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History:


The geographical location and climate of what we call Louisiana today have had a long term association with mosquitoes - even long before it was inhabited by native Americans.  Initial efforts to develop organized plans for the control of mosquito populations are comparatively new - beginning prior to the 1900s, e.g., mosquito control during the construction of the Panama Canal and the confirmation that mosquitoes were vectors of malaria and yellow fever.  In modern times, however, we have come to realize how mosquitoes have adversely impacted the health and well being of humans, livestock, and wildlife.  It is important to look back at our past and learn from our mistakes in order to gain a better perspective on where this profession and the LMCA are headed.

Mosquito borne diseases played a big part in the early development of mosquito control in Louisiana.  In 1803, the State Board of Health was formed in New Orleans due mainly to yellow fever epidemics.  This organization is the nation's oldest state health agency.  The last significant epidemic of yellow fever within the continental U.S. occurred in Louisiana during 1905.

In the early 1900's, malaria also had a strong foothold in the southeastern states, and Louisiana was no exception.  T.E. McNeel did extensive mosquito work in Louisiana during the 1920's and co-authored the 1939 publication The Mosquitoes of the Southeastern States with W. V. King and G. H. Bradley (King et al. 1939).  According to McNeel, Madison Parish had the highest per capita purchase rate of 11 malarial cures (quinine and chill tonic) of any parish or county in the entire country.

Other reliable accounts testified to the severe economic impact that malaria had on agriculture.  Absenteeism due to malaria among agricultural workers caused upwards of 20% loss of cotton from being left in the fields.  The local sawmill had to hire almost two men for every job to sustain operation.  The epidemic and its economic impact prompted the Bureau of Entomology of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a research laboratory at Mound, Louisiana, in 1913.  The laboratory was located on a plantation jointly owned by Col. F. L. Maxwell and George S. Yerger.  Dr. P. Yerger, the resident physician, also assisted with activities of the laboratory.  Laboratory personnel studied mosquito biology and ecology and developed control tactics relating to Anopheles quadrimaculatus Say, the known malaria vector.  The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation joined in the study.  Results from blood samples indicated that 80% of the farm workers tested positive for malarial infections.

Modern mosquito control in Louisiana is mainly the result of the hard work of two men, Dr. E. S. Hathaway and Mr. A. B. Ritter.

Edward HathawayEdward Sturtevant Hathaway was born in Maryville, Tennessee, on October 17, 1886, to William Evans Hathaway (a homeopathic physician) and Martha Ashley Hathaway.  He was a descendent of Mayflower pilgrims, including a governor of the Plymouth colony.  Interestingly, the French and English basis of his middle name, "Sturtevant," is loosely translated as "going forth with enthusiasm," which was characteristic of his personality and energetic work habit.

His family moved to Ohio, where he graduated from Woodward High School in Cincinnati and attended the University of Cincinnati, receiving an A. B. degree in 1909 majoring in the classics and sciences.  Following graduation, academic vacancies in colleges were scarce.  However, interim employment as an intrepid salesman of aluminum cookware helped meet living expenses.  His experience as a salesman would pay subsequent dividends in years to come when he served as a fund raiser for research projects in the fledgling Louisiana Mosquito Control Association (LMCA).

He did secure a natural science professorship at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee, in 1911.  Hathaway took a leave of absence from Tusculum in 1917 and was commissioned in the infantry of the U. S. Army.  During W. W. I, he was promoted to the rank of captain.  After serving two years in the military, he returned to Tusculum in 1919 to resume his teaching duties.

Continuing his postgraduate studies on a part time basis at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), Hathaway obtained the M.S. degree in 1921, specializing in field zoology.  Later he received a teaching fellowship at the University of Wisconsin to continue toward the Ph.D. in zoology, which he earned in 1925 focusing on ichthyology and herpetology.

Dr. Hathaway was hired in 1925 as an associate professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Within two years he was promoted to departmental chairman and later was named to the W. R. Irby Chair in the Zoology Department.  He was promoted again in 1947 to the Director of the Division of Biological Sciences at Tulane.  He taught several demanding courses to pre-medical and other pre-professional students, including a mosquito biology and taxonomy course.

His obituary from the Mosquito News can be seen here.

A. B RitterAnderson Basil Ritter was born in 1904 in Aberdeen, Mississippi, but his family moved to Durant, located in central Mississippi, where he was reared and finished high school.  At the age of 27 he graduated from Mississippi State University (MSU) in 1931 with a bachelor of science in bacteriology and chemistry.

Following graduation, he worked at several jobs, primarily with the U.S. Geodetic Survey.  In 1935, he joined the U.S. Corps of Engineers located in New Orleans, where he met his future wife, Melba Platzer.  They were married in 1938, and he continued to work for the Corps until he decided to go back to school at Tulane.  He received a bachelor of engineering (civil engineering) in 1946 and a master of science in public health from Tulane in 1953.

Although Ritter and Hathaway were to develop a fraternal friendship, they were unlike in physical stature, formal educational background, and personality.  Ritter was tall at 6'2" when compared with 5'5" Hathaway.  Dr. E. S. Hathaway and Mr. A. B. Ritter merged in a common goal and developed an unselfish, professional camaraderie, and a unity of purpose in combating "les maringouins du meche," the mosquitoes of the marsh, notably Aedes sollicitans (Walker).  It took stubborn persistence and hard work to educate governmental officials and Louisiana citizens to understand that mosquitoes could be controlled based on scientific understanding of mosquito bionomics, involvement of trained personnel, and availability of sufficient funds.

Between 1931-44, Hathaway devoted a considerable effort to studying the ecology of marshland plant communities and mosquito species.  However, by the 1940's, national priorities were being directed toward Aedes aegypti (L.), known as the yellow fever mosquito, and Anopheles quadrimaculatus (Say), known as the malaria mosquito.  MCWA began in late 1941 and lasted until 1944.  The Extended Malarial Control Program was initiated and remained in effect from 1945-46 with primary responsibilities of residual adulticide spraying and larviciding.  From 1947 until 1954 the Malarial Eradication Program was in force with larviciding activities being focused in the communities along with residual spraying in rural areas.  These programs were cooperative efforts between the various southern states and the USPHS.  The MCWA program was the genesis of the federal government agency responsible for public health (formerly called the Communicable Disease Center but currently known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and hereafter referred to as CDC).

Dr. Hathaway retired as an emeritus professor from Tulane in 1952 after 27 years of teaching and research only to take up a second career - establishing organized mosquito control programs in Louisiana in collaboration with A. B. Ritter.

Several years prior to his retirement, a series of events initiated by angry citizens began to demonstrate a grassroots support for mosquito control.  In the mid- 1940's, the employees of Freeport Sulphur Company in Plaquemines Parish (a coastal southeastern parish) were expressing their discomfort caused by marsh mosquitoes.  The company's management contracted with Hathaway to conduct a survey of mosquito larval habitats in and around Port Sulphur, Louisiana.  Assisted by Fred Andrews, a Tulane University student, Hathaway identified mosquitoes, described their larval habitats, and pointed out that the problem was not confined to the Port Sulphur area.  He advised that the parish government, assisted by Freeport McMoran, Inc. (formerly known as Freeport Sulphur Company), begin efforts to resolve the problem.  Fred Deiler, the company's biologist, would later assist Hathaway in resolving the salt marsh mosquito problem.

Mr. A. B. Ritter, through his increased job responsibilities with the Louisiana Department of Health, became involved with mosquito control activities, coupled with his association with the State Public Health Entomologist E. B. Johnson.  Johnson was a Department of Health supervisor located at Monroe (Ouachita Parish).

In 1953, angry citizens of Orleans Parish met with Mayor Delesseps S. Morrison and complained about the ferocious marsh mosquitoes in their neighborhoods.  They demanded that the nearby marshes and swamps be sprayed with DDT.  That year the "Little Woods" swamp next to New Orleans East was sprayed by helicopter for mosquitoes; however, the effort was not successful. Another large population of marsh mosquitoes infested the New Orleans area again in 1955 causing Mayor Morrison to form the Metropolitan Mosquito Control Commission (MMCC) composed of interested citizens and mosquito control experts.

MMCC realized soon that individual parishes could not meet the mosquito control needs of the state and subsequently appointed a steering committee to establish a statewide organization.  Ritter was appointed as chairman, and the City of New Orleans supplied the steering committee with office space, clerical help, and publication capabilities in lieu of money.  Other parishes donated support funds.  On December 2, 1957, the Louisiana Mosquito Control Association was incorporated in Pleasant Hall on the Baton Rouge campus of Louisiana State University.  The dues were set T $5.00 per member and remained so for 30 years.

Ritter wanted an enabling legislative act for Louisiana that permitted parishes to set up their own tax to support mosquito control districts.  For advice he contacted Roy Hayes, who co-authored an enabling act for mosquito control in Arkansas.  Ritter prepared and promoted the initial draft of the document.  The Louisiana Legislature subsequently passed the bill and placed it on the 1958 ballot.  It passed statewide elections by a favorable 52% vote (94% approval in Plaquemines Parish, 60% approval in Orleans Parish).  However, it would be another six years before any parish actually implemented and organized mosquito control district.

Prior to the inception of the pilot experiments in 1961 until their completion in 1967, Hathaway and Ritter sought the advice and assistance of mosquito control experts across the country: New Jersey, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Utah, and California.  In fact, Dr. A.J. Rogers and James S. Haeger of the Entomology Research Center in Vero Beach, Florida, and Dr. Thomas F. Hall, Jr., of the Tennessee Valley Authority at Wilson Dam, Alabama, actively participated in the establishment of the pilot experiments.  Hathaway and these men, also including other LMCA representatives, made a two-week tour of the coastal parishes to study and select research sites. 

Regional field stations were established along southern Louisiana, and supervisory personnel were hired by Hathaway to monitor the field experiments.  The New Orleans field station was administered by Charles H. Anderson.  The office in Lafayette was housed in facilities at the University Of Southwestern Louisiana and jointly supervised by A. G. Owens, Jr. and Sam S. Riche.  In Lake Charles, the office was located on the campus of McNeese State College and was directed by Wayne Harris and later by Norman Thompson.

By 1964, Hathaway's and Ritter's "anti-mosquito war" and the LMCA were seven years old.  The primary goal had been to educate and convince Louisiana citizens that mosquito control was possible.  With that goal seemingly accomplished, Hathaway now declared that the second phase of the program would begin in 1965.  He outlined the plan in his paper titled "Mosquito Control and Wildlife Problems in Louisiana" at the First Annual Conference on Mosquito Suppression and Wildlife Management in Lafayette, Louisiana (Hathaway 1964).  This phase attempted to cut the cost of a district operation so that the financially deprived parishes could not only participate but also develop economic stability.  He suggested that the landowners of marshlands produce valuable crops (e.g., rice, grasslands for cattle and food plants for water fowl), thereby reducing the nuisance mosquito populations.  It would require collaborative efforts from agriculture, wildlife and fisheries officials, and engineers (hydrologists), to include mosquito control specialists.  National authorities in agriculture, wildlife, and fisheries endorsed the plan. 

As the pilot experiments were getting underway in the early 1960's, mosquito control was about to reach a new plateau.  In 1963, Judge Leander Perez of Plaquemines Parish contracted with a local spray company to treat hordes of mosquitoes that were tormenting the parish citizens.  The first spraying was moderately successful, the second was a failure.  Judge Perez summoned County Agent Murphy McEachern and Fred Deiler.  Deiler contacted Hathaway again.  As the executive director of the LMCA, Hathaway made a crucial decision that was to provide the impetus for the start of organized mosquito control in Louisiana.  He recommended that E. John Beidler be hired by Plaquemines Parish as a consultant to make a thorough survey of the parish and recommend a control program.  At the time, Beidler was serving as the director of the Indian River Mosquito Control District in Vero Beach, Florida.  Beidler completed the study and submitted his report in November of 1963.  In April, 1964, Plaquemines Parish formed a district, the first in the state.  Robert E. Barnett of St. John's Mosquito Control District in St. Augustine, Florida, was hired as Plaquemines Parish first director. 

Orleans Parish also was in the process of developing an organized mosquito control program.  From the Chatham County (Georgia) Mosquito Control Commission, George T. Carmichael was hired in May, 1964, as the director in Orleans Parish.  Other parishes began to realize the benefits of professional mosquito control and were soon to establish their own districts.  Currently, Louisiana has 16 mosquito control district, the majority of which are located in the lower third of the state. 

Parish mosquito control districts in Louisiana and the years in which they were formed.

The experience that Hathaway gained in the early years of a fledgling state organization was important to surrounding states, particularly Texas mosquito control workers, who were struggling also to establish a state organization.  Years later in a historical paper given to the Texas Mosquito Control Association (TMCA), Dr. Don W. Micks I mentioned that the Gulf Coast Mosquito Control Association was founded in 1955, the forerunner of the TMCA organized in 1961.  But it was Hathaway in 1958 who gave "much dialogue and exchange of ideas to help with formation of TMCA."

Other early mosquito workers in Louisiana included Dr. George L. Beyer, a Tulane professor, who published numerous periodicals and a monograph on Louisiana mosquitoes and Dr. O. L. Pothier, a pathologist at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, who worked with Dr. Beyer.  An early contemporary of Hathaway and Ritter was Percy Viosca, Jr., Chief Biologist for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.  To control marshland mosquitoes, it was Viosca's philosophy to "keep the dry lands dry and the wet lands wet" (Viosca 1925)- an opinion he explained at the 12th Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association in 1925.  It was an opinion that Hathaway and Ritter were to share later in their careers.  Although Viosca made a considerable effort to study marsh mosquitoes and formulated suggestions to control them, it was almost 40 years later that his suggestions were verified by Hathaway and his associates with experimental field tests in the Louisiana marshes. 

In January 1964, William McDuffie, Chief of Insects Affecting Man and Animals Research Branch of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and other federal representatives visited Lake Charles to assess the feasibility of establishing a federal laboratory to conduct mosquito research.  The laboratory was approved, and Dr. H. C. Chapman was transferred from Fresno, California, to direct the USDA program in mid 1964.  Both Hathaway and Ritter fully supported the establishment of the facility.

Early in 1968, Ritter died following a brief illness.  He had served jointly in the Louisiana Department of Health as the director of the Division of Engineering and the chief of the Insect Vector Control Section.  During the latter stages of his career, broader duties and encumbered health caused him to relinquish direct responsibilities for insect vector and rodent control to Roy Hayes, who was on loan from USPHS.  According to Hayes, Ritter exemplified the "bioneer"- judicious use of biological and engineering disciplines in vector control.  Ritter had served as the project director for the Louisiana Aedes aegypti Eradication Program, president of the LMCA, and vice chairman of the Public Health Vector Control Conference.

One day while sitting in Jung's office, Hathaway confessed quite earnestly that it was getting more difficult for him to hop from one clump of marsh grass to another, and he was wondering if the LMCA would think he was shirking his duties if he quit the field work- Dr. Hathaway we in his mid-80's at the time.  By 1969, the pilot experiments has been completed, and the field offices at Lafayette and Lake Charles were closed.

The year 1970 was a very eventful period for Hathaway and the LMCA.  Hathaway resigned as LMCA executive director on March 11th after nine productive years (1961-1970) but remained for another year as a LMCA consultant at the request of the Board.  On June 30th, the LMCA dissolved itself as a research entity but retained its commitment of disseminating scientific research data, educational information, and operational techniques to its members and other professional colleagues, governmental agencies, and interested citizens through annual meetings, workshops, newsletters, etc.  The original newsletter, Le Maringouin (The Mosquito),began in 1970 but lasted only two tears due to lack of funds.  However, the newsletter was revived in June 1979 under the title LMCA Newsletter with Hayes as the editor.  In 1990, the original name Le Maringouin was reinstated to the newsletter title.  Currently, it is distributed to LMCA members in numerous states.    

The Technical Advisory Committee of the LMCA was established also in 1970 and is still active today.  Its primary objective is to advise city and parish governmental officials about professional mosquito control practices and the merits of organized programs within their jurisdictions.  However, aside from establishing organized mosquito control districts in Louisiana, it is the educational nature of the LMCA annual meetings, workshops, newsletters, and other communications that encompasses the very heart of what Hathaway and Ritter wanted for LMCA. 

Following the death of his wife in 1978 and his encumbered health, Dr. Hathaway moved into a nursing home in Denton, Texas, to be near his daughter and her family.  It was there that he died eight years later.

The LMCA Board established in 1983 the Hathaway-Ritter Distinguished Achievement Award in honor of these two men.  It is a non-annual award given to those persons who have made significant contributions to mosquito control in Louisiana.  The first award was given to Dr. H. C. Chapman in 1984.  Other recipients of this award have made significant contributions during their careers dating back to the 1940's.

As a fitting tribute also, Tulane University established in 1985 a Hathaway Memorial Lecture Series.  A distinguished authority on mosquito bionomics and mosquito management strategies is selected annually to present a formal lecture to the faculty, students, mosquito specialists, and other interested persons.  The first lecture titled "Mosquitoes and Their Niches" was given in March, 1985, by Dr. Lewis T. Nielsen (Department of Biology, University of Utah).

In summary, the distinguished legacy of Hathaway and Ritter has been told, and the spirit of their commitment will remain with us.  Their tireless work and outstanding contributions to the educational aspects of our profession and organized mosquito control in general are deeply appreciated and we shall not forget.

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