The History of Pest Management

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[ History of the Development of Organophosphate Poisons ]

This resource lists key events in the history of pest management. An historical perspective is important for a complete understanding of any subject and pest management is no exception. There are always lessons to be learned from history although too often these pass unnoticed and unheeded because they are rarely taught as part of the subject of pest management in our schools and colleges. The brief outline of the key events in the history of pest management that are presented here provide a framework on which to hang other knowledge, facts and figures. - Compiled by Dr David Dent

8000 BC     Beginnings of agriculture

4700 BC     Silkworm culture in China

2500 BC     First records of insecticides eg the Sumerians were using sulphur compounds to control insects and mites

1500 BC     First descriptions of cultural controls especially manipulation of planting dates

1200 BC     Botanical insecticides were being used for seed treatments and as fungicides in China. The Chinese were also using mercury and arsenical compounds to control body lice

950 BC     First descriptions of burning as a cultural control method

200 BC     The Roman, Cato the Censor advocated oil sprays for pest control

13 BC     First rat-proof grannary was built by the Roman architech Marcus Pollio

300 AD     First record of the use of biological controls (predatory ants) in citrus orchards in China. Colonies of the predatory ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) were set up in citrus groves with bamboo bridges to move between trees to control caterpillar and beetle pests

400 AD     Ko Hung an alchemist recommended a root application of white arsenic when transplanting rice to protect against insect pests

1000-1300     Date growers in Arabia seasonally transported cultures of predatory ants from nearby mountains to oases to control phytophagous ants which attack date palm. First known example of movement by man of natural enemies for purposes of biological control. Also at this time, weed control was practised through mechanical removal with a hoe, crop rotations and cultivation method

1476     In Berne, Switzerland cutworms were taken to court, pronounced guilty, excommunicated by the Archbishop and then bannished

1485    The High Vicar of Valence commanded caterpillars to appear before him, he gave them a defence council and finally condemned them to leave the area

1650-1780     Burgeoning of insect descriptions (after Linneaus) and biological discoveries in the Renaissance

1732     Farmers begin to grow crops in rows to facilitate weed removal

1763     Linnaeus won a prize for an essay under the name of C.N. Nelin on how orchards could be freed from caterpillars. He suggested use of mechanical and biological control methods

1750-1880     Agricultural revolution in Europe. Crop protection became more extensive and international trade promoted the discovery of the botanical insecticides pyrethrum and derris

Early 1800's     Appearance of first books and papers devoted entirely to pest control covering cultural control, biological control, varietal control, physical and chemical control

1840     Potato blight (Phytophthora infestans) outbreak in Ireland, England and Belgium leading to widespread famine. Also Boisgiraud collected and liberated large numbers of predatory carabid beetles Calasoma sycophanta to destroy leaf feeding larvae of the gypsy moth

1848-1878     Introduction of Viteus vitifoliae from Americas nearly put an end to the French wine industry. The release of the natural enemy Tyroglyphus phylloxerae to France from North America in 1873 provided adequate levels of control

1870-1890     Grape Phylloxera (Viteus vitifoliae) and powdery mildew controlled in French vineyards (by the introduction of Bordeaux mixture and Paris Green and the use of resistant rootstalks and grafting)

1880     First commercial spraying machine

1883     Apanteles glomeratus was imported from the UK to the USA to control cabbage white butterfly

1888     First major success with imported biological control agents Cryptochetum iceryae and the coccinellid beetle Rodolia cardinalis from Australia for the control of cottony-cushion scale in US citrus fruits

1890's     Introduction of lead arsenate for insect control

1893     Recognition of arthropods as vectors of human diseases

1896     First selective herbicide, iron sulphate, was found to kill broad leaf weeds

1901     First successful biological control of a weed (lantana in Hawaii)

1899-1909     Breeding programme that developed varieties of cotton, cowpeas and water melon resistant to Fusarium wilt

1915     Control of malaria and yellow fever carrying mosquitoes allowing completion of the Panama Canal after its abandonment in the late 1800's

1920-1930     More than 30 cases of natural enemy establishment were recorded throughout the world

1921     First aerial application in insecticide against Catalpa sphinx moth in Ohio, USA

1929     First area-wide eradication of an insect pest against Meditteranean fruit fly in Florida, USA

1930     Introduction of snythetic organic compounds for plant pathogen control

1932     See the "History of the Development of Organophosphate Poisons" from The Best Control.

1939     Recognition of insecticide properties of DDT

1940     W.G.Templeman observed the amazing selectivity of the herbicidal activity of - naphthalacetic acid. The subsequent development of this compound led to 2,4-D in 1944 and MCPA which revolutionized weed control in cereals. Use of milky disease to control the Japanese beetle as the first successful use of an entomopathogen

1942     First successful plant breeding programme for insect resistance in crop plants through release of wheat resistant to the Hessian fly. Rediscovery of the insecticidal properties of benezene hexachloride and in particular its gamma isomer ("-BHC) shared with DDT the credit for the dawn of a new era of insect control in agriculture, horticulture, stored products, timber perservation and public health

1944     First hormone based herbicide - 2,4-D available

1946     First report of insect resistance to DDT in houseflies in Sweden.

1950's-60's     Widespread development of resistance to DDT and other pesticides

1950's     First applications of systems analysis to crop pest control

1959     Introduction of concepts of economic thresholds, economic levels and integrated control by V.M. Stern, R.F. Smith, R. van den Bosch and K.S. Hagen

1960     First insect sex pheromone isolated, identified and synthesis in the gypsy moth

1962     Publication of "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson

1963     K.E.F. Watt introduced systems science to pest management

1965     Release of carbamate insecticide pirimicarb and pirimiphos ethyl, and the systemic fungicide dimethirimol for control of mildew on cucurbits

1966     Release of the systemic fungicide ethirimol for control of mildew on cereals

1967     Introduction of the term Integrated Pest Management by R.F. Smith and R. van den Bosch. The relevance of ecology to IPM through the concept of "Life Systems" was introduced by L.R. Clark, P.W. Geier, R.D.Hughes and R.F. Morris. Release of pirimiphos methyl

1969     US National Academy of Sciencies formalized the term Integrated Pest Management

1970's     Widespread banning of DDT

1972     Release of Bacillus thuringiensis insecticide based on isolate HD-1 for control of lepidopterous pests

1973-1975     Development and release of the synthetic pyrethroid insecticides permethrin and cypermethrin

1985     First resistance reported to Bacillus thuringiensis in the flour moth Plodia interpunctella.India and Malaysia declare IPM official Ministerial Polcy

1986     Germany makes IPM official policy through the Plant Protection Act. Indonesia Presidential Decree makes IPM official policy. Phillipines - IPM implicit in Presidential declaration

1987     IPM implicit in Parliamentary decsions in Denmark and Sweden

1988     Major IPM successes in rice systems in Indonesia

1989     First resistance reported to genetically engineered Pseudomonas fluorescens containing the delta endotoxin of Bacillus thuringiensis

1991     IPM implicit in multiyear plan for crop protection introduced by Cabinet decision in the Netherlands

1992     United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. World's Heads of State, Agenda 21, Rio de Janeiro

1993     Greater than 504 insect species are known to be resistant to at least one formulation of insecticide and at least 17 species of insect species are resistant to all major classes of insecticide. 150 fungi and other plant pathogens are resistant and several plant pathogens are resistant to nearly all systemic fungicides used against them. Five kinds of rats are known to be resistant to the chemicals that are used against them. Resistance to herbicides have been documented in over 100 weed biotypes and 84 species (Cate and Hinkle 1994). (Note: There are only about 1,000 recognized pest species -SLT) 


Carson, R. (1962) Silent Spring.

Cate, J.R. and M.K. Hinkle (1994) Integrated Pest Management: The Path of a Paradigm, National Audubon Society, July 1994, Washington, D.C. pp. 40.

Clark, L.R., P.W. Geier, R.D. Hughes and R.F. Morris (1967) Thr Ecology of Insect Populations in Theory and Practice.

R.F. Smith and R. van den Bosch (1967) Integrated Control In Pest Control:Biological, Physical and Selected Chemical Methods, Kilgore, W.W. and R.L. Doutt (eds.), Academic Press, New York p.295-340.

Stern, V.M., R.F. Smith, R. van den Bosch and K.S. Hagen (1959) The integrated control concept. Hilgardia 29, 81-101

Watt, K.E.F. (1961) Mathematical models for use in insect pest control. Canadian Entomologist 93, Suppliment 19, pp 62.

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