Past Mosquito Management

The next issue of the Morrison County Historical Society (MCHS) newsletter is back from the printer and is being prepared for mailing.  If you are a MCHS member, you should be receiving your copy within the next few days.  If not, you are welcome to join (  The Collection Connection article covers a nasty mosquito-related elixir known as Hobson’s Anti Skeeter.  Some of the information uncovered while doing research for the Collection Connection article did not fit in the limited newsletter space, so here it is!

The use of repellents against biting insects developed thousands and possibly millions of years ago. The first recorded use can be found in the writings of Herodotus (484 BC – c.425 BC), a Greek historian who is known as the Father of History. Herodotus described observing Egyptian fishermen using smoke extracted from the castor oil plant (Kiki) to drive away mosquitoes. The oil was used in lamps and, as it had a disagreeable smell, served the dual purpose of warding off insects and providing light. Mention is made in the Geoponika, a tenth century compilation of Roman agricultural lore, of rubbing a mixture of vinegar, manna, and oil on the body, especially on the head and the feet, in order to repel annoying insects. This was probably quite effective as natural vinegars and oils do help to reduce skin odors, which is one of the ways mosquitoes manage to find us. The most common method used to manage biting insects in North America has traditionally been through burning. The Blackfoot tribe of Montana and Saskatchewan, for example, put fringed sagewort on campfire coals in order to drive away mosquitoes. This was so effective that wild horses would shelter from the pests in the smoke, thus allowing tribe members to capture them and increase their herds.

“Geoponika, Agricultural Pursuits” translated by Thomas Owen (1805-06) (

“History of Insect Repellents”, by S. J. Moore and M. Debboun. (,Methods,Uses.PDF)

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