The rise of pest control’s use worldwide has given all of us the opportunity to dedicate more time to doing other more productive things other than picking off pests bit by bit from our precious homes, our important places of business, and our favorite personal locations. It has helped us boundlessly in our endeavor to sanitize the places we inhabit and keep away nasty things such as illnesses and general discomfort. But one has to wonder about its inception – how, and when, did pest control begin?
A History on General Sanitation
Even in 2500 BC, – also known as the Babylonian Era – pests were already a nuisance. Flies were known to transmit disease in this era and the people of this age even prayed to a two-winged fly-like god called the “God of Pestilince.” They did this in order to avoid the diseases brought about by insects. Although admittedly the information was insufficient, the Bible sheds some light on it. In the Old Testament there are mentions of anthropoid insects that bring about various kinds of doom – mosquitoes brought the plague, insects in general caused infestations and disease, and lice were horrible creatures that were to be avoided at all costs. Aside from that, historical accounts from the books found in the library of Ashurbanipal as well as the designs on the pottery of Egypt and Peru had also suggested the presence of these deadly insects.
Luckily for us, as they pestered us more, our knowledge of them grew. Jump to Galen’s medical writings in the Roman era which were used as primary references for Arabic and late-medieval medicines and other aspects of general sanitation.This includes the construction of waste handling facilities in Rome to keep the city safe. Essentially, these were huge steps in creating a more sustainable environment. (There was a strange trend back then wherein clean people were viewed to be actually dirty – needless to say, those who shared this view suffered the consequence of their perception.)
In 1500-1200 BC, laws were provided regarding cleanliness and it was even related to religious purity. Egyptians even bathed regularly. They combined animal and vegetable oils to create soap. This soap was also used to cure skin diseases and clean various items of clothing.
The year 600 BC saw the use of public baths near places of exercise as well as the use of bathing chamber pots. By the time of 300 BC, wiping techniques were incorporated along with the use of toilets. Common material that was used for this was wool, rosewater, and soaked sponges. The first signs of dental health were shown in 400 AD by the British. They used water mixed with vinegar and mint as a mouth wash to remove gunk.
Fast forward to England in 1297 – every man was required to have a clean house. By 1357 a “sanitary police” had been established. In 1491, living a healthy lifestyle became a necessity by practicing daily bathing, changing clothes regularly, and using lice deterrent. Eating healthier and exercising also became a major lifestyle point.
During the 1500s until around 1682, the fact that pests were attracted to exposed filth become common knowledge. People, then, realized that pests tend to go away once they are exposed to a clean and washed location. This simple fact bolstered sanitation practices, further enforcing and building on the “clean” lifestyle they were trying so hard to maintain.
Origins of Pest Control
Pest control dates all the way back to ancient Greece, where they used fire in order to chase away locusts to the sea. The Greek mathematician, Pythagorus, even cleared a town of malaria by draining the nearby marsh. In 2500 BC, sulfur compounds were used in order to control insects.
In 1200 BC, the Chinese used ants it order to get rid of beetles and caterpillars. They did this by tying adjacent branches together with rope. This allowed the ants to travel between trees and attack the pests. By 300 BC, the Chinese also discovered the relationship between pests, climate, seasons, and agriculture. With this knowledge, they planted their crops on off-seasons in order for them to avoid harvesting on the periods when pests thrived the most.
During the Middle Ages (500-1100 AD), the people used plant extracts or chemicals in order to exterminate rats. The Europeans came up with a lot of methods to kill them; in a section in Chaucer’s Pardner’s Tale, there was a purchase from an apothecary for “Rattons Quell” which meant “rats kill” that was used by numerous people during that era just to do as its name said – terminate rats.
However, in the same period, pest control also received a bad reputation and was considered by many to be against the will of God. It was believed during this time that pests and fleas was God’s way of punishing man for their sins and that they should accept the punishment in order not anger Him. It was only until the Renaissance period when these superstitions dispersed.
Meanwhile, during the Middle Ages in Asia, they repelled insects with the use of chemicals such as sulfur and arsenic as well as plant extracts like lemon oil and wormwood.
Barbers and vendors during the Renaissance period were still bothered by the rodents, so they came up with a “rat catcher” which comprised of rodent traps and chemicals that were so potent and popular that they even became part of a circus act.
During this time in Europe, scientists discovered that nicotine and certain herbs also repel insects. These became primary instruments in pest control of this age.
In the 17th century, Franz Bruckmann created the very first mechanical insect trap. This invention paved the way to cement the use of pest control, which reached mainstream popularity by the 18th century.It was during this century that people recognized and embraced pest control products. Multiple units were bought and used by many citizens. In 1840, the Victorian Flea Trap was created and became the go-to pest control instrument of the time. For those who preferred a more natural method during this time, dogs were also trained to hunt down rats.
Also in this century, the use of pesticides became a staple to daily life. This is due to the development of synthetic insecticides such as DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and herbicides.
During World War 2 (1939 – 1945), organophosphates were used as a nerve gas in biological warfare. However, it was also used on the side as pest control due to its pesticide properties. After the war, this along with chlorinated hydrocarbons became common household and agricultural insecticides.
Pest Control during the Black Death
In October 1347, the Black Death arrived in Europe. This is widely considered to be the worst plague in history; claiming 75 million lives.
The outbreak of this infection started when 12 Genoese boats travelled through the Black Sea to arrive in the port of Messina. They, then, discovered that most of the crew had died and the survivors were gravely ill. All the crew members had black boils (which is where the name of the plague was derived from). Even with the boats banished from the harbor, the disease found its way to the locals and spread the sickness over the next five years. During this time, it killed more than 20 million people in Europe – 1/3rd of the continent’s population at the time.
People with the disease were found to have swellings and boils that could be as big as the size of an apple. From these, blood and pus would ooze out. The victims would experience chills, vomiting, diarrhea, terrible aches, and eventual death.
The disease was so efficient that it could even be spread just by contact with clothes of the infected. Also, people who were perfectly fine one night could be found dead the next morning because of the Black Death.
It was only in the 19th century (5 centuries after the disease) that a scientist named Alexandrea Yersin discovered that the disease was spread through the bite of infected rats and fleas. These pests were found with a bacillus, which the scientist named as “Yersinapestis.” He discovered that this bacillus had carried the Black Plague.
Because rats and fleas were found all throughout medieval Europe, the disease quickly spread. These pests also managed to find a comfortable home aboard any kind of ship at that time, which is how the disease reached all over Europe. Only a short while after the discovery of the disease in Messina, it was also found in France, North Africa, Rome, and Florence. By 1348, it was also spreading in the cities of Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, and London.
No one knew how to prevent the disease and physicians relied on crude and superstitious methods such as bloodletting, boil-lancing, burning herbs, and bathing in vinegar.
It was only after people began practicing proper hygiene did the disease begin to fade away. Although they were unaware of the bacillus microorganism, they unconsciously started to wash it away from their clothes, homes, and bodies; they started to become more hygienic. They also began burning dead bodies and boiling drinking water, which killed the microorganisms thriving in dirty water and decomposing bodies.
This epidemic just goes to show how important general sanitation and pest control is to the human health.
The Legalities of Pesticide
Due to the nature of its job, pesticides have earned itself a bad reputation. Some people mistakenly believed that it was hazardous for one’s health. However, these protesters were shut down in 2012 by both local and international government units – including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – for their misdirected beliefs. Both major institutions have approved – and promoted – the use of pest control in order to promote a clean environment. Besides, pest control items are no longer limited to possibly dangerous chemical compounds. There now exist “friendlier” versions of the product. In fact, newer approaches to pest control have been developed such as the use of biological, genetic, and other tactics. These new methods are being used in order to hinder the pests’ ability to reproduce as well as to reprogram their behavior to be less harmful. Of course, the assistance of a professional is still sometimes required.
Pesticide Laws and Regulations
Although simple exposure is not enough to be harmful to man, excessive exposure is. It is for this reason that the EPA was created. The mission of the EPA (or Environmental Protection Agency) is to regulate pesticides in the United States. Their Office of Pesticide Programs is in charge of issuing these regulations.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (or FIFRA) has given the EPA the responsibility to decide on which pesticides can be used and how they should be used. Along with other federal and state agencies, the EPA studies new pesticides and creates the rules and regulations by which its use should be limited to. For old pesticides, the EPA regularly relates them to new research and discoveries they make in order to refine their regulations.
The EPA also defines which emergency situations, such as the arrival of plagues and dangerous diseases, will warrant the temporary use of certain harmful pesticides, meaning they could be used to contain the spread of the virus.
They also design programs to educate and inform users of pesticides and the effects they may have.
Pest Control Today
Much like any other invention in human history, pest control has come a long way since its inception. The mere fact that it is still a contraption that is used today stands as a testament to how innovative and helpful it truly is.
However, a tool is only as good as the one wielding it. For those who need a pest problem taken care of, you can rely on Topbest to eradicate it.
Topbest is a pest control service provider here in the Philippines. You can depend on us to help you get rid of the tiny critters disturbing the peace and quiet in your household – no matter what they are (cockroaches, rats, mosquitoes, termites, etc.).
If in case you are interested in availing our services, then contact us today and we’ll help you with whatever you need!