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Before the pest control industry took shape during the mid 20th century, various home remedies were employed to kill insect pests in homes and yards. Some of these methods were effective, but environmentally damaging, while others were consistently ineffective despite being used regularly for centuries. Some of the most popular early 20th century insecticide solutions were made from cement, skim milk, kerosene, soap and tobacco, and hot coals were useful for killing nuisance grasshoppers.

Wood-boring insects are well controlled today with limited insecticide use, but during the early 1900s, it was common for people to paint the trunks of their trees with a mixture of hydraulic cement and skim milk. Doing this provided trees with some degree of protection from damaging wood-boring pest species that place their eggs within the bark of tree trunks. At the time, it was recommended that homeowners apply one thick coat of this solution to their trees once per year in order to repel peach borers and other tree pests. One of the strangest insect control methods that was commonly used by American homeowners during the 19th century involved the use of hot coals and kerosene for grasshopper pest maintenance.

Amazingly, it was once common for homeowners to rid their yards of grasshopper pests by burning them alive with hot coals or kerosene. This was done by having a horse pull a pan filled with hot kerosene, hot tar or hot coals across a lawn. As the pan was dragged across lawn grass, grasshoppers would hop into the pan where they burned alive. The back of the pan was outfitted with a screen to prevent grasshoppers from jumping over the entire pan. This contraption become so common it earned a name, “the hopper-dozer.” Blow-torches were once the preferred method of eradicating tent-caterpillars from residential trees, and the plant-litter that builds up around people’s property lines were burned every winter with gasoline and fire in order to eradicate hibernating insect pests, like chinch bugs.

Have you ever resorted to an unorthodox way of eradicating insect pests from within or around your home?