Born in 1885, Dr. Thomas Elliott Snyder was an authority on the taxonomy, biology and control of termites who worked diligently with the pest management industry until his death in 1970. The 2013 Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Fame inductee graduated from Columbia University in 1907 and received his master’s degree from Yale in 1909. Then Dr. Snyder joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Bureau of Entomology, where he worked almost continuously until his retirement in 1951. In 1934, he was transferred to New Orleans to establish the Forest Entomology Laboratory at the Southern Forest Experiment Station, considered to be the first such lab in the Deep South.
According to the June 1971 Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington’s annual meeting, in which the man known affectionately as “Tommie Termite” was memorialized, Dr. Snyder in the 1930s also cooperated with the Higgins Shipbuilding Co. and the U.S. Navy studying the effectiveness of pressure-treated and naturally resistant native and tropical species of wood to prevent damage by marine borers. He returned to Washington in 1945, and from then until his retirement, was engaged in studies about insects injurious to forest products and their control, including cooperative investigations with the Army and Navy.
Serving the Smithsonian
Dr. Snyder also supervised the assemblage of the termite collection of the Smithsonian Institution and identified termites for individuals throughout the world, pest control operators, and federal and state agencies that required them. From the time of his retirement from the USDA until his death, he served, without recompense, as collaborator of the department and as honorary research associate of the Smithsonian Institution.
Dr. Snyder was a familiar face to readers of this publication (then named Exterminators Log, Pests and Pests & Their Control). He authored numerous articles to help professionals identify, control and prevent termite infestations — and graced the cover of the September 1951 issue. In 1937, the then-National Pest Control Association (NPCA and now National Pest Management Association) bestowed honorary lifetime membership for his countless presentations and creating the first NPCA Bulletin to list termite species by state and Canadian province, with identification keys for winged adults and soldiers.
His significant publications include “Our Enemy, the Termite” (1948), “Catalog of the Termites (Isoptera) of the World” (1949) and “Annotated Subject-heading Bibliography of Termites — 1350 B.C. to A.D. 1954,” published in 1956 with supplements published in 1961 and 1968.
“Dr. Snyder was a true pioneer concerning wood-destroying insects, especially termites,” said Dr. Brad Kard, endowed professor of entomology at the University of Oklahoma and a former leader of the USDA Forest Service’s termite research facility.
While numerous insect and fungal parasite species were named in his honor, Dr. Snyder was just as interested in researching the control of wood-destroying insects as he was their biology. He pioneered the soil treatment method as a preventive strategy, and, as the Proceedings reports, “It is not an exaggeration to say that, during the peak of his career, he was the most prominent investigator of termite control methods in the world.”
Note: The author is indebted to Alfred E. Emerson, Carl Muesebeck, R.A. St. George, Dr. Robert Snetsinger and many others to whom she reached out for research.