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Fresno County entomologist retires from University of California

The University of California Cooperative Extension entomology farm advisor for Fresno County, Richard Coviello, has retired after devoting 35 years to the study of Fresno County agricultural pests.

Born in Fresno, Coviello did not stray far from his roots. He was raised on a family grape and peach farm between the communities of Clovis and Fresno “when there used to be farmland there years and years ago,” he said. He was doing farm chores by the time he was 12.

Though Coviello knew he wanted to leave the farm, he loved certain aspects of the agricultural lifestyle. At Fresno State College he pursued a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis on entomology. Two years later, in 1971, Coviello became the staff research associate for UC entomologist Charlie Summers at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center near Parlier. In 1976, he earned a master’s degree at Fresno State and in 1981 was named the entomology farm advisor for Fresno County.

“I knew the man who was the entomology farm advisor before me,” Coviello said. “I thought what he was doing was interesting.”

As the entomology farm advisor, Coviello focused on pesticide evaluation and pest monitoring programs for tomatoes, almonds, stone fruit and grapes. The last few years, he worked closely with a team of farm advisors and specialists to tackle ant management in almonds. The scientists developed protocols for using new ant bait products that are safer and more effective than older conventional insecticide sprays.

The director of Fresno County UCCE, Jeanette Sutherlin, said Coviello will be missed terribly by the farmers and pest control advisers he worked with and by his colleagues at the University.

“We’ve received numerous letters, e-mails and phone calls expressing appreciation for Rich’s work and stressing the importance of having this position replaced,” Sutherlin said. “Rich leaves a legacy as an entomologist with his clientele and with farm advisors throughout California. He leaves a legacy of leadership in the Fresno County Extension office that will long be remembered.”

During retirement, Coviello and his wife JoAnn, who recently retired from the Kearney Research and Extension Center after serving for 35 years there as an administrative assistant, will continue to renovate their turn-of-the-century farmhouse near Fowler.

Coviello, who was honored with emeritus status by the vice president of UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, also plans to maintain a monitoring program he established for tree fruit and almond pests.

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