Last summer, we briefly reported that Bob Jeanne ’64 was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and that a Brazilian ant was named for him. Well, we just had to learn more, so we tracked him down at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, where he is an entomology professor. Jeanne said he discovered the new ant species while studying wasps. He placed wasp larvae in five locations between New Hampshire and Santarem, Brazil to learn why tropical wasps need better defenses against ants than North American species. He found out.
Legions of hungry Brazilian ants descended upon the larvae in a fraction of the time of their New England counterparts. Many previously unknown Brazilian ant species of the genus Pheidole came to feast. Jeanne submitted findings about wasps to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, his doctoral alma mater,. “Then I had all those ants,” he said, so he included samples of the species in his report, which was reviewed by the legendary entomologist Edward O. Wilson, who was Jeanne’s Ph.D. adviser. Wilson named one of the newly discovered species—shrouded in thin yellow “hair” and sporting the large head common to the genus’ major workers—“Pheidole jeannei Wilson” for Jeanne. “You can never name a species after yourself,” explained Jeanne, who was deeply honored by his mentor’s recognition.