The History Of Pest Control – Our Dislike Of Pests Is Prehistoric!

Pests have been around longer than we have and they’ll likely be here still after us. They’re incredibly resilient, as they should be having had millions years longer than us to adapter and evolve to their annoying selves they are today. And while today we have it pretty good in terms of control pest populations and handling their occasional influx in numbers or infestations, our ancestors had a far harder time, often finding clever ways to naturally ward off pests to save their crops, their homes and their sanity. So let’s take a deeper look into the history of pest control and how we got to where we are today in the industry. After all, those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it!

The Dawn Of The Caveman

Take a moment to understand how lucky you have it living today in regards to pests compared to our cavemen ancestors. Not only are you dealing with significantly less numbers of pests due to much of their natural habitats being removed to make way for the human population, when you actually do deal with them, it’s far easier to rid yourself of them thanks to the methods and chemicals we’ve discovered over a millennia of trial and error.

Unfortunately for our cavemen ancestors however, they we’re just discovering methods to ward off pests, and primarily for them, it was by using fire and smoke, an effective method even today. While fire is great for keeping warm and cooking food, the smoke and even the heat generated from fires does more than enough to drive away most pests as many pests tend to breathe through their skin as well as regulate their body’s moisture. Similarly, flying insects have an even harder time flying through smoke, effectively warding them off.

This is why even today, fires are constantly burning and being controlled by indigenous tribes and other villages in places like South America or Africa, as a smoky environment, while tolerable to a level in humans, is even less tolerable to small pests.


Egypt & Asia Pioneered Pest Control Methods

While it’s safe to say nearly every society that existed throughout history had some form of pest control, firstly Egyptian, but also Asian nations were far more advance in terms of understanding how pests lived. As far as we know, they were likely the first to use natural chemical agents to repel pests using plants available to them and grinding them down for their oils to use on both themselves and their crops. Further still, it’s likely they were also the first to use predatory insects to squash infestations of other pests feeding on their crops. Similarly to their method of using living plants as well to deter pests from moving into an area they lived in or grew their crops in. Even further, they recognized the migration habits of these obnoxious pests and would prepare themselves and their crops accordingly to get a better yield and thrive all the more as a society.

As an aside, in Europe after the spread of Christianity, many viewed pests as a godly punishment and believed nothing could be done about it until the Renaissance brought back science over superstition. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that we saw a performance increase in pest control tools to help disperse pesticides which were still in their very early forms consisting of many natural compounds known to deter pests.

Pest Control Revolution During The 1900’s & Early 2000’s

Up until now, despite all of the advancements made in the pest control industry, pesticides that did exist were not seen as effective and were considered a waste of resources. They were also costly and very hazardous to the health of anyone who came into contact with them directly.

After WWI occurred where we saw horrific uses of mustard gas and other chemical dispersion agents, researchers noted their affects on insects as well, furthering the use of the same chemical agents use, but on insects instead to a much less degree of toxicity.

During the start of the 1930’s we see a movement to creating synthetic pesticides that are formulated specifically for pest control to combat moths and other common household pests. Again, after WWII, chemical agents developed for use in nerve gas during the war were later applied to the pest control industry. 

DDT, a substance synthesized by Paul Muller in 1939 was seen to have amazing pest repelling capabilities and is seen still today in pest repellents, albeit more refined than the original. It wasn’t until a few years later after its use became widespread however that DDT was found in foods and drink and its use became better regulated.

Once the 1960’s hit, a huge surge in interest for synthetic pesticides came to be and has continued since to find better ways to prevent pests in general, but also prevent harm to non-pests exposed to any pesticides. It was due to this effort that we now see the pest industry and the agricultural industry working with a strong relationship to create pest resistant crops to reduce the need for pesticides to be used on crops saving on costs for nearly everyone involved from those who make the pesticides, those who use them, those who grows the crops and those who eat them.

With that, the pest industry is continuing to change on a daily basis with more and more discoveries being made and tested every day to keep your home and food clear of pests. Thank you for reading our brief history of pest control. We plan on adding more to this page to make it even more informative ASAP so check back soon!

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