Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Correspondence
Published: 2021-05-19
Page range: 191–192
Abstract views: 98
PDF downloaded: 59

A case of two spellings for Humboldt’s blue-winged mosquito (Diptera: Culicidae)

Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, UK.
J. Linsley Gressitt Center for Entomological Research, Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96817, USA.


While adding taxon names to the Systema Dipterorum database (Evenhuis & Pape 2021), one of us (NLE) discovered that Humboldt (1819) had spelled the proposed name of a nominal mosquito species in two ways. He described the species, which was found in swampy places along the Magdalena River near Tenerife, Colombia, as Culex cyanopennis on page 340 and afterwards referred to it as Culex cyanopterus on pages 345 and 349. Both names have the same meaning: cyano- (Gr. kyanos, dark blue), pennis (L. penna, feather, wing) and pteron (Gr. feather, wing). The species was named for the perceived color of the wings: “Alæ cæruleæ, splendore semi-metallico…” (wings blue, a bright semi-metallic). On page 345, Humboldt states, translated from the French: “We have been informed in the Rio de la Magdalena that in Simitì no other Culex than the jejen [je·jén: Sp., gnat, mosquito] was known in the past. You can spend the night there quietly, because the jejen is not a nocturnal insect. Since the year 1801, the big blue-winged mosquito (Culex cyanopterus) has shown itself in such abundance that the poor inhabitants of Simitì do not know how to get a peaceful sleep.” Thus, in addition to having the same meaning, the two names are associated with the same locality.



  1. Anonymous (1822) Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte der Mosquitos. Notizen aus dem Gebiete der Natur- und Heilkunde, 3 (51), 99–103.

    Dyar, H.G. (1928) The mosquitoes of the Americas. Publication No. 387. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., 616 pp.

    Edwards, F.W. (1932) Genera Insectorum. Diptera, Fam. Culicidae. Fascicle 194. V. Verteneuil & L. Desmet, Bruxelles [Brussels], 258 pp., 5 pls.

    Evenhuis, N.L. & Pape, T. (Eds.) (2021) Systema Dipterorum. Version 3.0. Available from: (accessed 6 April 2021).

    Fabricius, J.C. (1794) Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta. Secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, adjectis synonimis, locis, observationibus, descriptionibus. Tome IV. C.G. Proft, fil. & soc., Hafniae [Copenhagen], [vi] + 472 + [5] pp.

    International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (1999) International code of zoological nomenclature. 4th edition. International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, London, xxix + 306 pp.

    Harbach, R.E. (2018) Culicipedia: Species-group, genus-group and family-group names in Culicidae (Diptera). CABI, Wallingford, xviii + 378 pp.

    Humboldt, F.H.A. von (1819) Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, fait en 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804 par Al. de Humboldt et A. Bonpland; rédigé par Alexandre de Humboldt. Avec deux atlas, qui renferment, l’un les vues des cordillères et les monumens des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique, et l’autre des cartes géographiques et physiques. Tome Second. In: Humboldt, F.H.A. (Ed.), Voyage de Humboldt et Bonpland. Première Partie. Relation historique, Paris, pp. 1–722.

    Knight, K.L. & Stone, A. (1977) A catalog of the mosquitoes of the world (Diptera: Culicidae). The Thomas Say Foundation. Volume VI. 2nd Edition. Entomological Society of America, College Park, Maryland, xi + 611 pp.

    Stone, A., Knight, K.L. & Starcke, H. (1959) A synoptic catalog of the mosquitoes of the world (Diptera, Culicidae). The Thomas Say Foundation. Volume VI. Entomological Society of America, College Park, Maryland, vi + 358 pp.

    Theobald, F.V. (1905) Genera Insectorum. Diptera, Fam. Culicidae. Fascicle 26. P. Wytsman, Bruxelles [Brussels], 50 pp., 2 pls.

    Wilkerson, R.C., Linton, Y.-M. & Strickman, D. (2021) Mosquitoes of the world. Vols. 1 & 2. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1332 pp.