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C. V. Riley

Charles Valentine Riley was born in London, England in 1843. He was a multi-talented Renaissance man. He was a pioneer of entomology in the United States and is often referred to as the founder of biological control in America.

We list C. V. Riley because he has some significance to northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.  He was also indirectly linked to William Alwood.  There is evidence that Riley and Alwood worked together when Alwood was assistant USDA Entomologist and when Alwood worked for the USDA as a special agent. Either way, Riley's accomplishments are worth noting here because they were instrumental in enabling Alwood to save the Virginia fruit industry and Riley and Alwood worked in France and were both recognized by the French government for their contributions to the French wine grape industry.


Riley was a poet, artist, writer, scientist, journalist, linguist, naturalist, philosopher, and inventor.  In 1868, he was appointed as Missouri's first State Entomologist. In 1876, he was named the Chief of the U.S. Entomological Commission and Chief Entomologist for the U. S. Department of Agriculture.  That is where he had his first outstanding success in biological control. In 1888, his work helped save the California citrus industry from scale insects by introducing the Austrialian vedalia beetle as a biological control. He was also the Curator of the Smithsonian Institution's national insect collection from 1878 - 1895.


Riley spent a great deal of his time traveling including consulting with the French government.  One of his contributions involved helping solve the problem of phyloxera control in wine grapes.  In fact, he was so important to the French, that they awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor.


Two of his greatest contributions to pest management included founding the field of biological control and the invention of the Riley spray nozzle (1889).  The Riley nozzle was sold as the Vermorel nozzle, it was a nozzle that produced a fan pattern and was the primary nozzle used in pesticide application in the United States and Europe into the 20th century. It was Riley's nozzle and the invention of some of the early European pesticide application devices that enabled Alwood to import these devices and adopt them to Virginia conditions.


C. V. Riley died in a bicycle accident in 1895.


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