Dr. Ernest James Harris
Try saying Biosteres arisanus to the vast majority of people you encounter, and you’re likely to he met with raised brows and quizzical looks. Pot simply however, it’s the “Harris strain,” a parasitic wasp named for and bred by celebrated entomologist and North Little Rock native son, Ernest James Harris.
Harris, a research entomologist for the U. S. Department of Agriculture, is creator of the most powerful weapon in the world’s fruit fly artillery. Harris, work is a model of Integrated Pest Management (1PM), a system that eliminates the need for potentially dangerous insecticides by using cultural controls like a pest?s natural enemy The Harris strain has a suppressive impact on the Mediterranean fruit fly, which, according to the Alliance for Food and Fiber, attacks over 250 types of crops, turning them into maggot-infested, inedible mush. It’s Harris who’s credited with driving the fruit fly from California in 1975. Not bad for an Arkansas farm boy; It was on his parents. Arkansas farm that Harris, interest in insects and plants took root. When Harris left the farm to attend Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), he became the first in his family to attend college. After graduating magna cum laude in 1951 with a Chemistry degree and zoology minor, Harris worked at the only job he could find at the time: as a janitor. It was Harris, fascination with motorcycles, and a resulting cross-county ride that positioned him to find a lab job in a Milwaukee foundry and, indirectly to meet the young woman, BettyeJo, who became his wife.
From there, Harris’ worked for the forest service in Minnesota, earning his Master?s degree at the University of Minnesota in 1959. Initially declining a job offer from the USDA, Harris returned to Pine Bluff to teach for two years before accepting the USDA’s offer and moving to Hawaii, where he earned a Ph.D. in entomology (the study of insects) from the University of Hawaii in 1975. News of Harris remarkable accomplishments has spread quite rapidly in the fruit fly world, which includes Hawaii, Florida, Guatemala and Mexico.
It was in Chili, however, that Harris realized his most rewarding work, Because of his work, the country has been fruit fly plague-free since 1975 and can now ship their fruits all over the world. Harris received an official commendation from the Chilean government in 1996. ln 1989, he was inducted into the Royal Entomological Society of London, and he received the Certificate of Merit from the USDA?s Agricultural Research Service in 1997. So far, twenty countries have adopted Harris’ method, and Harris expects more. In typical Harris fashion, he has prepared in an unexpectedly conscientious manner: Ernest Harris has become fluent in Spanish and French.