The first recorded instance of pest control dates from around 2500BC when the Sumerians used sulphur to control insects. In 1000BC Homer, the Greek poet, also described its use for getting rid of house pests and much later the Romans used sulphur to protect their crops from pests.
There was very little knowledge about the best (most effective) means of pest control. Most methods used at the time were generally based on hearsay or superstition – people believed pests were evil and sent as a punishment from God.
In 1200BC China, Predatory ants, were used to protect citrus groves from caterpillars and wood boring beetles. It is said that ropes or bamboo sticks were tied between adjacent branches, to provide the ants with easy access from one plant to the next.
In 440BC Ancient Egypt, fishing nets were used to cover beds and homes at night as protection from mosquitoes and for crop protection, lines of human drovers were organised to repel swarms of locusts.
Pythagorus, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, was credited with clearing malaria from a Sicilian town during the 6th century B.C. by instructing its residents to drain the marshes (standing water is ideal breeding site for mosquitoes!).
For a long time people only had natural control methods at their disposal to repel pests. In 70AD, Pliny the Elder, wrote Natural History in which he advocated the use of natural chemicals for insect control. These included the use of mint (Mentha pulegium) spread over floors in houses to control fleas, and the use of wormwood (Artimesia absinthium L.) in a dried or powder form to repel moths and fleas.
A less conventional approach was taken during 1320, when the cockchafers (as a species) were taken to court in Avignon where they were ordered to leave town and relocate to a specially designated area, or be outlawed. All cockchafers who failed to comply were collected and killed.
In the early 1700’s Franz Ernst Brückmann, a German physician, designed the first mechanical traps for various insects, including flea traps. Apparently, flea traps became quite the fashion accessory due to their ornate design often crafted from ivory or silver.
Later, thanks to the work of the Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus in 1758, who catalogued and named many pests, the interest in pests really took off.
As the intensity and the scale of agricultural farming increased, so too did the need and reliance on effective pest control to protect crops and yet it wasn’t until the 20th century that pest control began to emerge as a credible and highly valued profession.
In 1921 the first crop-spraying aeroplane was employed and in 1962 flying insect control was revolutionized when Insect-o-cutor started selling fly killer machines using ultra violet lamps.
Today, pest control remains as important in protecting our crops, homes and businesses as ever. As our years of experience, knowledge and understanding of pests increase, so do our pest control treatments and products. In many ways, modern pest control advocates pest prevention as the best form of pest control, as the old saying goes “Prevention is better then cure”.
I would take this article a little bit further and say that pest control continues to evolve and is gaining momentum in the DIY sector.
People are realizing that they don’t need to hire an exterminator anymore. Some people still do and will continue to because of time constraints, but for those people who need to save money, do it yourself pest control is becoming very popular.