Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/285

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By Professor JOHN B. SMITH, Sc.D.,


WHEN, a few years ago, it began to be generally realized that mosquitoes besides being sources of annoyance, were also dangerous to life and health because of their relation to certain diseases, the question of whether or not control or even practical extermination was feasible began to be seriously considered. Not until then was it realized how little was actually known of these pests and that, as a matter of fact, only a few species had been followed throughout their entire life cycle. It was assumed that all the species of the same genus had approximately the same life history, that the adults had practically identical habits, that what had proved successful in one locality would answer as well in all others, and that each locality with sufficient energy might secure exemption for itself.

The little book on 'Mosquitoes' by Dr. L. 0. Howard, issued in 1901, summarizing what was then known, was published at the psychological moment and exerted an enormous influence. Mosquito brigades were formed, and improvement and other societies began work enthusiastically. New Jersey has always had something of a reputation in the mosquito line and at several points active work was begun. There were not wanting those that lacked faith, however, and there was abundant ridicule for those engaged in the work which, by the way, did not turn out as well as had been expected. We had now three classes in the state—the unbelievers and scoffers who were in the vast majority; the enthusiasts who believed firmly in local work, who formed a small but powerful minority, and a yet smaller class who thought that there might be a chance to get money out of it and who urged improvements that they might be engaged to carry out.

As the entomologist of the Agricultural Experiment Station, as well as in his capacity of state entomologist, the writer followed some of this early work, rather as a sceptic than otherwise; but after a season's observation found reason to believe that while eventual success in the direction of mosquito control could probably be obtained, the factors of the problem were not understood and that much work and money was being wasted or misapplied. The danger was that if failure resulted through ignorance the entire movement might be discredited and delayed.