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The 3 Worst Pest Disasters in History - and How They Could Have Been Avoided

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Diseases are one of the greatest threats to mankind. Improving as a society has frequently meant understanding how disease spreads and taking the steps necessary to prevent it from happening. Pest control has always been a part of that critical process. Rats, bugs, and all kinds of other unpleasant creatures have historically been known as key players in historical epidemic escalation. Once or twice, this led to some horribly calamitous results.


When we think about events like the ones we’re breaking down below, it reminds us of the consequences of failing to manage pests safely and effectively. Think of this list as a summary of evil deeds committed by an especially vile - and avoidable - supervillain.


The Black Plague

The black plague, also known as “black death,” refers to one of the most widespread and costly pandemics in human history. Scientifically referred to as the Bubonic plague, it spread throughout Europe and parts of Asia and Africa from 1346 to 1353, killing victims in less than a week with near 100% efficiency. By the time societal changes and natural circumstances brought about an end to the first outbreak, 75 to 200 million people were estimated to have died in Eurasia. In fact, some parts of Europe and Africa lost more than half of their populations.


There are several reasons why the black plague was able to have such a devastating, widespread effect. One of the most popular theories lays responsibility squarely at the feet of pests. According to this theory, pests introduced and spread the black plague throughout Europe by hitching a ride on the back of rats that were transported by merchant ships from the east. Once the rats came to Europe covered in fleas with the disease in tow, the already unsanitary conditions in urban areas along with a lack of medical or scientific understanding of how it was spread meant that little could be done to stop it.




It is difficult to understate how profound an effect the bubonic plague had on the course of history. The epidemic had a definitive and lasting impact on virtually every aspect of society and nearly every culture. We’re not going to be harsh and suggest that Europe should’ve taken pest control more seriously, but the black plague is an excellent reminder that an essential aspect of health and wellness is pest management.  



Year of the Locust

In 1875, the largest swarm of locusts ever recorded in history swept over the heart of America. From a distance, it probably looked like a dark cloud that was moving very, very fast. According to the New York Times, the swarm was measured at 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide. That’s the size of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.


One first-hand account said the sky was blotted out for five days as the swarm passed over and through their home. The sound of the locusts eating whole fields of corn was likened to “a raging prairie fire.”


The swarm was named “Albert’s swarm” after the physician who documented it and estimated its size. The locusts feasted on countless acres of crops. They ranged from California to Texas to Minnesota, eating crops, fibers, trees, and fences. Fences! It was unstoppable. Farmers went to Looney Tunes-esque lengths to come up with ways to destroy or discourage the ravenous scourge, but nothing worked.


The locusts arrived with a bang, but ended with a whimper. Eventually they just… vanished. Though there are several theories as to how and why this happened, no one knows for sure. In fact, some experts, such as Dr. Jeffrey A. Lockwood, believe the locusts are still out there, watching and waiting. Don’t worry, though, because the team at Plunkett’s Pest Control is ready in case they ever decide to return.


world malaria.jpg


Malaria is, in many ways, the scariest of the three phenomena we’re covering here. While the black plague and Albert’s Swarm are documented historical events, malaria continues to have an ongoing effect on the world as we know it today. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite found in mosquito saliva. Symptoms are flu-like and include fevers, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and paroxysm. Unlike the flu, however, if left untreated malaria rapidly worsens, causing yellowing skin, seizures and ultimately: death.


According to the World Health Organization, over 3.2 billion people--half the world’s population--is at risk of contracting malaria. 80% of malaria deaths come from 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, there were 214 million reported cases of malaria, and 438,000 deaths.


malaria symptoms.jpg


In the fight against Malaria, pest management is one of humanity’s most valuable tools. Mosquito nets, insect repellent, insecticides, and the identification and disposal of standing water have been effective methods of keeping malaria out of controlled locations. Vector control, which is a concerted effort to eliminate a disease-transmitting organism, is the main line of defense against malaria. Pest control methods aimed at eradicating Anopheles mosquitoes have proven to significantly reduce the risk of malaria transmission and spread. We still have a long way to go in stopping the spread and devastation of malaria, but with the help of pest control, we’re finally starting to make some progress.


The Importance of Pest Control

The quality, sustainability, and care in the methods we undertake to control pests is one measure of mankind’s progress. That responsibility is not to be taken lightly. That’s why Plunkett’s Pest Control is committed to understanding pest control and practicing our craft in a way that is responsible, sustainable and non-invasive. It’s also why we take pride in the work we do for our customers. There’s a reason we’ve been doing this for over 100 years. If you’re looking for residential or commercial pest control solutions, get in touch today.


We promise we didn’t tell you about this stuff just to scare you into it. Well, not just to scare you into it.

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