Welcome to the Worldwide Greathead family my One-Name Study - Dr David J Greathead
Dr David John Greathead # 1718 -
Author of "A Passage to the Cape of Good Hope"

David Greathead  1931–2006 

a Life in Biological Control  


The following article appeared in Biocontrol News and Information 28(1), 1N–28N pestscience.com http://www.pestscience.com/news.asp

Rebecca Murphy & Matthew J. W. Cock, CABI. the authors have kindly given me permission to include the article on my website

Dr David J Greathead

The founding editor of BNI, David Greathead, who died on 13 October 2006 at the age of 74, was an influential figure in biological control and also a world authority on Bombyliidae (bee flies). His career reflected many of the changes and developments in biological control over this period, which is hardly surprising since he was central to many of them. A naturally thoughtful demeanour coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of biological control endowed him with wisdom and foresight. His legacy includes successful and in some cases groundbreaking biological control initiatives, extensive publications in biological control and taxonomy, contributions to an international regulatory framework for biological 
control, and last but by no means least the many scientists whose early careers he fostered and some of whom are now well known names themselves.  His achievements were a direct result of his rare combination of broad perspective and attention to detail. As fellow-bombyliid expert Neal Evenhuis ( Bishop Museum , Hawaii ) says: “Everything was thoughtfully prepared and checked and rechecked before he would be satisfied,” but as Sean Murphy (a long-serving CABI scientist) says, “David always managed to see the bigger picture.” He inspired loyalty and affection in his staff, was excellent company and could spin a great story – his experiences gave him plenty of material to work with.
David was born on 12 December 1931 in London , UK , into a family with South African roots: his great great-grandfather led one of the first parties to be settled by the British Government in the Eastern Cape in 1820, and his great-grandfather was a member of the first South African colonial parliament in the late 1850s. David’s childhood was divided between the UK and South Africa , but he elected to stay in the UK for his university education when his family returned permanently to South Africa . He graduated from the University of London ’s Imperial College of Science and Technology (now Imperial College London) with a BSc in Zoology in June 1953, and was later awarded a PhD and a DSc.
In 1953 he was recruited by Dr (later Sir) Boris Uvarov to work at the Desert Locust Survey (DLS) and, in the words of Cliff Ashall (Officer-in-Charge of one of DLS's field research units) was “introduced to a varied and resourceful set of characters – men of a different breed.” While working at the All-Russian Plant Protection Institute in St Petersburg , Uvarov had famously discovered that solitary and gregarious desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) were different phases of the same species. Having left post-revolutionary Russia , he was recruited in 1920 to the staff of the Imperial Bureau of Entomology in London andwas subsequently directly involved in establishing the Anti-Locust Research Centre (ALRC). Uvarov, according to Elspeth Huxley in No Easy Way (ca. 1957), not only possessed single-minded drive and deep knowledge of locusts but, crucially, saw that countries would have to work together to solve the locust problem, and strove for this to happen. Over the next 10 years, he and another Russian émigré scientist, Zena Waloff, comprised the entire headquarters staff of the Commonwealth anti-locust effort (and ran this operation at a total cost of slightly over UK £7900). During WWII he advised the highly successful, largely military-based Middle Eastern Anti-Locust Unit that implemented desert locust campaigns in collaboration with the civilian East African Anti-Locust Directorate to protect vital food crops in eastern Africa . Post-war, Desert Locust Survey (DLS) and Desert Locust Control (DLC) took over this role. DLS, which David joined, is described by Cliff Ashall as “one of the more remarkable organisations ever to have operated in East Africa and the Middle East .”
Cliff tells how Uvarov chose David “to spearhead the research on locust natural enemies as part of the multi-disciplinary approach to a solution of the locust problem”, and this included work contributing to his PhD. He subsequently published a review of the natural enemies of Acridoidea1 (something he came back to much later in his career) while interest fostered by studies on bombyliid predators on egg pods of the desert locust developed into long-term involvement in biosystematic research on this group.  He also studied the effects of biotic factors on desert locust populations and looked at numerical changes in desert locust populations; a paper he wrote with Bill Stower2 remains one of the few published numerical population studies, and as such is proving important for locust control today.
For the next 8 years David worked at DLS in what Cliff refers to as “that great adventure which was locust research and control.” During this time he was involved in field work and research in Ethiopia , Somalia , Kenya and what was then the Aden Protectorate (now part of Yemen ). It was not a life for the faint hearted. David described the laborious work on choice of oviposition sites by locust swarms, studies he and Bill undertook with George Popov (another notable Russian émigré locust scientist, and traveller) in Somalia in 1953, continuing in Turkana in northern Kenya in 1954: “We used to delimit groups of egg-pods, scrape the surface and mark them all with matchsticks and then carefully excavate them and plot their position and condition on graph paper.” In later years, he expressed regret that the young scientists then involved in locust work had at best a few weeks at a time in the field. From tales he recounted, it is not hard to see why. He and George made a systematic survey of the locust recession areas, beginning with a journey in January–February 1954 from Cape Guardafui , the apex of the Horn of Africa, along the Gulf of Aden coast into Eritrea .  The journey was mostly not on tracks and probably not repeated since. They reached Lake Assal , in what was then French Somaliland (now Djibouti ).  This, the lowest point in Africa at 155 metres below sea level and the most saline body of water in the world, is set in a glistening white salt flat which they had to cross. They found they had to keep up a high speed because the salt crust, below which laythick sludge, began to break up if they slowed down.  Worse was to follow. Near the port of Assab in Eritrea (at the time federated with Ethiopia ) and close to the French Somaliland border they stopped to use the radio thinking they were out of sight. But when they set off again they were surrounded by the Ethiopian garrison and put under house arrest until their bona fides could be confirmed from Addis Ababa ; the soldiers thought they were the French army come to seize Assab. Moreover, they learnt afterwards, had the soldiers not been holding their topees on their heads with one hand as they came towards them at the double, someone might have been shot, for the soldiers had been told to shoot. Little surprise, then, that David later showed scant regard for, by comparison, minor privations experienced by his staff – and incredulity at the luxuries some biocontrol scientists regarded as essential in the field.
Cliff Ashall remembers David as a “pleasant, cooperative and industrious colleague of great integrity.” Nevertheless the locust days gave rise to one of the enduring legends about him, as Cliff recounts. David and Jerry Roffey, a fellow Imperial College graduate, joined DLS at the same time and “spent some time together in Somaliland and Eritrea . There was an Ethiopian locust officer with them who played his radio very loudly in the mornings, something that David did not agree with – and in spite of repeated pleas to turn down the volume it continued until David picked up a 303 rifle and put a bullet through the offending radio.” The story became embellished with time and, although apparently exasperated by this, David was known to put it to good use. In the 1980s, while Assistant Director of CIBC (the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control; IIBC, the International Institute of Biological Control, as it became in September 1985), he was a popular visitor to Kenya and staff would vie with each other to put him up (something that afforded him wry amusement; as he once put it, he had to be careful to share himself around, and was never permitted the luxury of a hotel). These were the early days of personal computers and the dot matrix printer ruled the roost, or in this case the dining room. Eager to clear paperwork before setting off for a day in the field with David, Richard Markham (now Programme Director, Commodities for Livelihoods, Bioversity International) was printing out the results of his late-night labours at breakfast-time. This did nothing to allay David’s by-then renowned early-morning grouchiness, and it took but a single grumble about the noise and mess as the paper spewed out into the marmalade for the plug to be quickly pulled and the peace of a Kenya Highlands morning to be restored.
David married Annette in 1958. A graduate of the University of St Andrews in Scotland , Annette was recruited by ALRC in London and then temporarily seconded as a librarian to the International Red Locust Control Service in what was then Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia (now Mbale , Zambia ). After their marriage she was to become David’s professional colleague too, and her talents were an asset to CABI, both in Uganda where she worked with David on projects, and when they returned to the UK where she earned respect for her meticulous editing –notably for the Bulletin of Entomological Research.
David married Annette in 1958. A graduate of the University of St Andrews in Scotland , Annette was recruited by ALRC in London and then temporarily seconded as a librarian to the International Red Locust Control Service in what was then Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia (now Mbale , Zambia ). After their marriage she was to become David’s professional colleague too, and her talents were an asset to CABI, both in Uganda where she worked with David on projects, and when they returned to the UK where she earned respect for her meticulous editing –notably for the Bulletin of Entomological Research.
David joined the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux (CAB, now CABI) in 1962 to set up their first African base with the founding of the CIBC East African Station at Kawanda Research Station in Uganda , some eight miles west of Kampala . As such, James Ogwang (former head of the Biological Control Unit, National Agricultural Research Organization, Uganda ) describes him as “the grandfather of biocontrol in Uganda .”
The purpose of establishing CIBC stations in Africa was, David later wrote in the opening chapter of Biological control in IPM systems in Africa3, to assist African countries and to find natural enemies for export to other countries. This, as he outlined in the chapter, was during the aftermath of the era when synthetic pesticides had led many countries to abandon biological control, while remaining practitioners often tried to show that biological control was cheaper and permanent. The ease of shipment that air travel afforded had tempted many to economize on detailed ecological studies, and instead ship large numbers of species for release to see which would establish; lessons learnt from an earlier era were forgotten, inappropriate species were introduced, the success rate fell, and biological control came to be seen as something unlikely to succeed and to be used only as a last resort. Against this background, David’s emphasis on science-based biological control was invaluable.
Sean Murphy notes how: “From the start it was clear that David saw the need for creating centres of excellence – across the globe – to allow the science to flourish and for it to make a contribution to development”, and this was long before ‘development’ became the buzz word it is today. Gordon Tiley (then Pasture Agronomist at Kawanda, now at the Scottish Agricultural College ), describes how David “developed the East African station from practically nothing to a compact unit. A number of young expatriate and Ugandan scientists worked with and were trained by David, who placed particular emphasis on this particular aspect of the Unit’s work.” Encouragement of young scientists was to become one of David’s hallmarks. Gordon also says: “CIBC work frequently took David away on safari to all parts of East Africa in the Unit’s Land Rover. Being a small satellite, the Unit was constrained by limited laboratory and library facilities. Conditions for working were frequently technically and administratively challenging, though there was an excellent and comprehensive insect collection. However, with a quiet and organized approach, David sought to promote high standards of scientific professionalism.” David’s capacity to do excellent work under difficult circumstances could make him a hard act to follow. Ian Robertson (a lifelong friend from locust days) was thinking of David’s work in Uganda when, as Officer in-Charge, CIBC Kenya Station in the mid 1980s, he observed to junior colleagues that it was no point complaining to David about what he was expecting of them, because he had done far better work under far worse conditions and with far fewer resources. This tenacity, which David was to exhibit again and again during his career, was already matched by other traits Gordon Tiley describes that were to become familiar, and remain so, even as Director of IIBC: “He was approachable by staff at all levels and always willing to discuss a problem or to offer level headed advice, in characteristic measured tones and generally while lighting up or extinguishing his pipe!” Donald McNutt’s recollections from when he was posted to Kawanda as an Entomologist in 1967 highlight David’s open-mindedness: “My main work was testing the effectiveness of insecticides for pest control and the use of spraying machinery as opposed to biological methods but despite this David was always available to discuss problems with me. In particular he gave useful advice for a booklet I was writing on Insect collecting in the tropics.” He adds: “He was a realistic person who didn’t mind asking me to treat his house against possible cockroach breeding while he and his family went on vacation to South Africa .”
Professor Tecwyn Jones (Director, East African Agriculture and Forestry Research Organization [EAAFRO]; later Director, Commonwealth Instituteof Entomology [CIE]) says that David “was rightly widely commended for the success of CIBC’s biocontrol projects in East Africa .” This owed much to his wide-ranging abilities. One of the first projects he tackled concerned the Antestiopsis spp. complex, the main pests of Arabica coffee, which demonstrated how David went straight to the root of a problem and had the scientific skill to solve it; in this case, the identity of the pest was unclear. Donald McNutt, at the time working on Arabica coffee pests on Mt Elgon as Entomologist at Mbale, describes David as “a fine entomologist” and was “very impressed by the way he sorted out the Antestiopsis spp. complex”; David published a series of papers on this. Subsequent work on the sugarcane scale (Aulacaspis spp.) led to the establishment of a coccinellid introduced from Uganda to Mauritius but not control of the pest.  However, another coccinellid, Rhyzobius lophanthae (syn. Lindorus lophanthae) introduced from Mauritius to northern Tanzania was outstandingly successful in the continuous cropping system there and brought the pest under control within 18 months of being released. A (rare) well-funded project on cereal stemborers brought a second expatriate entomologist to the Station from about 1965 (Ed Milner, followed by Ikram Mohyuddin, then David Girling to 1973). David also worked on lantana biological control – a weed that continues to frustrate biocontrol scientists to this day. Insect agents (Teleonemia scrupulosa) achieved severe defoliation and dieback, but, David Girling says, “David came to realize that once the insects had knocked it down it just grew again if the land wasn’t cleared and used – early IPM?”
Professor Fred Legner from the University of California at Riverside (where he is now Emeritus Professor) spent time searching for natural enemies of the common housefly in Kenya and Uganda in 1966–67, under a joint project he and David were conducting for the US National Institutes of Health. This proved a significant partnership for Mauritius , where Stomoxys spp. stableflies were a severe constraint to dairy farming and cattle were kept in straw huts to protect them. First attempts to control flies by releasing New World parasitoids from dungfeeding flies had been unsuccessful in humid inland areas. Subsequently it was discovered the parasitoids controlled dung-breeding S. calcitrans, but not S. nigra which bred in the plentiful rotting vegetation (notably sugarcane trash) of the humid zone. Fred explains: “After I left, David supervised a study on breeding sites in Uganda . We came up with Tachinaephagus stomoxicida out of the work.” Between 1972 and 1975, sampling was carried out on banana trash and cut elephant grass. Pupae were shipped to Mauritius for study, and it became apparent that the natural enemy complex was markedly different from that in dung pits. Tachinaephagus stomoxicida was released and rapidly established in Mauritius , where it provided substantial control of S. nigra for most of the year – a case of careful ecological study reaping benefits.
In 1971 David published A review of biological control in the Ethiopian Region4, the fifth in CAB’s Technical Communications series, designed to review the development of biological control in the British Commonwealth . Tecwyn Jones pays tribute to David’s wider infl