Technology has come to the rescue too many times to count in my life. It is the same with pest control. I was thinking about this the other day as a fly landed on my guest’s plate during a dinner party, much to my chagrin. I decided to explore a resolution to my offline bug problem and encountered an interesting history.
You can go far back over 4,000 years to find the first bug fixes, which were chemical pesticides. We have to give the Sumerians credit for using sulfur and the people of India for identifying poisonous plants. However, it was a bit of a wait for several more thousand years for a revolution to take place in the all but nonexistent new industry. The needs of farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in pyrethrum and derris pest control while a hundred years later we got DDT and herbicides added to the insecticide mix. Now it is all about natural and biological treatment.
What does this tell us? That creepy critters and bugs and such have been around for a long time and have not been wanted. They eat plants and destroy crops, suck blood, cause welts and allergic reactions, and instigate a bout of terrible itching. And then there’s the most feared creepy crawly of them all, the spider. People are always looking for ways to get rid of spiders. No one likes them, even when they are used to eat larvae or otherwise control an enemy population.
Technology has taught us why bugs abound. They have breeding grounds, that need eradication when possible, and they like to feed. Find the source of their nutrition, and banish it for good. Stagnant water and unwrapped trash are also culprits. Waste management is a burgeoning field. Then there are crop dusters that do a lot of effective dirty work, but it is up to the researchers to make sure that cancer is not a consequence.
There is great hope now that biological control agents have come to the fore and will replace past processes. Predators, parasitoids and pathogens are part of the new science. It is also called a “bioeffector” approach that relies on natural mechanisms like herbivory that controls weeds and insect-attracting wetlands. Orange oil is used now as an alternative solution to termites. It is less expensive, less toxic, but not less effective.
Technology has drawn upon history of man at war to discover that pest control can depend on introducing bugs’ natural enemies. It’s tricky to bring in these warriors in a kind of new population importation or what is called augmentation of an existing species. Conservation of these foes is often called upon such as ladybugs aphid colonies. These cute little crawling things are predators of the most voracious kind. Also think about dragonflies that come face to face with mosquitos. Finally, mention must be made of parasitoids that lay their eggs on an insect’s body. They can be food for developing larvae and the host is killed in the process.
This is an entire field of discovery that benefits mankind in multiple ways in agriculture and the reduction of rampant disease. Funding is an important factor in keeping the advancements going. Crowdfunding could be the way of the future for natural pest control.