Written by: Stuart Steele
Humans have experienced great torment by pests. Pest control as we know it; is the control or management of a species classified as pests. Pest control dates back to a period in history where a human first killed a mosquito or crushed a fly. When agriculture emerged in human history; Humans started realising the danger imposed by pests to food crops. Because pests were interfering with food, humans started searching for ways in which they could repel them.
The earliest recorded occurrence of pest control happened in 2500 BC when the ancient Sumerians used sulphur compounds to kill insects. The ancient Greeks would make use of fire to chase locusts to the sea. In 1200 BC, the Chinese deployed predator ants against pests such as beetles and caterpillars. Similar to this were Arabs, which also used a certain species of pests to control other pests in the 1000 AD.
During that time, Arab farmers would use a species of ants from highland regions to prey on local ants that fed on crops. They created a system of tying adjoining branches with ropes to help the ants move across citrus trees freely in a mission to finish the pests. The Chinese have records which date back to 6500 BC where they used Mercury and arsenic on humans to control lice.
In 300 BC, Egyptians were known to use cats to control rodents, they were also known to use nets over their beds to control mosquitos, this dates as far back as 500 BC. By 300 BC, the Chinese started sowing crops during specific seasons to avoid the crops being eaten by pests, this occurred when they discovered the relationship between the climate and periodic biological phenomena.
After the scientific awakening brought forward by the European Renaissance, people started making scientific observations on pests and developed plans on how to trap them. Soon after that, scientists discovered that nicotine, certain herbs and arsenic repelled insects and these types of substances became major pest control instruments.
In the early Renaissance period, they used hand labour as a pest control measure until Franz Bruckmann developed the earliest mechanical insect-trap in the early 1700s. In the 1800s, the use of pesticides emerged because of the invention of various synthetic insecticides such as DDT and herbicides. Pest control made an enormous scientific stride during the 19th century by expanding to multiple scientific disciplines, including the study of pests and how they can be managed. Universities created programs of study like entomology to understand how pests affected human health and agricultural sustainability.
Such studies dissected how public health companies and the agricultural sector can control pests using more accurate scientific investments and new chemicals that can help control pests. However, urbanisation from the industrial revolution increased the number of personal pests such as bedbugs and lice.
The discovery of more complex chemicals in the 20th century led to mass industrial creation and introduced the marketing of pest products to the commercial sector. The chemicals started scientifically evolving, some were meant to damage the pest’s reproductive system, some killed the pest on contact, and some were meant to repel the pest from a certain environment, crops or humans.
Around the 20th century, the birth of professional pest control businesses began, during this period, pests were household issues and pest control professionals were being hired to implement strategies on how they can remove the issue at hand. In agriculture, they keep pests at bay by cultural, biological, and chemical means. Things such as ploughing or cultivation of the soil before sowing were known to reduce the burden of having to deal with pests.
Biological control is the practice of using other organisms to control pests. Biological control relies on predation and an active human management role. This control method includes introducing natural enemies of the pests that are bred in the laboratory and distributed into the environment. Another approach to biological pest control is releasing more pests to claim the territory of the ones you are trying to get rid of. Ideally, the released organisms will breed and survive and provide long-term control.
Mechanical pest control is the use of hands or techniques and equipment and devices that provide a protective barrier between plants and insects. This practice is called tillage and is one of the oldest weed control methods. This practice is most efficient when trying to control wire worms and larvae of the common beetle.
Trap cropping is the practice of planting a crop that attracts pests in order to divert them from nearby crops. Pests which are clustered on the trap crop method can easily be controlled by using pesticides or other control methods.
Pesticides are applied using crop sprayers, seed dressings, or agricultural aircrafts to control pests. When using pesticides as a control method, timing and the method of application is important.
Physical pest control is the practice of trapping or killing pests, this method is mostly used on a domestic scale. Such control methods include poisoned baits to trap and control rats, ant baiting stations in order to control ants.
Fumigation is the treatment of a structure such as a building to kill pests such as wood-boring beetles. This method can be practised by sealing a building or surrounding it with an airtight cover such as a tent and fogging with liquid insecticide for 24-72 hours. This method is good because it targets all the life stages of a wood borer beetle, including their eggs. All safety measure would be taken into account when such fumigation is undertaken.