Roger A. Morse, a Cornell University entomology professor who brought the science of apiculture to the practice of beekeeping, died May 12 in Ithaca. He was 72.
For a half century, Morse championed professional and amateur beekeeping. His books became necessities for a beekeeper's shelf, and his seminal The Complete Guide to Beekeeping became an instant classic in the field and evolved through four editions.
"Roger was very down-to-earth with communication; he could understand a beekeeper's problems and concerns," said Edward Doan, a commercial beekeeper from Hamlin, N.Y. "Beekeepers don't have a lot of time; they have to read fast and work fast. Reading other books on beekeeping was like sitting down with an encyclopedia in front of you. They were not as easy to read as Roger's books."
Morse authored The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Beekeeping with T. Hooper, The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture (40th edition) with Kim Flottum, A Year in the Beeyard, Bees and Beekeeping and Making Mead. His last book, Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station, chronicling legendary biologist Archbold and his scientific adventures around the world, was published this year.
For two decades, Morse helped to wage a scientific battle against mites, which have decimated the wild honeybee population in the United States. In the mid-1990s, Morse estimated that as many as 45 billion bees from 750,000 colonies were killed by microscopic tracheal mites that harbored themselves in the adult bees' breathing tubes and by varroa mites that literally draw the life out of an adult bee.
In addition to keeping and studying bees, Morse taught Cornell's introductory beekeeping course throughout his career. He also taught a laboratory course on practical beekeeping, teaching it this past fall.
Born in Saugerties, N.Y., July 5, 1927, Morse joined the U.S. Army in December 1944, before formally graduating from Saugerties High School in January 1945. He served in the Army in Europe until 1947.
Morse earned all three of his postsecondary degrees from Cornell: a bachelor's in 1950, a master's in 1953 and a doctorate in 1955. In postgraduate work, he was apiculturist with the State Plant Board in Gainesville, Fla.
In 1957, Morse became an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, working there for eight months before joining the Cornell faculty as an assistant professor. Cornell promoted him to associate professor and then to professor, and he served as the entomology department's chair from 1986 to 1989. Morse had been a visiting professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland; the University of S‹o Paulo, Brazil; and at the University of the Philippines at Los Ba–os.
He was made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975 and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America in 1989.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Louise; his son, Joseph; and his daughters, Susan and Mary Ann.