Andrew Delmar Hopkins

A. D. Hopkins is widely regarded as “the father of forest entomology” in the United States. He was a pioneering scientist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Andrew Delmar Hopkins was born near Ripley, on August 20, 1857, in Harrison County, Virginia, which is now Jackson County, West Virginia. Hopkins had little education, even by mid-1800s standards. His doctorate was an honorary degree conferred by West Virginia University in 1893.

In 1889, Hopkins wrote Dr. John Myers, the first director of the West Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and volunteered to be the entomologist for the Experiment Station provided that he could work from his farm in Wood County. Hopkins’ first assignment was to determine which insects were the most important pests in West Virginia. He began a series of trips during the summer of 1890 to collect, observe, and talk with residents of the state concerning problems with insects. Hopkins’ first research projects, in addition to cataloging important insects in the state and building a synoptic reference collection at the University, dealt with a massive bark beetle outbreak in the eastern part of the state and with the Hessian fly as a pest on wheat. His Hessian fly work was to become a classic. He determined that delayed planting of wheat could control the fly and then worked out the appropriate planting dates for West Virginia and ultimately for much of the United States. This work was the basis for what eventually became Hopkins’ Bioclimatic Law and it was the beginning of his lifelong interest in bioclimatics.

Hopkins’ bark beetle investigations, which began in 1891, really launched his career as a forest entomologist. Hopkins more important forest entomology works, in addition to his reports on investigations of the sprucepine beetle problems, were the “Catalog of West Virginia Scolytidae (Bark Beetles) and Their Enemies” and “Catalog of West Virginia Forest and Shade Tree Insects.” In one of his annual reports he mentioned that, among other things during that year, he had described 196 new species and six genera of insects.

Hopkins’ growing expertise regarding forest insects was soon recognized and he was engaged by the U. S. Department of Agriculture as a special agent to investigate forest insect problems in the western U. S. Many of these problems were caused by bark beetles. In 1899 he traveled through California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho to study infestations of bark beetles in ponderosa pine. In 1900 he went to Maine to study insects on spruce, and in 1901 he studied the bark beetle problems in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He followed up more intensively on some of these problems when he later moved to Washington, D. C., to work for the federal government.

In 1902, Hopkins moved to Washington, D. C., where he accepted a position with the U. S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Entomology. He initially worked for C. V. Riley, but within two years become the head of The Division of Forest Insects. After 21 Years with the Bureau of Entomology, Hopkins retired in 1923 and returned to his farm in Wood County where he immediately resumed his studies of bioclimatics and plant breeding. His farm was officially designated as a special field station of the Department of Agriculture, and was called “The Kanawha Farms Intercontinental Base Station for Bioclimatic Research.”

In terms of the sheer volume and diversity of scientific works, Hopkins had no peer and probably will never have. His Bioclimatic Law and Hopkins’ Host Selection Principle will ensure that we scientists do not forget him and that we will always have something about which to argue. A. D. Hopkins was a true pioneer and he was one of the most outstanding scientists of his time.

Derived from: Berisford, C. W. 1991. Andrew Delmar Hopkins — A West Virginia Pioneer in Entomology. W.VA.. Forestry Notes. No. 14: 20-26.