The history of pest control is probably a much longer one than you realize. You might sit back, scratch the flea bites on your ankles and say, “uh, huh,” as we mention this.
Do you wonder, if pest control has been around so long, why all these itchy bites?
The answer might be that for as long as humans have existed, we have always been outnumbered and often outsmarted by insects and other annoying creatures. Well, at least the pest control companies keep a lot of people employed.
This article looks at the rather remarkable history of people’s persistence in keeping pests in check. We’re sure you’ll find it fascinating.
The History of Pest Control: Was There a Beginning?
Today’s researchers use a combination of supercomputers, genetic research, data from fossils, and other methods to develop a clearer idea of when insects first inhabited the earth. It was before the dinosaurs.
Evidence of the first insects dates to the Pennsylvanian Period, 290-320 million years ago. Some of these insects were giants, with wingspans up to three feet. Imagine swatting one of these!
We assume that no pest control was necessary since there were no humans to control whatever pests existed back then. It’s a “tree falling in the forest” sort of thing. So, let’s move a few eons into the future.
Pest Control in Ancient Civilizations
The earliest recorded insect pest control was in Sumer around 2500 BCE. They used a sulfur compound as a treatment.
Around the time of the Roman Empire in Europe, the Chinese experimented with various types of pest management, including soap—which must have repelled at least some of them.
Various insects and their damage are depicted in images from Ancient Egypt through the European Middle Ages. During the latter years of this time, specifically Europe’s Dark Ages, filth, contagion, and infestations were rampant.
The Rise of Modern Pest Control
The parade of largely undocumented insect repellent discoveries that began in prehistorical times continued into the 1700s and later. But it wasn’t until the Industrial Era that pesticides were formulated, documented, and tested.
Of course, these had some chilling side effects that people tolerated instead of the alternatives, i.e., crop damage, disease, and overall disruption. At least these various formulations were documented and eventually replaced by safer substances.
Coming to Terms With Pest Control Toxicity
Modern problems almost inevitably accompany modern chemical formulations and their applications. Since pesticides’ goal is to kill, there has been a fair amount of collateral damage from them over time.
Side Effects of Pesticide Exposure
Immediately visible short-term effects of pesticide toxicity include:
- Irritation of the nose, throat, and skin
- Stinging, itching, and rashes and blisters
- Nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea
Unfortunately, sometimes, these have been mistaken for having causes other than pesticides.
The medical community is still discovering new cases of long-term health problems resulting from pesticides. These include:
- Cancer and other types of tumors
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Congenital disabilities
- Infertility and other reproductive problems
- Damage to other organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs
The Rise of Public Awareness of Pesticide Harm
When ecologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, it called the public’s attention to pesticide safety (and the lack thereof), among other natural environment threats.
Carson passed away two years after the release of Silent Spring, so she did not witness the radical 1960s and early 1970s. Environmentalism was at the forefront of societal concerns.
There are concerns about human health risks and the dangers pesticides pose to flora and fauna besides just insects. Protests have been ongoing in the United States and many other countries for many years.
Pesticide Modification and Alternatives
Pest control companies and the general population have begun to introduce new ways of thinking about what really constitutes a pest problem or threat.
Instead of moving forward zealously with some type of poison, those involved are stepping back to consider different options.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Pest control companies have begun to introduce scaled-back methods of using toxic pesticides through a system called integrated pest management or IPM. IPM is a sort of continuum, whereby an action threshold is established based on immediate needs.
The action threshold is a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions make it clear that some pest control action is necessary. With IPM, the guiding principle is that pest control, especially when it’s toxic, is not always called for.
Pest control companies have been exploring quite a few alternatives to the highly poisonous substances of earlier decades.
Do-It-Yourself Pest Control
Is DIY pest control ever a viable alternative to all the toxins? In many ways, yes – especially when non-toxic substances, physical traps, or barriers can be used instead of toxic spraying.
Rodent control is one example. Increasingly, pest control companies and homeowners alike have started to trap mice and rats and relocate them far away from the homes where they’ve taken up residence. Humane treatment can be a viable pest control option in the right circumstances.
Keep in mind as well that many pests also threaten humans. Consider the mosquito, for instance. It’s considered one of the world’s deadliest animals, infecting people all over the globe with fatal or debilitating illnesses like malaria and the Ebola virus.
Of course, many people still believe all they do is make us itch.
Pests Are Here to Stay
For eons, people have withstood annoying pests using what you might call DIY pest control: they did what they could with what they had. Insects had established their place on the planet long before humans, much less any history of pest control.
If insects still cause problems today, should we expect they’ll ever go away? No, not if our efforts to eradicate them haven’t worked so far. Throughout pest control history, we’ve learned that annoying pests also benefit us.
We’ve also learned how to run environmentally responsible pest control companies. So, why not contact Pointe Pest Control to keep pests at bay while causing minimal damage to the ecosystem?