When John Barton's son moved into his new home in Kent in 1555, he was not alone. Barton's End - as the house was called - had 1,092 tenants; only seven were human.
Families of mosquitoes, ants, flies, worms and other insects shared Barton's roof. By 1660, their population rose to 3,000. In 1860, Barton's End was occupied by 3,287 pests. In the absence of effective insecticides and repellents in those days, that was a normal occurrence in country homes.
Insects have plagued man throughout history. Perhaps the oldest reference to these creatures comes from the Bible where the Lord promised to send hornets to His enemies. That became the fate of Kings Sihon and Og in Joshua 24:12.
Since there was little that could be done about the problem at that time, many insects which bothered man were punished in accordance with biblical law.
The Book of Exodus tails us, “If an ox gores a man or a woman that they die, then the ox shall surely be stoned. "
Sure enough, that passage was literally applied to all animal offenders, even the lowliest of insects. To answer for their misdeeds, horseflies, caterpillars and other bugs were brought to court.
The first recorded “animal" trial took place in 864 AD when a hive of bees was sentenced to suffocation after stinging a man.
In Stelvio, Italy in 1519, field mice accused of damaging crops were banished from their homes by a judge who promised them “safe passage. "
Another Italian judge asked a group of caterpillars to appear in court in 1659 for charges of “trespassing and willful damage to property. "
Some 50 years later, termites were summoned to an ecclesiastical court by Franciscan monks in the Brazilian province of Maranhao who complained that these insects were destroying their monastery.
Even St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the doctor of the Church, was not spared from the trouble bugs bring. In the 11th century, a swarm of flies irritated him as he was preaching in a French church. That led to their excommunication. (Next: Bug-eyed monsters. )
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Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine http://www.HealthLinesNews.com