Dr. Summers, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty since 1992, served 42 years as a research entomologist at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE), Parlier, Fresno County, part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). He joined the world-class research facility in 1970, the year he received his doctorate in entomology from Cornell University. He was stationed at KARE throughout his career, and served for a time as its director.
Dr. Summers was affiliated with the UC Berkeley faculty from 1970 to 1992, before joining the UC Davis faculty. Specializing in pest problems of field and vegetable crops, he developed economic thresholds and management strategies for more than a dozen pests, including the silverleaf whitefly. During his career, he authored more than 200 publications, including articles, book chapters and research papers, and delivered more than 800 presentations.
“Charlie was a true IPM entomologist and was one of the group of young faculty who contributed mightily to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) when it was first getting off the ground and at its most vulnerable stage,” said Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology who directed UC IPM for 16 years.
Developed Economic Thresholds for Important Pests
“He was quiet but contributed greatly in many ways,” Zalom said. “Charlie did indeed develop economic thresholds for several important pests. Economic thresholds are recognized as one of the foundations for IPM decision-making, but doing the field work to develop research-based thresholds is incredibly difficult and few researchers actually do this type of research anymore. It has become a lost art and, unfortunately, this type of work has also become under-appreciated except by IPM practitioners who are truly trying to reduce input costs for pest control.”
A Passion for IPM
“I remember first meeting Charlie Summers in Robert van den Bosch's lab when I was a graduate student,” recalled Mary Lou Flint, Extension entomologist emerita, Department of Entomology and Nematology and formerly UC IPM's associate director for urban and community IPM.
“He was already at Kearney, but I was working on a parasitoid of the spotted alfalfa aphid, so we had alfalfa aphids and parasites in common. And a passion for IPM. Charlie was really one of the original unsung promoters of IPM in California.”
“Charlie was a true dirt-kicking field entomologist of a stripe all too uncommon today,” said Flint who retired in 2014. “He was passionate about ecology-based integrated pest management and dedicated his career to forwarding the science of IPM.
“Charlie's research spanned many field and vegetable crops and he could always be called on to provide expertise about pest or beneficial arthropods on any of these crops, but I worked most closely with him on alfalfa,” she said.
“In the 1980s, in the early days of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management program, Charlie was a leader in developing, researching and promoting IPM programs for alfalfa," Flint related. "He played a critical role in coordinating and carrying out interdisciplinary research, training farm advisers, and promoting IPM programs to PCAs (pest control advisors) and farmers. He was one of the key players in the development of Integrated Pest Management for Alfalfa Hay released in 1982, which was the first of the UC Statewide IPM Program's IPM manual series of books that eventually covered 16 California crops. He was a fountain of information, and the book could not have been written without him."
Walter Bentley, now IPM entomologist emeritus, remembers meeting him at his job interview “at the old office on M street in Bakersfield on August 16, 1977. Like Pete Goodell, we ended up working together at Kearney. I would never have guessed that. Little did I know how he liked to play jokes." He remembers when Summers hung up a Big Mouth Billy Bass Singing Sensation plaque at Bentley's office entrance. "I will have to go out and play the tune, Take Me to the River, Drop Me in the Water."
Recipient of Charles W. Woodworth Award
In 2009, Summers received the prestigious Charles W. Woodworth Award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA), the highest honor awarded by the branch, which encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
At the awards ceremony, Summers drew praise for developing economic thresholds, determining at what point the cost of pest damage exceeds the cost of pest control. He "pioneered economic thresholds for seven pests in four crops, and developed management strategies for a combination of 28 crops, insect and disease pests," his nominators wrote. He also was praised for his research on the interactions among insects, diseases and weeds on alfalfa hay and how they individually and as a whole, influence yield and quality. His work led to improved best management decisions and decreased pesticide use.
In addition, Summers drew praise for his research on reflective mulches, used to delay and reduce aphid and whitefly infestations on squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and tomatoes and other crops. He teamed with plant pathologist Jim Stapleton and vegetable crop specialist Jeff Mitchell, both based at Kearney.
In a UC Davis news story published March 25, 2009, Summers recalled: “In the mid-1990s, Dr. Stapleton and I embarked on a series of studies to determine if aphids, aphid-transmitted viruses, and silverleaf whitefly could be managed using plastic reflective mulches. Dr. Jeff Mitchell later joined our team. We evaluated a wide variety of crops as well as different types of mulches. We were able to manage all three of these pests without the need to rely on the use of insecticides.”
“Our studies have clearly demonstrated that the use of these mulches are effective in delaying the onset of silverleaf whitefly colonization and the incidence of aphid-borne virus diseases,” Summers said. “The data shows that marketable yields with summer squash, cucumber, and pumpkins grown over reflective mulch are higher than those in plants grown over bare soil, both with and without insecticide. We also determined that the use of reflective mulch, without insecticides, leads to significantly increased yields of fall planted cantaloupes.”
Another highlight of his career: his work on the biology of corn leafhopper and corn stunt spiroplasma. He proved that the corn leafhopper can overwinter in the San Joaquin Valley and that the pathogen, Spiroplasma kunkelii overwinters in it. “Before this research, it was assumed that tropical insects such as corn leafhopper could not overwinter in our temperate climate, but were reintroduced each year from Mexico,” Summers noted. "The findings led to better strategies for managing the pest and the pathogen."
Born Dec. 24, 1941 in Ogden, Utah, and a graduate of Davis High School, Kaysville, Utah, Charlie grew up on the family farm and “always knew” he wanted an agricultural career. At age 12, he decided to go to college “when I was at the wrong end of a short-handled hoe,” he told communications specialist Jeannette Warnert in a June 12, 2012 news story announcing his retirement.
He continually described his work at Kearney as his “dream job.”
“The job at Kearney was an absolutely perfect fit for me,” Summers told Warnert. “It was a dream job. I look forward to coming to work every morning and would sometimes shake my fist at the sun going down at night. I've loved every minute I've been here.”
Summers said that the objective of his job--to help farmers develop successful pest management strategies --stayed the same, but technological advances dramatically changed the way he did his work.
“We've had the advent of computer technology, the use of mathematical models, work that can now be done at the DNA level,” he said. “It's put a whole new face on our ability to do research.”
Following his retirement and the death of his wife, Beverly, Summers moved back to Utah to be with family and to pursue his favorite pastime, fly fishing.
“I'll be living 15 minutes from the Wasatch Mountains,” he told Warnert. “There's a lot of good fishing there.”
Summers was an Eagle Boy Scout, a pilot, an avid fly fisherman and hunter, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A graveside service took place Aug. 21 in the Plain City Cemetery, Plain City, Utah.
Survivors include his sister, Marilyn (John) Diamond and three nephews, four great-nieces and five great-nephews.
Dr. Charles Geddes Summers, 1941-2021
UC ANR Profile Page
UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Pest Management Specialist Charles Summers Wins Prestigious Woodworth Award
The European Grapevine Moth Team received the 2016 "distinguished service award for outstanding team." The members "coordinated a program that saved the wine and table grape industries from economic disaster caused by an invasive insect,” according to UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston.
“The impact of the team's work has reduced quarantines for European grapevine moth from 10 counties in 2010 to a portion of one county at the end of 2015 and no moths have been trapped in the last remaining quarantine zone since 2013," Humiston noted. "If no European grapevine moths are trapped in this zone in 2016, the last remaining quarantine for the pest will be lifted."
Humiston called the team "an excellent example of UC ANR working with government and industry partners under the Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases Strategic Initiative.”
Zalom, a past president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA) and a past director of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM), is the lead author of the European Grapevine Moth provisional guidelines page on the UC IPM website. Co-authors are Lucia Varela, UC Cooperative Extension, North Coast and Mountain Region, and Monica Cooper, UC Cooperative Extension, Napa County.
In addition to Zalom, Varela and Cooper, the European Grapevine Moth Team included:
- Walter Bentley, UC IPM entomologist emeritus
- Larry Bettiga, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County
- Kent Daane, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM)
- Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Napa County
- Robert Van Steenwyk, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Berkeley ESPM
- Joyce Strand, UC IPM academic coordinator emeritus
The distinguished service awards are given biennially for outstanding contributions to the teaching, research and public service mission of UC ANR.
The European Grapevine Moth is a serious pest of grapes; it causes significant damage to the flowers and berries. Native to Southern Italy, it was first reported in the United States in Napa County vineyards in October 2009. It is now found throughout Europe, North and West Africa, the Middle East, and eastern Russia.
(Editor's Note: See other UC ANR awards presented)
Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR, announced the recipients of the Distinguished Service Awards today (May 20).
Mussen, who will retire in June, was honored for 38 years of outstanding service. He devotes his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices.
Mussen, who joined the UC Davis department in 1976, is known throughout the state, nation and world as “the honey bee guru” and “the pulse of the bee industry" and as "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media have questions about honey bees.
His nominators wrote that what sets Dr. Mussen apart from his Extension-specialist peers are these seven attributes:
- His amazing knowledge of bees
- His excellent communication skills in a diverse clientele, including researchers, Extension personnel, legislators,
commodity boards, grower organizations, pesticide regulators, students, news media, and beekeeping associations at the national, state and local levels,
- His eagerness to help everyone, no matter the age or stature or expertise, from an inquiring 4-H'er to a beginning beekeeper to a commercial beekeeper
- His ability to translate complicated research in lay terms; he's described as “absolutely the best”
- His willingness—his “just-say-yes” personality---to go above and beyond his job description by presenting multiple talks to every beekeeping association in California, whether it be a weekday, evening or weekend, and his willingness to speak at a wide variety of events, including pollinator workshops, animal biology classes, UC activities and fairs and festivals
- His reputation for being a well-respected, well-liked, honest, and unflappable person with a delightful sense of humor; and
- His valuable research, which includes papers on antiobiotics to control American foulbrood; fungicide toxicity in the almond orchards; the effect of light brown apple moth mating pheromone on honey bees; the effects of high fructose corn syrup and probiotics on bee colonies; and the invasion and behavior of Africanized bees. He is often consulted on colony collapse disorder and bee nutrition.
Said Extension Specialist John Skinner of the University of Tennessee: “Eric is one of the most well-respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation. If I could select one person to represent the apicultural scientific community including research, regulation and extension, I would choose Eric.”
“Those of us in the bee industry who have been privileged to know and work with Eric appreciate his vast knowledge of honey bees and great communication skills," Gene Brandi, legislative chairman of the California State Beekeepers' Association. "Whether addressing scientists, beekeepers, growers, government officials, the media or anyone else, Eric can be relied upon to convey scientifically accurate information about honey bees and the beekeeping industry.”
Said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis: "He has played an invaluable role as a linchpin between honey bee researchers and the beekeeping industry and the commodity groups which depend on honey bees for pollination of their crops. His knowledge of honey bees and their biology, management and colony health is highly valued by his colleagues and clients. Eric is not only our state expert on all topics relating to honey bees, but is sought after by national level organizations to participate on committees dealing with the most important concerns of the beekeeping industry."
Highly honored by his peers at the regional, state and national levels, Mussen received the prestigious American Association of Professional Apiculturists Award for Apicultural Excellence, and scores of other awards. He's served as the president of numerous organizations and keynoted their conferences.
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen received his bachelor's degree in entomology from the University of Massachusetts (after turning down an offer to play football at Harvard) and then received his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota in 1969 and 1975, respectively.
His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus. "During those studies I also was involved in studies concerning sunflower pollination and control of a microsporidian parasite of honey bees, Nosema apis," Mussen recalled. "Now a new species of Nosema has displaced N. apis and is even more difficult to keep subdued."
"I am basically all pro-bee,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part feature story published in the September of 2011. “Whatever I can do for bees, I do it...It doesn't matter whether there is one hive in the backyard or 15,000 colonies. Bees are bees and the bees' needs are the bees' needs.”
Mussen credits his grandfather with sparking his interest in insects. His grandfather, a self-taught naturalist, would take his young grandson to the woods to point out flora and fauna.
The UC ANR Distinguished Service Awards are given biennially for outstanding contributions to the teaching, research and public service mission of the Division, Allen-Diaz said.
The 2013-2014 award recipients:
- Outstanding Extension – Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis for bees.
- Outstanding Research – Mark Battany, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara countiesfor viticulture.
- Outstanding New Academic – David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County for nut crops.
- Outstanding Team – Ken Tate, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Rob Atwill, director of Veterinary Medicine Extension at UC Davis, are the recipients of the Outstanding Team Award. Since 1994, Tate and Atwill have collaborated on a series of projects assessing the potential risk to rangeland surface-water quality and human health from livestock associated pollutants.
- Outstanding Leader – Pamela Geisel, former director of the statewide UC Master Gardener Program. Although Pam retired recently, since this nomination package was very strong, I believe it's appropriate and important to give Pam this much-deserved award.
- Outstanding Staff – Michael Yang, UCCE agricultural assistant in Fresno County for small farms.
Each of the individual award recipients will receive $2,000 and a certificate. The team award recipients will receive individual certificates and share $5,000.
The Academic Assembly Council Program Committee, chaired by Joe Grant, reviewed the DSA nominations and presented their recommendations to Allen-Diaz. Committee members were Rachel Surls, Becky Westerdahl, Scott Oneto and Jennifer Heguy.