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Pests Through the Ages - Pest Control Hereford BLOG

As far back as prehistoric times, pests have caused humans a problem. During this period humans were fewer and, with no homes or possessions or crops, pests were more likely to be those which caused physical discomfort such as lice, fleas, flies and mosquitoes.

Pest control back in those times was most likely to have been limited to picking; swatting, slapping and squashing! Some of these measures continue to be used today!

There are historical accounts of woollen clothing and feathers in centurion’s helmets being eaten during Roman times.

In medieval times the plague or “black death” spread throughout Europe and Asia killing millions of people. Rats have long been cited as the cause of the black death although recently more controversial studies have pointed the finger at fleas and body lice with the implication that actually humans were the cause of the spread of the disease.

The black death wiped out a third of Europe’s population in the mid-1300s. Whether or not this theory is true, rats have still played a significant role in spreading disease in modern plagues.

In Tudor times, the monarchy used to employ people to beat carpets to get rid of moths and used cedar wood chests to try and keep pests at bay.

In Victorian times, new species of pests were introduced into the UK with an increase in trade around the world.

And, in the late 20th and 21st century we have seen a rise in other pests due to climate change.

The fact that some pests have been around far longer than man gives an indication of the problems that are faced by pest control in the current century. Pests, like humans, evolve. They adapt quickly to their environment and they can become resistant to some control measures over time.

Some interesting pest control measures throughout history

Roman agricultural text of 50 A.D. (De re Rustica) suggests the following for protection from caterpillars: "a woman ungirded and with flying hair must run barefoot around the garden, or a crayfish must be nailed up in different places in the garden." Fortunately, at PGM & Son Pest Control we’ve never encountered these DIY methods on our rounds!

After the fall of the Roman Empire Europeans relied increasingly on religious faith, superstition, and legalistic pronouncements, and less on biological knowledge.

A few examples (from Dethier, 1976) illustrate this:

  • In 666 A.D. St. Magnus, Abbot of Flussen, repulsed locusts and other pests with the staff of St. Columbia.

  • In 1476 A.D. In Berne, Switzerland, cutworms were taken to court, pronounced guilty, excommunicated by the archbishop, and banished.

  • In the eighteenth-century people wore a flea trap contraption around the neck. Fleas entered the outer perforations and were caught on a sticky tube inside. Fleas were a constant harassment to people of all classes during this period in Europe although there is no record of whether the flea trap necklace was successful in controlling the pest.

  • T. W. Harris's Treatise on Some of the Insects Injurious to Vegetation (1841) gives some useful advice on controlling caterpillars “Pay children to collect them by the quart”!

Fortunately, pest control has improved throughout history and is based much more on scientific fact.

If you’re experiencing a pest problem give us a call at PGM & Son Pest Control Hereford. Rats, mice, wasps, flies, flea, bed bugs, cockroaches, ants, silverfish, squirrels, moles, moths, beetles – we’ve got it covered!

For all your pest control needs, give PGM & Son Pest Control Hereford a call on 01981 241334 or 07964 370480 for a free no-obligation chat.

If you prefer, you can email us at, or you can use the live chat facility on our website at

We’re always on the end of the ‘phone for advice so don’t worry about your pest problems, give us a call now!



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