, Nabokóvia HEMMING 1960 and Eldoradína BALLETTO 1993.



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