“One of the outstanding results of the great commercial and agricultural developments of the past century has been the enormous increase of insect pests.”
“Some of these pests have been distributed by commerce and many of them have become great pests only after leaving their home country.”
“In 1900, the sugar cane industry of the Islands began to be seriously checked by a very small insect known as the sugar-cane leafhopper which somehow had become established from Australia a few years earlier.” (Timberlake)
“This insect is extremely prolific and when multiplying unchecked it increases to such an extent that the sugar cane is badly stunted and finally killed. The adults migrate especially at night from one field to another, flying generally from the older cane to younger fields.”
“By 1904 the situation had become extremely bad and the whole industry was suffering enormous losses and was threatened with entire destruction by this insect. There seemed to be no practical· means of combating it”. (Timberlake)
As an example, the Big Island’s Pahala Plantation harvested 18,888 tons of sugar in 1903, but only 1,620 tons in 1905 and 826 tons in 1906. (Tucker)
Dr. Frederick AG Muir began this work for the Experiment Station of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association in September, 1905. This was when the sugar cane leafhopper was still a serious pest in Hawai‘i. (Swezey)
Before coming to Hawai‘i, Muir was employed in various parts of Africa, first as engineer and electrician and later as entomologist, having been connected with Eckstein group of gold mines in Johannesberg. (Nellist)
Frederick Muir (an entomologist with HSPA – at the time the only entomological research institution in Hawai‘i), began a long search to find and introduce natural enemies, seeking biological control as a method of controlling insect pests. (Swezey)
He was sent out to the tropical areas of the South Pacific, Australia, and the Melanesian Archipelago to search for potential biological control agents for sugar cane pests. (Evenhuis)
In a magazine article published in 1912, a newspaper man asked Mr. Muir, “Were you ever in danger of losing your life?” Muir was a small, mild-looking man with the air of a college professor, in spite of the outdoor color on his face and hands. He seemed much embarrassed by the question.
“Oh, no,” he said with a sharp English accent that ten years knocking about in the tropics had not altered. “You see, I have a theory that a man can go anywhere safely as long as he respects the point of view of the inhabitants, whether they be man or animals.” (Easton)
On one expedition, “he fell ill of typhoid fever and lay helpless in the hospital for five weeks. His precious insects were almost continually in his mind, be he was too ill to care for them”. (Washington Herald, Oct 11, 1914)
He was instrumental in finding and bringing to the Territory numerous parasites to counteract the ravages of the leaf-hopper, borer beetle, and anomala beetle, thus saving the industry an immense amount of money if not from destruction. He has published a number of monographs on leafhoppers, beetles and other entomological subjects.
“(H)e considered (the) isolated oceanic (Hawaiian) islands to which during a tremendously long time the flotsam and jetsam of ocean drift had brought a few forms of vegetable and animal life from which have since been evolved the numerous species that in a few tribes only now characterize its flora and fauna.”
“It is noteworthy that in this evolution no degree of adaptation is exhibited, species have gone on forming regardless of adaptation. The peculiar simplicity of the biological conditions with known factors make these islands the finest center for the study of evolution”.
“(I)ntroduced insects, from the absence of their parasites, are liable to play an important role. As an example, a leaf hopper damaged the sugar crop $5,000,000 in a year; but the introduction of an egg parasite from Fiji reduced this to $15,000.”
“The absence of secondary parasites has caused such introductions of parasites to be attended with unusual success.” (Proceedings of NY Entomological Society, Nov 26, 1917)
Muir was born in London on April 24, 1873, the son of Alexander Muir of Scotland and Annie Marie (Lempriere) Muir, of Jersey. His early education was obtained in England.
“On October 31, 1917, Dr. Muir left for England to engage in war service for his native country in the trying days of the World War. He returned to Honolulu a year later on October 28, 1918.”
“In the meantime he had married Margaret Annie Sharp on April 9, 1918, the daughter of Dr. David Sharp (another entomologist).” (Swezey)
Dr. Muir’s health had been undermined by so much time spent in unhealthful tropical jungles, etc., and he went to England at intervals, spending most of the years 1927 and 1928 there.
On his return from England, September 12, 1928, arrangements were made for his retirement from active service at the Experiment Station, HSPA.
He left Honolulu on November 17, 1928, to make his home in England, (Swezey) He died there on May 13, 1931.
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