Pests were around long before humans, and in all likelihood, they’ll be around long after. Ever since mankind first decided to settle down and start growing their food instead of hunting and gathering, we’ve been looking for ways to keep those pesky freeloaders out. As you can imagine, we weren’t always quite as smart about it as we are now.
Throughout history, humans have tried just about everything to get an edge over the eternal pest foe. We think we’ve gotten good at it, but our expertise rides on the shoulders of scientific and technical advancements, years of learning, and quite a bit of rather embarrassing trial-and-error.
To honor our bug-busting forefathers and poke a little fun, we’re walking through the history of bug-busting, from prehistoric times to today. We might even pick up a few long-neglected strategies (though we’ll leave lead arsenic in the past).
The earliest recorded instance of any form of pest control dates all the way back to 2500 BC. Ancient Sumerians used sulfur, or “brimstone,” compounds to kill the insects and mites that would feed on their crops. Other civilizations began to also demonstrate rudimentary understanding of pest control in the BCs.
As early as 1500 BC, some Chinese civilizations were experimenting with agricultural control techniques, such as scheduling crop rotations to account for sporadic ecological phenomena like dry seasons or pest swarms. By 300 BC, the Chinese had integrated these practices into a simplistic version of phenology, the study of cyclic and seasonal phenomena.
Almost every ancient society developed some kind of practice to prevent the destruction of their food sources by pests. Romans used hellebore to kill mice, rats, and insects. In 1200 BC, Egyptian and Chinese societies were using different herbs and oils to either repel or kill crop-feeding pests. Even at the beginning of societies, pest control was a necessity for healthy living and community development. Pest control best practices for repelling and killing insects and other invasive species developed even more rapidly.
Early developments, such as phenology in China and the use of sulfur all the way back in 2500 BC, were developed and perfected into much more effective pest solutions. The effectiveness of techniques such as these spurred more and more research and experimentation, which in turn yielded better and better results.
The research zeal was a mixed blessing, however. For all the good that pest research did, it unfortunately also led to the development of harmful products. Arsenic and other harmful chemicals were applied to crops and sprayed to kill pests early and often. These chemicals were often used before they were fully understood and were very harmful before regulations were developed in the 1970s to limit their use and protect workers from their effects.
As we learned more, it became clear that pest control required trained professionals. By the early 1800s, manuals on pest management and prevention were being written and distributed. With the demand, science, and technology finally available, the pest control industry was set to kick off.
Birth of an Industry
As the use of lead arsenic demonstrated, the use of pesticides by amateurs could be dangerous. The pest control industry developed due to a demand for professionals who knew how to solve problems without hurting people. Plunkett’s Pest Control, founded in 1915, not only drove away pests, we did it using technology and practices that were proven safe.
The passage of several laws also helped make the pest control industry safer. In 1910, the US government passed the Federal Insecticide Act, which regulated pesticide use to protect consumers and applicators. This initial act was followed by the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969. A significant update to the original Federal Insecticide Act called the Federal Environmental Control Act also passed in 1972. These regulations had the effect of both protecting the environment and steering the pest control industry in a non-invasive direction.
The Present and Future
Thanks to these efforts in educating and regulating, the pest control industry is more knowledgeable than ever. The latest development in pest fighting philosophy is “integrated pest management." This theory proposes cultivating a deeper understanding of pests to remove them without using invasive, potentially dangerous chemicals. Technicians use their knowhow to not only remove pests, but also to ensure that pests can’t get in again. IPM is the best-case scenario for the environment, the practitioner, and--most importantly--the customer.
When it comes to IPM best practices, no one knows more than Plunkett’s. We’ve been applying sustainable, non-invasive techniques to our pest control for years. Plunkett’s is proud to be an industry leader in implementing green technologies to our business practices. Going green isn't a compromise--it's a natural consequence of embracing the knowledge-based, surgical style of pest control we’ve always promoted.
As the pest control industry continues to learn, grow, and develop, new technologies and biological breakthroughs will be forthcoming. Even now, biorational materials and synthetic pheromones are yielding exciting results. For how much the industry has and will continue to change, however, some things remain constant. Plunkett’s Pest Control has remained locally owned and operated for over 100 years. We're committed to sustainable, knowledge-based professional work. Most importantly, we've stayed devoted to serving our customers. Give us a call today, and we’ll prove it!