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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/180

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176
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

powers greater than in their native lands. The intensive agriculture and continuous acreage methods of recent years directly favor their rapid increase, and with the gradual reduction in numbers of our insectivorous birds one great check to their increase has been removed.

The result has been what might be expected. Estimates of the average annual loss by insects calculated at eighteen per cent., are now considered as about correct, and this loss on the basis of the United States government crop estimates for 1906 would be considerably over a billion dollars each year.

Nor is the end in sight. The pests of other lands are not yet all represented in the United States, though new ones arrive nearly every year. Agriculture is becoming more intensive, larger areas are being tilled, furnishing a more abundant and easily discovered food supply, and in spite of a healthy growth of interest in preserving our insectivorous birds, it is questionable if the developments connected with an increasing density of population will permit their preservation in any great numbers for more than another century.

This increase of loss has also occurred in spite of all the efforts of the economic entomologists, each one of whom can but acknowledge that while his efforts have not been in vain, the battle is nevertheless going against him, for in spite of all his efforts losses are becoming greater, insects more abundant and ultimate defeat seems certain, unless new and more effective methods can be brought into use in the struggle.

At the present time the economic entomologist is much in the same position as that of a physician who gives his prescriptions, but finds that many are never even taken to the druggist to be put up, while others, though prepared, are never taken and still others are taken but once. Many a crop is entirely lost by the neglect of its owner to apply the proper treatment and the value of many others is lessened one half or even three fourths by careless, shiftless work generally followed by entire failure to apply farther treatment because the first one being improperly or poorly made did not give the anticipated results.

If such are the existing conditions, what of the outlook? How long can this continue before greater crop destruction by insects and fungi, and an increasing population produce famine?

To these questions it is impossible to give decisive answers, though it is probable that many years are still between us and famine caused by insect ravages. But if an improvement of present conditions is desired, it would seem that it must come through the adoption of means by which spraying can be made more acceptable, or by the development of new methods of control.

The remarkable apathy of the crop producers of this country toward their insect foes, and their pronounced disinclination to carry out methods of treatment is an attitude which should be reversed as quickly and vigorously as possible. Much of this change must wait for a new