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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.