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text E. Charles Prather: Good afternoon. Mrs. Elisabeth Beck, a longtime associate with the entomology activities of theof Florida. Most of that career was with the Florida State Board of Health and its subsequent organizedorganizations that Ill refer to as the Department of Health, but a very long time employee involved with the bugs of importance to the publics health. And miss Beck its truly a pleasure and a compliment to have you willing to come and share your very fruitful and fun and exciting, from our point of view, history with the public health bugs of Florida. And we thank you for coming. How did you ever get interested in bugs?
Elisabeth Beck: Well, I started out interested in it when I was in school, I was interested in going into medicine.
EB: But I ran out of money like a lot of people.
CP: I understand.
EB: And when I left school, Dr. Boyd at the Malaria RockefellerMalaria Research Station in Tallahassee asked Dr. Davini to help him find a technician, so she got in touch with me and I went to work at the Malaria Research Station.
CP: At the, what is now is the campus of FSU (Florida State University).
EB: Right, it was FSCW [Florida State College for Women] then.
CP: FSCW; my favorite place, by the way, because thats where all the women were.
EB: Well, yes, everybody liked it at that time. Everybody male anyway. (EB laughs) But it was a very, very interesting place to work and Dr. Boyd was a tremendous person and I started outwell first of all Id learned to identify the various malarial parasites.
EB: Andand they had something going on now, that now a days would sound kind ofto put it mildly, primitive, but at that time they were using malaria to try to cut down on the syphilis impact on the brain of patients at Chattahoochee (Florida State Hospital). And we wouldthere was an insectary and we would infect mosquitoesthey would infect the mosquitoes with malaria from one of the patients there and bring them back over, and we would keep them until the malarial parasites matured. And then they would take them back and feed them on a patient who had syphilis that was affecting the brain. And the high fever would tend to kill off the malaria.
CP: And saw off the syphilis bug.
EB: I mean, excuse me, yes, the syphilis and I never did get to go over to theto theto Chattahoochee to see them do this and Im sorry I didnt, but anyway my part in it was at first identifying the blood smears of malaria and later dissecting out the salivary glands and the stomachs of mosquitoes, looking to see how mature the parasites were.
CP: Oh, boy.
EB: And while I was working there, this was right at the beginning of World War II, and the government decided that they needed to train some people in malaria control or we were never going to win the war. And they would bring in various offices from all over the country, and all of the military units, and bring them to Jacksonville; and the people in Jacksonville would talk with them about controlling mosquitoes and give them the background information.
And then they would bring them over to Tallahassee; and we would show them malarial slides, and show them how to dissect, and how to read the slides, and Dr. Mulrennan, John Mulrennan, would come over with them, and he would teach them mosquito identification.
And I sat in on one of the classes where they were teaching mosquito identification; and then, after that, they would take the group on over to Tallahassee andI mean over to Pensacola, to see them actually doing ditching and so forth, so they would know what to do when they got out in the field. It was interesting because a number of different groups of people came through.
And my husband Bill was out in the Pacific at the time, and he kept running into people who had recently seen me, and he hadnt seen me for a year (CP and EB laugh), and he wasnt too happy with that. But anyway, that was my work over there; and it was because I learned identification there that after I came back to Jacksonville, Dr. Mulrennan called me and asked me if I would be interested in coming to work at the State Board of Health forfor the Bureau of Mosquito Control.
EB: And thats how I got into that part of it.
CP: Can I ask you what year you came?
EB: Forty-four, I think. The first time I came to work here, the federal government, the U.S. Public Health Service, had a program called Malaria Control in War Areas.
CP: Yes, yes.
EB: And this was a program, where they would go to the various military instillations, map out a radius of one mile from around the station; and then they would do anopheline mosquito control andand also surveillance to try and be sure that none of the military bases got malaria. And I worked in that for a while, you know, helping them with the maps and doing the mosquitoes and stuff; and then I think it was about 41 or 43 that thethat the Bureau of Etymology was set up.
EB: And after this program was over, I just went into the lab there, doing mosquito identification with the bureau. And we were running light traps all over the state to determine what the populations were and what the different species were in the state. At one time, it was very neat; we had sixty five-species in sixty-five counties in Florida, but unfortunately, they were not distributed one to a county (CP laughs).
By now, there have been several new mosquitoes that have been added on to that; and in those first few years, we were of course interested in mosquitoes because of malaria. By that time, dengue and yellow fever has ceased to be a problem, but we did have malaria right up until 1948.
EB: Before 1948about 45 and 46, the bureau was involved in a program to spray unscreened houses in the state. And they had some twenty-eight counties in central and west Florida that had high malaria. And they went in anywhere where there was an unscreened house, they would spray it with five percent DDT. And while DDT may have its drawbacks, it certainly did a phenomenal job with taking care of the malaria problem.
CP: It stopped malaria in Florida.
EB: Another thing it helped out in was there was a little program on typhus which I believe sanitary engineering which malaria was a part ofI mean the mosquito control was a part of at that time. They were working trying to get rid of endemic typhus.
And they would do rat proofing. It was the main thrust of it, but they also they went through and DDTd the rat runs to try and cut down on the number of active parasites; because at that time, when they checked the blood from these rats, they found that eight out of ten of them were carrying murine typhus.
EB: It was that high.
CP: Oh, man. Can you remember the geographic distribution? Was there a few counties that were outstanding?
EB: Most of the county, and I really dont remember the geographic distribution of the disease.
CP: Thats okay.
EB: But most of the counties that had a problem were in central to west Florida, like Gainesville, like Alachua, Marion and then on up toward the western panhandle.
CP: Okay, not much in the south?
EB: Not much in South Florida.
CP: All right, all right.
EB: Although they did do an extensive rat control program in Tampa because they, I dont know if it was because of the typhus or not, but they did have such a problem with rats; you know, the port area.
CP: (laughs) Yes, yes, yes.
EB: And the mosquito controlthe Florida Mosquito Control Association, which, at that time was called Florida Anti-Mosquito [Association], was formed in 1922 and about 25, the people in Indian River County formed the first district in the state.
CP: Ah, Mosquito Control District.
CP: Yes, yes.
EB: At that time, Mosquito Control District was strictly a self-taxing district. And it was not until several laws later, all of which, incidentally, Dr. John Mulrennan managed to get through the legislature.
EB: It was not until about 53 that the state started providing some matching funds for mosquito control.
CP: What was your involvement with these early mosquito control efforts? Still identifying mosquitoes?
EB: Most ofmost of my work had been in identifying mosquitoes, yes, and when we had, well later when SLE [Saint Louis Encephalitis] came up, of course, I was involved to some extent in working with other bureaus to, you know, to try to see what we could do with that.
CP: I remember you separating the live mosquitoes on a frozen plate of those that are likely to have the Saint Louis [encephalitis virus] from those that werent likely. I remember you doing that.
EB: Right. Most of the districtsa lot of the districts, in particular those in South Florida, would ship in live mosquitoes packed in dry ice.
EB: And then wed work on a cold table and separate out mostly Niagara palpus after they discovered that was a primary vector during the epidemic mainly in the Tampa Bay area. And then of course once we separated them out and froze them we gave them to the virology lab to check out. The mosquito districts also, most of them had ran sentinel chicken flocks and drew blood and had that checked to see whether or not it was
CP: From the chickens?
EB: Whether incidentally it was circulating or not in that area.
CP: And they still do that I think. They still keep chickens there.
EB: I think there are a few of them still doing that, yes.
CP: I know in my homein my home they still talk about the chicken flocks; and they still quote the data from their chicken flocks, which has already begun in Tallahassee for this year.
CP: The media still follows that, Whats your rate of positive on your chickens? (CP and EB laugh)
EB: Yes, I remember well (both CP and EB laugh). One other program that ran somewhere and then I dont remember the years, the U.S. Public Health Service was sponsoring a program throughout a good bit of the South to try to eliminate Aedes aegypti.
CP: Oh, yes.
EB: And while most of the fieldwork was done by public health people, we did a lot of the identification work in the laboratory. Needless to say, it was not successful. You dont eliminate
CP: Apparently not.
EB: anything very well, although at the present time, the Asian Tiger Mosquito seems to be moving into the territory pretty much that Aedes aegypti has always occupied.
CP: Will they replace the Aedes because of lack of habitat?
EB: They dont really replace, but they seem to be much more numerous; and theyre great deal more of a nuisance to people than the Aedes are because they bite.
CP: Yeah, theyve gotten better. Yes, we can thank Jacksonville for that. They came in via the Jacksonville port, the Aedes aegypti did. Probably not the Aedes aegypti, the Tiger Mosquito. And we have them in Tallahassee now too, for your interest.
EB. Well, I think theyre pretty well spread around the Southeast now.
CP: Im recalling a massive campaign in Tampa in the late 50s, early 60s called Fight the Bite that you were involved with. Do you recall any of that?
EB: I dont remember much about it unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be. My involvement with these programs usually was a matter of staying in the lab and taking care of mosquito identification. At least, back in the early days.
CP: Yeah, you didnt get out of there. That was athat was a massive public education campaign aimed at eradicating Aedes aegypti; and Dr. John Neil was the health officer, and his outfit helped educatecoined the phrase fight the bite, and it was massive. The public health service got very involved, and it was a very large funded, large funded activity from the public health service point of view was experimental and they wanted to see what could happen. And let me tell you, very little happened.
EB: Its unfortunate but thats often the case.
CP: A three year campaign, yeah, and a year later, the Aedes aegypti counts were officially what they were before the campaign started.
EB: Unfortunately, any campaign that depends on a lot of individuals gettin out and doing something is doomed to failure, usually. Sad but true.
CP: But I remember that one. Im sure you were involved with it, but I dont ever recall you being in Tampa.
EB: No, I was not in that area
CP: Tampa, because we werent doing much with the mosquitoes, we was trying to kill em. Or they were trying to kill them, I was just interested in the program because it was a researcha research activity from a public health service point of view. You know and they kept up with it, and kept up with the folks down there. Birk was the health educators name, I just thought of that.
Miss Birk, yeah, a very dynamic, almost Mrs. Katherine Reed ilk, was Ms. Birk was in the sense of enthusiasm, but not size. (CP laughs) So, your career has been mosquitoes, as your lapel pin shows, but I also remember me and Dr. Mulrennan going to Volusia County outside of Deland, once upon a time. Me and he did, and walked through the woods, collecting ticks. And we brought those ticks back to you to identify.
EB: Right, I really never got terribly good at ticks. We had Dole Taylor was the person that worked mainly with ticks, and in fact, did a key to the ticks of Florida.
CP: Yes, he did. Now, good. Keep talking, because theres a lot of firsts around John Mulrennans attention to ticks. You know, the very notable from your entomology point of view was the discovery of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Volusia County of a case there that our labs diagnosed after the fact. And it was that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever had never been seen in the Southeast at all, you know. And that was the basis for me and Dr. Mulrennans going to Volusia. And it was Dr. Mulrennan himself and me went outside of Deland and got ticks.
EB: And did you drag claws through the woods?
CP: Yeah, dragged Kroger sacksKroger sacks through the woods and over the low-lying bushes and we, man, we got gallons of ticks. (CP laughs)
EB: I learned something incredible the other day, at least it surprised me greatly, at reading one of Archie Karns books and he says that, Spanish Moss does not ever have red bugs or ticks in it.
CP: Hanging in the trees.
EB: In the trees.
CP: I believe that. Hanging in the trees.
EB: If it falls on the ground, though, thats another matter.
CP: Watch it. Watch it. Dont sit on the moss on the ground. I learned that as a Boy Scout, our scout master said if you want moss under your bed get it off the tree, otherwise. And I remember his taking black, scoutmasterour scoutmaster taking a piece of black oilcloth I guess, Im not sure what you call it, ladies covered their dining tables with it
EB: Thats oilcloth. It was then. Its plastic now.
CP: Yeah, okay, and the scoutmaster would take moss of the ground, and shake it over this plasticover this black cloth, you know.
EB: And see all these little creatures.
CP: And then wed get down a watch the little red dots run all over the place. Thats when I was a boy scout too, and thats been a long time ago, Beth. But you werent involved with that.
CP: With that sort of stuff, not very much.
EB: No I did get off a little bit when we were doing the typhus thing identifying
EB: Lice and fleas but itthey gave me a quick course in it, and it there were a lot of things that Im sure enough different, there should have been something, else but anyway.
CP: Do you recall the eradicate the rat campaign in Jacksonville in about 72, 71, 73 that Governor Claude Kirk was so excited about? And he would come by here about once a quarter and hold a meeting in the auditorium of the State Board of Health, gather in the city health department people and others and want an exact count of the numbers of rats killed since last time he was here. Do you remember that?
EB: No, (EB laughs) I didnt get to sit in on any of those.
CP: It got down to, it was kind of a fun meeting because he was tough on, we gotta do something about the rats in Jacksonville. But I remember his making a big joke over combing the rats. Probably Dr. Mulrennan said, The rats aint the problem. Rats aint the problem Governor. Its them fleas on the rats. So he wanted some combing, the Governor said, Lets comb some rats and lets see.
Because they were doing, they were poisoning the runs too to get rid of the actual parasites. Didnt have a problem with typhus in Jacksonville but the rat problem, apparently the city folk, Governor [Claude] Kirk went and sat in the poor sections of town and wanted to know their problem was.
EB: And they said the rats.
CP: And the rats, the rats were a problem, so he mounted a rat eradication program in Jacksonville, Governor Kirk did. It was probably Mr. Mulrennan who convinced the Governor that it wasnt the rats at all, oh, its the fleas that the rats, wellhe wanted to get some counts on fleas. Lets see if our flea eradication program is doing any good, so I want counts of fleas next time I come.
EB: Well, I remember there was a man by the name of Braswell who used to comb the rats and bring us, it was not my favorite job Ill tell you, hed bring us little jars full of alcohol or what, formaldehyde, or whatever, with all this rat hair in it and all these little fleas and ticks, and everything else, lice, all kinds of lice, and youd have to carefully tease all that stuff out and try to identify.
CP: And count em.
EB: And count it. Especially count the fleas for Dr. Kirk.
EB: For Governor Kirk.
CP: Im sure you were involved with that, then. That didnt go on very long, but it was kinda fun, kinda fun in a sense becausebecause everyone kind of stood at attention when Kirk came in. And he was serious about that rat eradication program. And he held firing authority over most of the folks that had responsibility. And he was a very dynamic person, all right.
EB: Ill tell you, mosquito control has changed. What they are doing to control mosquitoes has changed through the years when Ive been here because
CP: Tell me about that.
EB: When I first started, almost all the effort went toward ditching or filling.
CP: Drain and fill. Fill and drain.
EB: Right. In fact, the early programs in Florida were mostly done by the federal government, and they were mainly ditching projects; but down the east coast, their big problem was salt marsh mosquitoes, and they found out that if they could keep thethe salt marsh mosquitoes come in a lay their eggs on the soil, and then when they flood they hatch. And they found that if they could keep the areas where they normally lay their eggs flooded during that season, they wouldnt have as much of a problem, so most of the east coast of Florida has impoundments up and down it.
CP: Thats control of keeping the water there; on the west coast, its getting rid of the water.
EB: Right, well, they keep the water there, but they have culverts and outlets where they can let it go off again when they can. But, of course, that met with eventually with considerable opposition from environmental groups, understandably. And they set up ways to mitigate it. I mean that we could cover the water if we do so and so, you know. But anyway thatbut because and actually and changesenvironmental changes, became very difficult, there began to be more and more emphasis on the use of insecticides.
CP: Yes. Now theyre kind of taboo now.
EB: Well, yes, thats another problem. Everybody urged that we tried to find biological controls. And so then a number of biological controls of larvae were developed. Only trouble is they just quite wont do the job; and also they have found that some of them create ecological problems
CP: Problems of their own.
EB: With other insects too. And so, one big problem they are having right now is that there are only a very few companies making mosquito control insecticides.
CP: Oh, really? I didnt know that.
EB: And they will not put the money into research to find new products because the market is not big enough to justify it. So there are fewer and fewer new possibilities coming up. The only really helpful thing thats been developed in recent years is that theyve been able to use computers for things like plotting for larval control and that sort of thing.
CP: Get more exact on where they are?
EB: Right. And theyve used a good bit of fungusesvarious fungusesfungi, and bacteria and so forth to try and treat larvae and kill them off before they become adults.
CP: Does that look promising?
EB: It looks promising, except that sometimes the things that kill off mosquitoes larvae kill off other things too, then you have a problem there with somebody. (EB and CP laugh) So, its a constant battle; there is no question about it. People dont want the mosquitoes there, but they dont want the methods that we have to get rid of them, and they havent come up with anything better.
CP: They need to make a choice. I remember Dr. Mulrennan telling the legislature that we had to make a choice. We either have tourists orand no mosquitoes, and cant have both. We have got to control mosquitoes to have tourists or we dont control mosquitoes, we wont have tourists. Yeah, so its a choice. Use pesticides or dont have tourists.
EB: That was always his best argument; I mean he had this wonderful graph that showed relationship ofa very neat relationship between the reduction in mosquitoes and the increase in tourism dollars. You can sell that to the legislature.
CP: Yep, and he did for many years. Yes, he did. He was so good. Im sure it was fun to work with him.
EB: It was; and the most wonderful thing about him was hed give you a job to do, and leave you alone, and assume you had enough sense to do it.
CP: That is so desirable, isnt it?
EB: It is. Its wonderful. He was also very, very helpful to me personally. I did not finish my basic college when I was over there, because I ran out of money, and went Bill went back to college he let me take my work to Tallahassee. I mean, they sent me identification things over there, mosquitoes to identify and they made me a place in the county health unit to work, and he told me to go to class when I needed to, and do the mosquitoes when I could.
EB: And, of course, it wasnt officially approved.
CP: Oh, well, you got your degree and you identified the mosquitoes?
EB: I got my degree. Right. It all got done; it just wasnt done by the book.
CP: Did you get your degree in entomology?
EB: No, I got my degree in biology.
CP: It was in biology, okay.
EB: FSCW did not offer up a degree in entomology.
CP: Well, thats not a job for girls.
EB: Well, no, not supposedly. One sideline I did get off on was working with the taxonomy mainly of sandflies.
CP: Oh, yes, we had a major sand fly research place over in west Florida, didnt we?
EB: Yes, we did. It was set up for that purpose originally; its just a general lab now.
CP: Speak to that. Wed be very interested in that story.
EB: Well, through Dr. Mulrennans efforts, there were three different labs set up in the state. One of them was the west Florida lab, which was going to work, to some extent at any rate, on dog flies, and it was going to work on the insecticide testing side of things in order to get the insecticides away from the Vero Beach lab, which had been set up earlier.
Because the Vero Beach lab was set up for pure research, and they really didnt want insecticides around their animals they were working with.
CP: (CP laughs) I can understand that.
EB: The third lab that we set was a lab down in Winter Haven, which was to study blind mosquitoes, which were an enormous problem at that time. Blind mosquitoes, of course, are midges and not mosquitoes at all, and they dont bite but they would just come off of the lakes
CP: Get in your eyes.
EB: in such enormous numbers, and in your barbeque, (EB laughs) which is even worse.
CP: And in your barbeque yes, Ive experienced those.
EB: And they would gather around houses that had been painted, and just absolutely ruin them. So, they did work for a number of years down there on trying to control blind mosquitoes, and, you know, I dont know exactly why theyre not having the same problem with them now, because we never did solve the problem. (CP and EB Laugh) All things take care of themselves in time, I guess.
CP: Yeah. That would be athats a fun question: If the populations are down, why?
EB: Well, it may have something to do with the change in lake bottoms down there; I dont really know. The blind mosquitoes bred primarily in the mucky areas of the lakes. I dont know if they changed to any extent or not. Maybe the lakes are so polluted the midges cant live. I dont know.
CP: Thats fascinating. I havent traveled in those parts much, but back when I did travel in those parts, those blind mosquitoes, during the season when they are up, they were terrible.
EB: There was a little Holiday Inn at Deland, Florida that was right near the water and theytheir air conditioners would get clogged with them.
CP: Oh, man.
EB: I mean, it was that bad. And I dont know how many meetings Ive been to down at Deland about, what can we do about the sandflies? And everybody would get up and tell them the same thing, That theres not really much you can do.
CP: Yeah, sandflies and blind mosquitoes, they the same thing?
CP: Oh, oh, oh, okay, okay.
EB: Sandflies are biting midges, little tiny no-see-ums.
CP: No-see-ums. And a special lab was set up for those?
EB: No, no, the work thats been done on them in Florida has been done at Vero Beach, and I worked some on the taxonomy of the groups, you know.
CP: Tell us about that. Taxonomy. Whats taxonomy?
EB: Well, taxonomy is separating different species, one from the other. Taxonomy is the naming of the species. I got interested in them because so many of them turned up in light traps. And they all didnt look alike, so I started trying to identify them. And eventually I sent some up to Dr. Willis Worthit at the US National Museum, and he verified my identifications, and he really was wonderful. He worked with me and sent me material and reprints and everything.
And I did eventually publish on culicoides Culicoides is a genus of biting midges in the family Ceratopogonidae. in Florida, but its not aa complete list now by any means. I mean a number of species now have been found since.
CP: Oh, really? How many do we have in Florida?
EB: I dont really know how many we have at this time. There must have been 15 orsomewhere between 15 and 20 when I was working with them.
CP: Its my impression they are predominately a pest of the coastline?
EB: Yes and no. There is at least species thats been quite a serious problem around the springs in Florida, so its a fresh water breeder. There are fresh water ones; theyre not all
CP: Is any disease, human disease process associated with them?
EB: No, no human disease there; diseases of sheep that have been carried by them, but not for people.
CP: No, theyre just a nuisance to people.
EB: They dontthey dont need to, they hurt. And there are people who react very badly to sand fly bites.
CP: Because of allergies, probably.
CP: So, you did some publishing on the taxonomy of the sandflies; whatever became of that? Did we ever enter into any control effort for sandflies?
EB: Some of the mosquito districts have tried controlling, but actually, when people call up and say, What can we do about the sandflies? They say, Go indoors; and if you got windows screens, spray the window screens because they can come through a lot of them.
CP: Window screens dont keep the sandflies out.
EB: No; but if you spray the screens, it helps.
CP: Yeah. They have ran us off of the beach, camping out on the beach. A number of times, particularly on Cape San Blas.
EB: Or even run me out of the front lawn, just watering the grass.
CP: Man, those things. So, we dont have a way. You mentioned the dog fly, and a special lab was set up for the dog fly one?
EB: Well, the west Florida lab was set up both to do dog fly control and to test insecticides for mosquito control.
CP: Tell us what a dog fly is.
EB: Well, the dog flies are a biting flies, and they are particularly prevalent along the beaches out in the west, out on the Panhandle. And a number of people that own hotels and motels along the beaches got very upset about it, and they would call their mosquito control directors.
And they eventually set up a program out there where there was a plane that was stationed at the laboratory there in Panama City; and it would go out and spray at the proper time to try toparticularly along the beaches areasso they could keep the Alabama people coming down the coast down there.
CP: Did it do any good?
EB: Yes, it seems to work pretty well.
CP: Can you bring us up to date? I want to recall that they decided that the washed up seaweed was the breeding site.
EB: Well, now I cant give you a date. That was something that I guess Dr. Rogers and his group over there did determine.
CP: Yeah, me and you have been out of the business too long.
EB: Youre right, well, I dont know about that. We have been out too long to remember that. (EB and CP Laugh)
CP: Speaking of Dr. Rogers, he was director of the west Florida lab?
EB: Yes, he was. He originally went down to Vero Beach, and was doing the insecticide testing material down there, so when they set this lab up in west Florida, they sent him out as director at that lab.
CP: As an aside, is he still living?
CP: And hes doing okay?
EB: Far as I know?
CP: And he lives in Panama City?
EB: Right. He was a professor down at the University of Florida, and there was an entomological meeting here in Jacksonville, and I was standing there with Dr. Mulrennan when he asked Dr. Rogers if hes be interested in leaving the university and coming with the State Board of Health.
CP: Oh really? And he did?
EB: And he did.
CP: And he did. And I recall he was the acting director after Dr. Mulrennan quit.
CP: Yeah, Dr. Rogers was for a short period of time, I remember.
EB: Just long enough to let John junior get out of the Navy.
CP: Thats exactly what it was, exactly what it was. Those are fun. The dog flydid you ever get directly involved with the dog fly?
EB: No, no.
EB: Im happy to say I didnt, because the only person I know who did went up in the plane, and wasnt supposed to be on it and they got rid of the head of the dog fly program at that point, because he wasnt supposed to take anybody unauthorized up in the plane. So, see, I did well not to get involved in that.
CP: Now you were smart beyond your years.
EB: No, I was lucky beyond.
CP: Tell us something about Dr. Boyd. Dr. Boyd is famous in medical circles as the publisher and author of the first comprehensive book on parasitology, medical parasitology.
EB: Well, I cant really tell you a whole lot about Dr. Boyd. When I went to work there, he was never anything but kind to me, but I was scared to death of him. I was only about 19 at the time, and he just seemed so remote somehow, but he wasnt at all. I mean he really was very, very kind.
CP: Obviously, a warm person.
EB: Very warm, yes. He had a tremendous number of visitors that came to the lab. I met some incredible people that I didnt even know who they were at the time, you know, who I heard about later who they were. I dont know. I cant remember their names now, but people who were high in the army and that sort of thing were coming down, I assume to discuss this training program and what not. I dont know, somebody by the name of Hardenberg comes to mind?
CP: That doesnt ring a bell.
CP: You were kind of privileged to rub shoulders with a lot of those folks.
EB: I was very, very fortunate in everything that ever happened to me has been very, very happy and fortunate.
CP: Yours and Dr. Boyds work with artificially induced fever using malaria parasites among tertiary syphilis patients
EB: I wouldnt say mine and his. That really was his.
CP: You had a lot to do with it. Thats landmark. Thats landmark research growing out of that, out of yours and Dr. Boyds work at Florida State Hospital, was the fever ships that the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned; and later after you came back to Jacksonville, there was a fever ship parked at the Alsop bridge, docked at the Alsop bridge here for about a year.
And all the tertiary syphilis cases from all over North Florida were brought into Jacksonville to have artificially induced fever on them. Fever boxes, they were put in the boxes and their body temperature was brought to 106 and held there for eight hours. That was a direct outgrowth of yours and Dr. Boyds research at Florida State Hospital, and it was effective in about a third of the cases just for youryour knowledge.
Not nearly as effective as penicillin; this was pre-penicillin, but it was much more effective than the mercury that was the treatment of choice at that time. With the mercury, we killed a lot of them. You know, the fever wouldnt kill very many, and we cured about a third of them with the fever.
So, I dont want you to treat lightly your work with Dr. Boyd and malaria, and brain syphilis in Florida State Hospital. Thatthatthat was landmark. Its very significant research in our efforts to do something about syphilisin the worlds efforts to do something about syphilis. And you were part of that. Thats the point Im wanting to make. It had far reaching consequences beyond your just dissecting the bellies of mosquitoes.
EB: Right, you should see what people say when I tell them I dissected little salivary glands out of mosquitoes and they look like, You got to be kidding? (CP and EB laugh) I did have one experience over there that really made an impression on me during the early part of the war.
Dr. Boyd came in one day and he had one of these little old fashioned ice cream cartons, the round ones, about a pint size, and he opened it up and there was this white powder in there and he said, This is DDT. He said, This is going to win the war for us.
CP: Oh really, really?
EB: Sure enough, I think it had a great deal to do with it.
CP: I think it had a great impact on the war effort.
EB: Bill tells stories of mixing DDT by hand in the kerosene.
CP: Ive personally have seen that. I was privileged to work with the DDT spraying stuff one summer when I was in high school in my little county of Hamilton. I was hired on by somebody and traveled. I didnt do any of the spraying, but I was partial. And those guys would dump the proportion in, and if their stick wasnt readily available, theyd just stir it up, pour it into their spray cans, and here they went.
EB: I was kind of amused. I was looking at one of the old health notes the other day, and they said that all this time they were spraying houses with DDT, and they got to where they went up to 35% DDT. They never heard of anybody being sick from it. [The health notes] said one or two of the people that did the spraying got sick, but they thought that was the xylene and not the DDT.
CP: Thats interesting also. That would be a very fascinating study, to re-evaluate some of those sprayers of those days, if there is any of them living.
EB: I dont know many of them are going to be around, I wonder?
CP: I wonder, I wonder.
EB: Times passing.
CP: Yeah, but that would be a useful study it seems to me. Thinking up.
EB: What somebody really needs to do is look at pest control operators.
CP: They still are kind of haphazardous with their control?
EB: I had to call the company one time and tell them that I didnt that man spraying in my front yard if he wasnt going to wear the mask and gloves and stuff. They just get where they dont really care and so many of them, seems to me, die of cancer, you know?
CP: That sounds like a very appropriate research project, and that pulls me back to the studies in Miami by Dr. Davies on pesticide poisoning among field workers. Do you remember that? I doubt that you were directly involved with that.
EB: No, I wasnt involved, but I remember that they did do that.
CP: The EPA, most of the EPA guidelines grew out of those studies there. Dr. Mulrennan was very involved and the Bureau of Entomology was very much involved with those studies in South Dade on pesticides and the long-term consequences of those. Thats something else that would be useful to be followed up from students who might be listening.
Follow up those workers. Follow up some of those field workers on whom the records are still available at the University of Miami, that School of Medicine there. All those preliminary data there by Dr. John Davies are still there. That would be an interesting epidemiologic study, to follow up on those for long-term pesticide impact. You are a world of research ideas, Beth.
EB: Youre welcome to em. Im past the point where I want to do them.
CP: But youre still fascinated by such things, and so am I. Lets go back to your early days, and your mosquitoes, I dont believe, because of my personal experience, that you limited your attention that much to mosquitoes. What else did you do with the entomology people?
EB: In the early days, I really didnt do much except identification of one kind or another. Eventually, I got to the point where I was head of the identification lab and I did a lot, not a lot, but a fair amount of teaching, because we did a booklet on mosquito control for the people in Florida and I actually I put it together but a lot of people contributed to it. And we had training, things for them, the mosquito control personnel, particularly down at the Vero Beach lab.
They would come from all over the state and we wouldthere was a man out at the identification lab at the Naval Air Station here, Charlie Hammond, who used to work with us, and we would get up collections of mosquitoes, and pin them and have the people identify them down there and go into other aspects of mosquito control with them.
And my only other work with the bureau, oddly enough, is one day out of the clear blue sky; Dr. Rogers walked in my room and dropped the budget on my desk, and said, Youre the budget person for this organization from here on out.
CP: (CP laughs) That was when he was director, interim director.
EB: If it hadnt been for Embry Walker, I would never made it, because Embry was right across the hall with the laboratory budget, and I went to him with all my problems, which I had plenty of having never done anything like that.
CP: That was a good learning experience for you.
EB: Oh yes, it was a very good learning experience. We still had the Vero Beach lab at that time, so we had all the research grants, you know, and that sort of thing to keep up with.
CP: Came through this office?
EB: (EB murmurs in agreement)
CP: He did? Talk about the Vero Beach research lab. That was an internationally famous place at one time, and its no longer part of the health (inaudible).
EB: No, it isnt. Its actually part of the University of Florida right now, and but still as an entomological research center.
CP: Yes, still focused there, thats great.
EB: The original director, Dr. Maury Provo, was quite a tremendous person, and the lab was a very largely his idea, I mean the way it developed was his idea. And Dr. Mulrennan worked with him to get the money to get it set up and so forth. And he really had quite a tremendous organization there. Unfortunately, after he died, you know, they had other directors, all of them who were good but never quite the same.
CP: Never had the same patience.
EB: No. And they got to whereI probably shouldnt say thisbut they got to where they had a number of prima donnas down there who werent satisfied with any director they really didnt want, or director at all.
CP: They didnt want their research directed.
EB: Right, they just wanted to do their little thing and have everybody ignore them.
CP: I think thats fair. The Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research, to which we owe so much bacteriologic/epidemiologic knowledge of infectious disease, suffered the same demise. That it got too many prima donnas who came in and wanted to do their own agenda, their own research, and they lost the central focus of what the original mission was. And because of that, that institution died, and the world is worse off.
EB: Right, well, I guess, in a sense, they were fortunate down there, because the University of Florida took them on. Yes, the original focus for that laboratory was supposed to be to work out, you know, what you can do to do mosquito control and still not hurt the natural resources of the state. I mean, they didnt word it that way, but that was the gist of it.
And I dont know the people that graduallywell, right now, theyre more concerned about whether they are going to make full professor this year or not. You know, that sort of thing.
CP: Too bad.
EB: I dont know what type of research they are turning out; Im probably not being fair because I dont see it anymore. Any way, its different.
CP: I dont either. Well, thats started as a public health effort; so did the dog fly laboratory; so did thrusting research on blind mosquitoes. Whats the proper name of the blind mosquito?
CP: Something like that.
EB: Chironomidae, anyway.
CP: Okay, and it belonged to what general family? They arent related to mosquitoes at all, are they?
EB: Only in the sense theyre both dipteral. Theyre different families.
CP: Dipteral means two sets of wings.
CP: See how knowledgeable I am? Two sets of wings. I know what dipteral means.
EB: Im so impressed. (CP and EB laugh)
CP: And that started as a public health effort; the sand fly, the blind mosquito, the dog fly, and the mosquito, that I think most of us can understand, as primarily a public health issue.
EB: Well to be on this, an example now if you are speaking of sandflies, the only person that worked to any extant with sandflies in Vero Beach was primarily concerned with how they mated and laid eggs. Period. So, if they are related to any possible way of controlling them or not, you know.
CP: But he worked out how they laid eggs and how they mated?
CP: That sounds like a very sexy subject.
EB: Oh, yes.
CP: (CP laughs) Yours has beenYouve been in a position to see so much history being made and you havent talked about really the St. Louis epidemic of the Tampa Bay area. You were right in the middle of that. You, personally; and you, the Bureau of Entomology.
EB: Well, you know all these things would be wonderful if you could go back and do them after you get older and wiser, supposedly.
CP: Oh, isnt it the truth?
EB: Because I missed so much of what was going on, you know?
CP: You were there.You were there. You was watching it.
EB: I was there, but I wasnt as cognizant of what was going on as I should have been.
CP: Yeah, I remember a number of the big pow-wows on St. Louis encephalitis in the Tampa area in which you were present.
EB: Right. Down in the virology lab, which is another thing that I think that Dr. Mulrennan helped get set up down there.
CP: He helped get it funded. Yes, he did. And Taylor was the entomologist that was attached to there. Yeah, he didnt do any ticks, as far as I remember, but he was the supervising entomologist. A super guy; hes now dead, is he not?
EB: I dont believe so; I think hes still around.
CP: He still lives around there?
EB: He was, the last I knew.
CP: Okay, I need to make a mental note of that. Im thinking we might get him to talk to us about encephalitis days and tick days too.
EB: He probably could.
CP: So youre not beingyoure not waving your flag as much as I think its worthy to be waived because you have been witness to so much of importance to the publics health in Florida. Those insects, as Mulrennan says, if we didnt do something about the insects, we wouldnt have a Florida.
EB: Thats true.
CP: Even the early conquistadors talked about the hordes of mosquitoes and how impenetrable they were. Alvarez, the first guy that traversed Florida from Tampa up the peninsula into what is now St. Marks where he departed, his scribe, Im talking 1550s The expedition of lvar Nez Cabeza de Vaca lasted from April 1528 to 1537. The aforementioned report mentioned above was not written, nor organized by a scribe, yet written from memory by Cabeza de Vaca after he returned to Spain. La Relacion (The Report) was published in 1542., his scribe kept up with that travel, talked about the hordes of mosquitoes between Tampathey were coming to the Tallahassee area, because Indians around Tampa told them that was where all the gold was. So, they were coming up to get theirs.
EB: Its over yonder.
CP: But being interested in mosquitoes and reading the English translation of that diary, the frequency that he talks about these pesky mosquitoes that would cause the horses to panic. And beside themselves, they just had no way to do them. But he comments at one point that they thought the mosquitoes were bad, but when they got to the Tallahassee Indians that were called the Appalachia, not the Appalachia, the Apalachee.
The Apalachee Indians that were kind of headquartered around Tallahassee, he commented that that was worse than the mosquitoes, that was just like walking into a nest of hornets. To walk into the Apalachee Indians, but itsso our problem with mosquitoes is as old as recorded history we have of Florida. Mulrennan was so right. If we didnt do anything about mosquitoes, we wouldnt have any people here.
EB: He was right. You know, I remember reading about instances in which cattle had actually been suffocated by mosquitoes, and I thought, Surely thats an exaggeration, until we had a flat tire one day down on the, not on the A1A, but what isthe Turnpike, and by the time we got out of the carour whole window shield, you couldnt see out of it for the big serape of mosquitoes.
CP: Really? Do they bite?
EB: Yes, they bite.
CP: And so, you got bit on while changing a tire.
EB: Yes we did, we did.
CP: Are they related to any disease?
EB: No, theyre not, strangely enough.
CP: Okay, theyre just a big
EB: They got a good opportunity, but they havent taken advantage of.
CP: Maybe none of the viruses liked them?
EB: Maybe thats it.
CP: Yours is a fascinating story; that you had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some very important soldiers of the publics health locally, nationally, and internationally, through your war effort too. And the work done here; ditch and fill, mosquito control and water, malaria control and its water, is my impression had its origin here. And that Dr. Mulrennan was kind of the big shots in charge of getting that off the ground and training for it.
I get that fromoh, shoot, I have a name blockbut the fellow who was in charge of mosquito control/malaria controlput mosquito control in war areassanitary engineer who became the first director and organizer of the CDC. Mark Hollis, Dr. Mark Hollis, who I was privileged to know. But he knew Mulrennan; Mark Hollis is a sanitary engineer.
He relates comingcoming to Florida, he was responsible for the public health service and the war effort for the mosquito control and warin war areas. And its fun to hear him talk about their base research efforts on Amelia Island
CP: Amelia Island, I think. They set up a research lab, and brought in folks from all over the world, and helped work out techniques. But Mr. Mulrennan, Mr. Mulrennan, who was not a Ph.D., no; who was not one youd pick out of a line-up to be a knowledgeable person; Mark Hollis remarks that Mr. Mulrennan, at that time, was kind of kingpin of the know-how, of the know how to get all of that done.
And Im just impressed with you; that you had the opportunity to rub shoulders with those folks, and youre kind of aI dont know anybody else who could recount that early history with Dr. Boyd, and the early history of Americas attention to mosquito control in war torn areas.
EB: Well, theres one other person who just might, and thats Jack Rogers; because, strangely enough, when I was working for Dr. Boyd in Tallahassee, Jack was one of the people that was out in the field, collecting mosquito larvae and stuff, and hed come by once in a while.
CP: Oh, really?
EB: I dont know whether he was working, I dont think was working for the lab, I think he was probably working for something in Tallahassee, you know, but we would see him occasionally there and he would bring larvae in.
CP: And you encouraged me to find him. You encouraged me to find him.
EB: I can give youI will call you and give you an address. I dont think I have a phone number.
CP: Better than that, Ill write you a little note after all of this is over, and Ill send you a self-addressed postcard, and you just write Jacks address on the back of that. I would appreciate that. And Im going to tell him you sent me. I will tell you that he was my minor professor at the University of Florida. And I know Jack Rogers very, very well.
But Ive lost contact with him, and I just love him to death. It was he who made me give enemas to blowflies in order not to contaminate my specimens with the external flora of the blowfly. And I was looking for anthrax in the intestinal tract of blowflies as aas aas a minor thesis.
EB: The things we do; its amazing, aint it?
CP: Jack Rogers caused me to do that, and I had to learn how to give blowflies an enema. Jack didnt know how to do that. (CP laughs)
EB: I shouldnt think it was a technique everybody had.
CP: I traveled all over Florida collecting blowflies, you know. And I had to keep up with them geographically.
EB: You didnt collect enough of them. They are still around.
CP: Oh, boy, no I didnt, but I collected them. Entomology fascinates me a whole bunch, and a lot of that because of Dr. Rogers. And I thank you for bringing his name up. Yes, I do. Let me see, what have we left out?
EB: Well, I dont really know.
CP: Let me ask you a question. There will be students watching you. Students who are interested in entomology. Students who are interested in medical entomology will choose you to listen to. What advice do you have for them, for a career in medical entomology?
EB: Well, I dont feel like Im in a position to offer advice. The first place, if it interests you tremendously, youre not going to need any advice; and if it doesnt interest you, youre not going to be any good at it.
CP: Well, first, dont go to FSU, because they dont give a degree in entomology.
EB: Well, now, since its FSU now, they may give a degree in entomology, I dont know.
CP: Well, being from
EB: But I dont think they do, though, because I dont think its an agriculture college there at all, and thats where entomology is at Gainesville, strangely enough. It always struck me as strange, anyway.
CP: All right, they dont need any advice, but I noticed that you kind of got into yours accidentally.
EB: Well, I did get into mine accidentally.
CP: You needed a job.
EB: I needed a job, and that was fine, and I found it very, very interesting. I found working on sandflies on my own, which I did, you know, when I wasnt busy with mosquitoes, helped me get more interested in it. Reading, of course, does. Oddly enough, the work I did on Chironomids, I didnt do because it interested me particularly; I did it because Bill was working on the larvae, and he needed somebody to do the adults.
CP: Now what are the Chironomids?
EB: They are the blind mosquitoes.
CP: Oh, thank you.
EB: Bill used the larvae along with a lot of other aquatic invertebrates to work out his system for determining stream pollution quality.
CP: And for our viewers, Bill is Ms. Becks husband.
EB: Who is a biologist who was with the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering.
CP: He was an aquatic biologist, and he has a lot of famous firsts for his own, too.
EB: Of course, he was majoring in herpetology. That just shows you how you can end up where you arent heading, a lot of times.
CP: But his was an outstanding career, too.
EB: Yes, and because he was using these larvae to indicate organisms, he needed to know what they were, and the only way you could find that out what they were was to wear them out and have somebody identify the adults. So, I had to learn to identify the adults.
CP: Thats okay, and you did that officially because you were both part of the same agency. You didnt have to moonlight to do that.
EB: Well, no, we did a lot of moonlighting at home. Literal moonlighting.
CP: Im sure you did.
EB: And so, I just really dont know what to tell students except that whatever turns you on, do it.
CP: Whatever turns you on go after it. Go get it.
EB: And theres an incredible number of people out there willing to help you.
CP: Obviously. Just look for them. Theyre there.
EB: You dont even have to look for them. If you work at it, and you are really interested in it, theyll find you.
CP: Thats good testimony, Beth. And you can witness to that. And I can too. But this is not my time on the tape, but I will agree with what you are saying. They will find you. Well, let me tell you, on behalf of the University of South Florida library systems, and the College of Public Health, and myself, and Jane, we just thank you sincerely for coming by and sharing with us your fascinating career.
EB: Thank you.
CP: And I have just so much enjoyed hearing your story, and I knew a lot about your professional career, but I havent heard it so well organized like youve done it today.
EB: Come to think of it, I dont know if its been that well organized.
CP: Yeah, it has. Yeah it has been fun and we thank you for coming.
EB: Youre more than welcome.
CP: And Im Skeeter Prather.
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