Amazingly, the fact that insects carry and transmit diseases was discovered only about 120 years ago. It wasn’t until 1897 that bites from mosquitoes responsible for transmitting malaria. In 1898 it was finally proven that bubonic plague was spread by fleas when they fed on infected rats and then bit humans. The huge mystery of how plague was spread, the deadly killer of many millions of people through the centuries, was finally solved!
Even cleanliness and good sanitation in the past were not considered important. The city of Paris first cleaned its streets in 1666. The event was so unusual that two commemorative coins were issued! And in England Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) took an unusual step for her time—she bathed at least once a month, to set a new standard of cleanliness for her subjects.
During the Middle Ages the methods used to control pests were crude and ineffective by today’s standards. Rats, bed bugs, and clothes moths were common scourges. ‘Shakers and beaters’ were employed to beat woolen rugs and furs in an attempt to control fabric pests. Professional ‘rat catchers’ trapped and removed rats, but it took so much time and money that most people had no other option but to live, and die, with these pests living with them.
Professional pest control today is changing at a faster pace than ever before. As the field becomes ever more technical, including better training and the availability to professionals of more effective materials and better application methods, we are increasingly being recognized as vital “protectors of health and property.”