Pests in the City
Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Washington Press
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About the Series, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Foreword by William Cronon
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...of wild nature, and their most likely answers will sound pretty familiar. They conjure images of sublime landscapes, of Yosemite or the Everglades, Everest or the Serengeti. If they favor humbler embodiments of the wild, they may name a local park or woods or wetland where they watch birds or hike or fish or hunt deer. If watery nature is their passion, their answer will ...
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...persist in our homes and cities. I am humbled anew as I think of the people whose wisdom, patience, generosity, and love have supported me through My first thanks go to Bill Cronon and Marianne Keddington-Lang, who have nurtured this project from its inchoate and sprawling begin-nings to its current form. Bill always reminded me of my intellectual pur-...
Introduction: History, Ecology, and the Politics of Pests
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Dr. arthUr Corwin’s Poem “Clean UP” anD the traDitional BeD-time rhyme about bedbugs evoke two very different facets of life with pests. Parents uttered the latter while tucking their children into bed, hoping to ward off a menace that attacked in people’s most private moments. In contrast, Corwin’s poem made ridding domestic space of pests a civic duty ...
Part One: The Promise of Modern Pest Control
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...twentieth century teemed with pests. During surveys of Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1908, entomologists sometimes caught over two thousand houseflies with a single sheet of flypaper hung for two days in a residential area. At least half of residents entering Chicago Housing Authority proj-ects in 1938 had lived with bedbugs in their old homes. One mortified New ...
Image Plates 1
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In the 1910s, health departments promoted fixtures and tools with which house-holders could protect their homes from flies, emphasizing private responsibility for fly-borne diseases. Chicago Board of Health, Clean Living (May 1916). Cour-The headline “Our Greatest Menace Is Domestic not Foreign” played on debates about the United States’s entry into the Great War in Europe but also placed ...
1. Flies: Agents of Interconnection in Progressive Era Cities
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As temperatures climbed into the nineties in June 1900, a female Musca domes-tica buzzed about a small stable in southeastern Washington, D.C. She alit upon a heap of horse manure inside an old wooden bin and deposited 120 eggs under a lump of dung. The young maggots emerged twenty-four hours later and then ate their way into the dung heap for four days. As they grew to their full larval length ...
2. Bedbugs: Creatures of Community in Modernizing Cities
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Hundreds of Cimex lectularius rested throughout a long summer day in 1920 in a flat on Chicago’s West Side. Most huddled together on the narrow wooden bed frame on the lodger’s side of the flat’s single bedroom. Some hid in grooves in a chest below the foot of the bed, others under peeling wallpaper or behind a framed picture, leaving a blotchy crust of feces and egg cases. A few squeezed between ...
3. German Cockroaches: Permeable Homes in the Postwar Era
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On the dry goods shelf at the market, a Blattella germanica left a sticky ootheca, one of eight she would lay in her lifetime, clinging to a sack of rice. The shopper did not see the purse-shaped egg case, smaller than a pea, as she lifted the sack from the shelf, nor did she see it later while packing her groceries. German cockroaches had already infested her New York apartment building so thoroughly that she ...
4. Norway Rats: Back-Alley Ecology in the Chemical Age
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A Norway rat emerged from his burrow as dusk fell over Baltimore’s east side on an early spring evening in 1937. The air carried a faint scent of food, as well as scents of people, dogs, and cats. The high-board wooden fence surrounding the backyard provided reliable shelter from these minor threats despite its ramshackle condition—perhaps because of it. The rat’s gray-brown fur brushed against the ...
Part Two: Persistence and Resistance in the Age of Ecology
...raChel Carson’s 1962 Book silent sPring DeCrieD the hUBris of modern pest control, which attempted to remove pests from environments ideally suited to them. Instead of submitting to humans’ will, nature both suffered and struck back: wildlife perished, people became sick, and pests evolved resistance to pesticides. Carson’s followers raised their voices pri-...
Image Plates 2
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Tracking experiments by the Rodent Ecology Project seemed to show that rats stayed within the confines of a single city block and that they moved freely among rowhouse backyards. David E. Davis, John T. Emlen, and Allen W. Stokes, “Studies on the Home Range of the Brown Rat,” Journal of Mammalogy Backyard scene from Baltimore Plan target block, 1947. The high-board wooden ...
5. The Ecology of Injustice: Rats in the Civil Rights Era
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...in the meloDramatiC first sCene of riCharD wright’s 1940 novel Native Son, Bigger Thomas’s day begins with a fight against a “huge black rat” in his family’s “tiny, one-room apartment.”1 His mother and sister huddle on a bed, screaming and “gaz[ing] open-mouthed at the trunk in the corner,” where the rat last appeared. Bigger orders his brother to block ...
6. Integrating Urban Homes: Cockroaches and Survival
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Audre Lorde recalled sitting down next to a white woman on a crowded subway train as a small child in the late 1930s. The woman “jerk[ed] her coat closer to her” with a look of horror on her face, and the young Audre assumed that there was something disgusting on the seat, “probably a roach,” and so pulled her own coat toward herself as well. “Suddenly I ...
Epilogue: The Persistence and Resurgence of Bedbugs
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...and businesses—all along the income spectrum—suffered with infesta -tions of bedbugs.1 Only the oldest pest-management professionals could recall the days when, as George Hockenyos described in 1940, bedbug jobs were one of the most common services their firms performed in urban homes.2 As of 1952, Reece Sailer observed that few enough Americans had ...
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Other Works in the Series
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The Natural History of Puget Sound Country by Arthur R. KruckebergForest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800–1940 by William G. RobbinsThe Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West ...
Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Weyerhaeuser environmental books
Series Editor Byline: William Cronon