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Charles Anthony Fleschner, Biological Control: Riverside

1911-1993
Professor and Entomologist, Emeritus

Charley was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he attended Little Rock High School. In 1928, he drove to southern California with an uncle and cousin "to look the place over." Charley, sans high school diploma, decided to stay and began working for Stationers Corp., Los Angeles. In 1930 he married Antoinette (Annette) Marsman, who earlier had given him a book on dragonflies because of his keen interest in nature study and insects in particular. Their two sons, Anthony and Michael, were born in 1939 and 1943, respectively.

Through self-education, and the encouragement of his wife, Charley successfully passed entrance examinations and began a college curriculum at Glendale Junior College in 1938, at age 27. There he was befriended and strongly influenced by a well-known entomologist, W. Dwight Pierce, whose enthusiasm for the subject and genuine interest in budding entomologists was widely recognized. Charley attended UCLA in 1939 and 1940. He later enrolled at UCB, where he was awarded the B.S. degree in 1943. Charley worked in a shipyard in the San Francisco Bay and Oakland area for a period during World War II. He returned to southern California in 1946 and began his dissertation research at the Citrus Experiment Station with Professors H. S. Smith and S. E. Flanders, Department of Biological Control. Charley was awarded the Ph.D. degree at UCB in February 1948.

Fleschner's career at the Riverside campus spanned twenty-four years, 1948 to 1972, during which he authored or co-authored over eighty papers. His early research dealt mainly with population ecology of plant-feeding mites. He was a firm believer in making detailed hands-on observations of pest mites and their natural enemies in the field, especially in the absence of pesticides. Perhaps his major creative contribution to the population-ecology literature is reflected in the title, "The Role of Edaphic [soil and water] Factors in the Population Ecology of Panonychus citri [citrus red mite]." His research also demonstrated the detrimental effect of dust on the activity of beneficial insects and mites on the leaves and fruits of citrus and avocados. He and Annette made several foreign collecting trips to search for new natural enemies. This use of exotic predators was a pioneering approach to the control of spider mites. His enthusiastically-given invited lectures at universities in Mexico, India, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Argentina, Peru, and elsewhere brought many student applicants to UC to study biological control of pest organisms. His fluency in Spanish greatly added to the success of trips to Spanish-speaking countries.

Charley's interest in the use of natural enemies to control pests was broad. During the early years of his research career he worked mainly with primary pests such as citrus red mite and avocado brown mite and mite pests of greenhouse culture. A survey in 1965 of the Anthocoridae of the Pacific Slope greatly advanced and clarified the status of these important predaceous insects. He was among the first to document the presence in southern California of the spider mite, Tetranychus evansi, a highly destructive pest of solanaceous plants. Other projects he engaged in included the effect of air pollutants and their residues on entomophagous insects and mites, and the use of insects to control puncture vine on the mainland and prickly pear cactus on Santa Cruz Island.

While chair of the Universitywide Department of Biological Control from 1959 to 1964, Fleschner promoter the concept and application of the biological control method through articles and lectures to outside audiences as well as continuing to conduct formal courses at UCR. Two films he directed are still used at UC and other teaching institutions.

Among his major administrative contributions was the constructing of favorable relationships with the federal and state departments of agriculture and the agricultural industry.

In recognition of his scientific contributions on the population ecology of plant-feeding mites, he was invited in 1963 to chair the section of Agricultural and Stored Products Acarology of The First International Congress of Acarology, held at Fort Collins, Colorado.

Fleschner was a member of the California Forest Pest Control Action Council and of the Southern California Forest Pest Committee. In 1965 he was appointed to the USDA Plant Science and Entomology Research Advisory Committee by Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freemen. It was his responsibility as a committee member to review the research program of the United States Department of Agriculture in his field of expertise.

Following Charley's retirement in 1972, the Fleschners spent time at their ranch near Fossil, Oregon, and in Davis, California, where their daughter-in-law, Patti, was completing an M.A. degree at UCD. After the death of his wife in 1974, Fleschner moved to Trinidad, California, in 1977 to be near their two sons and their families. In 1992 he married Adrian Love of Trinidad.

Charley subsequently entered wholeheartedly into community service through the Trinidad Lions Club (he was a charter member) and the Trinidad Museum Society. Leading nature walks that were well attended by youngsters and their parents was a source of great satisfaction. Being an entomologist, he built a fine, locally representative collection of insects for the museum. His devotion to the museum and the community were deeply appreciated; the museum now bears his name.

Charles Fleschner is survived by his wife, Adrian; by his sons, Charles, of Fortuna, and David, of Trinidad, and four grandchildren. A brother, Lewis, resides in Arkansas.

Albert M. Boyce
Theodore W. Fisher
James A. McMurtry