In ancient times (and even today in parts of the developing world), ordinary people had to grow their own food. Imagine a family plowing and then sowing the seeds they had carefully dried and saved from last year’s harvest after the floodwaters of the Nile had receded, only to have their new crop visited by a hoard of locusts. Not only did these flying short-horned grasshoppers swarm in to gobble up the seeds, leaves, stems, and shoots but also their toxic droppings poisoned whatever was left behind.
Today, locust swarms continue to devastate crops and farms in modern Egypt and throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These swarms can be hundreds of miles in size, and each mile is packed with millions of insects, causing terrible food shortages and famine. No wonder the Bible story about the 10 plagues included locusts!
Other despised pests were sparrows. These little birds swept into the cornfields just as the kernels ripened, infuriating the farmers. In fact, the hieroglyph symbol of a sparrow represents “small,” “common” and also “bad.”
Songbirds generally ate insects, but a flock of fruit-loving magpies or orioles could wipe out an orchard in a matter of hours. Even large nets thrown over the trees and boys using slingshots couldn’t stop them all.
If a family was lucky enough to see their crop harvested, then they had to worry about weevils and grain beetles, who found their way into storage rooms and chomped away at the tasty kernels of barley and wheat, all the while laying eggs.
And mice? They snuck into storage rooms just as they do today, causing tremendous damage to food supplies and people’s possessions.
Eeek, eeek, eeek!!! Want to know the worst part? Since all these critters have pestered folks for thousands of years, they will probably outlive us all.