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Black History Month: C. H. Turner Asks The Bugs What They Like

Posted by SpringStar Service on

Dr. Charles Henry Turner was the first Black American to earn a PhD in zoology (1907, University of Chicago), and a pioneer in insect behavioral neuroscience. He was also a tireless advocate for education as a means to resolve racial disparity in the post-Reconstruction American South and held a variety of teaching positions and professorships, while still finding time for his research.


Honey Bee Pattern Testing"Artifacts" Turner used to demonstrate honey bee learning. Turner placed them in the field, with honey in only one pattern, for a few days. He then moved them to a new spot in the same field, with honey in all. In the new location, bees only visited the pattern they learned to associate with honey. (Both images: Turner 1911)

Dr. Turner performed groundbreaking research on insects’ responses to stimuli, demonstrating that ants learn through experience, and that bees perceive differences in both color and patterns.   He also ran behavioral choice assays to determine insects’ preferences, a type of experiment still in use today. In fact, here at SpringStar, we develop our products using these assays to make our traps as effective as possible, like the BioCare Yellowjacket and Wasp Trap, which catches 9 times more than other brands!

Written by Alyssa Branca

Further reading:
• Brief biography:
• Selected publications through the University of Chicago Press (results for Author: C. H. Turner)
• One of Turner’s essays on education, written in 1901, is available for free at Project Gutenberg in Twentieth Century Negro Literature edited by Daniel Wallace Culp (pages 162-166).

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