Originally from: Letters from Linden
Date: May 2011
TOBACCO FLY A MENACE, 1819
The following appeared in Charlestown, West Virginia’s Farmer’s Repository on May 12th, urging farmers to test methods to rid the vexatious fly from ruining tobacco beds.
“Calvert county, 30th April, 1819. Querie? – by the Editor.
Since this decoction is found to be so offensive to the vermin of various kinds, may it not be presumed, that it would be found equally useful and effective in destroying, or driving off, the fly, which infests tobacco beds at this season, and proves so destructive to the plant. We hope some planter will try an experiment so easily made, and whereby, if it prove effectual, the greatest impediments to raising plants will be removed. We have been told, that lime has been useful for this purpose, with success, by Mr. Benjamin Mead, of Calvert county; and we have it from good authority that keeping the beds thinly covered over, until this time, with leafless brush-wood will keep off the fly. It would seem, that they cannot endure the shade, and that clear sun heat is necessary to their existence. But a decoction of sassafras roots, with the bark on, is so easily made and applied with a watering pot, that we repeat the hope, that its efficacy may be tested and made known.” In response to the challenge, this article appeared in Baltimore’s American Farmer. “Occasional Extracts.
ON PRESERVING TOBACCO BEDS FROM THE RAVAGES OF THE FLY.
Calvert County, 28th May, 1819.
MR. SKINNER, –
I have tried the decoction of Sassafras upon the tobacco fly, without effect. I then made it with tobacco and red pepper, which also failed; I have tried brimstone without effect, and a number of my neighbours [sic] have done the same; since your publication about the brimstone, your friend Mr. Mason from St. Mary’s, he has been to my house, we had a conversation respecting brimstone being put on tobacco beds, he was still of an opinion, that it would answer, I am of a different opinion, and a number around me has done the same, without effect; he hinted to me a plan, which I think would effectually prevent the depredations of those insects; which was to fence the beds in with plank one foot broad, as soon as they are burnt and sowed.—I do not believe a fly would hop six inches high, and I do not know that they crawl any, if they do, they can be prevented from getting over the plank by tar[r]ing of it.”
SOURCES: “Calvert county, 30th April, 1819,” Farmer’s Repository, 12 May 1819. Charlestown, WV.
“Occasional Extracts,” American Farmer, 14 Apr 1820, Baltimore, MD. http://www.newsinhistory.com