Bug Control – Regency Style

This weekend we had an ant infestation in our kitchen. Naturally, this would happen when the exterminator wasn’t available. We had to battle the army of ants all by ourselves. I went to the internet to see what weapons we might use against this assault.

I now know more than I ever wanted to know about ant control. Turns out you not only have to remove the temptation (In this case, sugar. Apparently some ants have a sweet tooth; other ants crave other things), you have to interrupt their scent trails. I wiped everything down in vinegar, but that didn’t seem like enough. One of the suggestions was to spray a mixture of essential peppermint oil and water in the areas where it was suspected the ants entered. Well, I had essential peppermint oil, but I didn’t have a spray bottle. Besides, I thought, if a dilution of essential oil would work, how much better could it be if I didn’t dilute it?

I sprinkled full-strength peppermint essential oil all around the window and the sink.

Five hours later, the scent of peppermint was still so strong it made us all feel sick. It made even pizza taste funny.

Today we’ve seen some strays, but I’m still hopeful we’ve solved the problem. I got to thinking. What would a housekeeper have done about an ant infestation in Regency times?

I could not find out what they would have done about ants in Regency times, but I did learn a little about “bug control.”

This is from The Art of Cookery Made Plain And Easy; which Far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet published by Mrs Glasse (1784)



The Toilet and Cosmetic Arts in Ancient and Modern Times by Arnold J. Cooley (1866) tells about how to get rid of parasites, like the head louse (stiff brush, “occasional” soap and water, and pomade), the body louse (regular bathing), and the crab louse (a solution of corrosive sublimate and sal-ammoniac in soft-water), but I can hardly bear thinking about having to battle such bugs. Cooley also recommends tobacco smoke to drive away insects, such as mosquitos, gnats, and bed bugs. That just goes to show that insects aren’t dumb enough to want to breathe in tobacco smoke. 

Have you come across any other Regency era insect exterminating practices? 
Or, how do you get rid of ants?

Look for a new contest at my website today!

*The picture is “Mrs Sperling Murdering Flies” from Mrs. Hurst Dancing by Diana Sperling, charming watercolors created during the Regency. 

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
This entry was posted in Regency, Research and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Bug Control – Regency Style

Comments are closed.