George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 22 July 1786]

Saturday 22d. Mercury at 74 in the Morning—82 at Noon and 80 at Night.

Clear all day with the Wind at South, but not very fresh.

An Overseer of mine (at the ferry) informed me that the chintz bug was discovered in his Corn and that he apprehended if the weather should turn dry, they would encrease, and destroy it. He also informed me that the fly was discovered about the shocks of wheat in his field.

At home all day with Colo. Bland.

overseer of mine: Hezekiah Fairfax.

chintz bug: GW had discovered the chinch bug in his corn the previous year (see 15 Aug. 1785). The Hessian fly (Phytophaga destructor), the larvae of which sucked the juices from green wheat and ate the leaves, was a more serious problem. This fly, which first appeared on Long Island, was called the Hessian fly in the mistaken belief that Hessian soldiers had brought it to this continent. In some areas, wheat had been abandoned altogether (PARKINSON description begins Richard Parkinson. A Tour in America, in 1798, 1799, and 1800. Exhibiting Sketches of Society and Manners, and a Particular Account of the American System of Agriculture, with Its Recent Improvements. 2 vols. London, 1805. description ends , 2:360–61). “What an error it is,” GW wrote to Samuel Powel, 15 Dec. 1789, “and how much to be regretted; that the Farmers do not confine themselves to the Yellow-bearded Wheat, if, from experience, it is found capable of resisting the ravages of this, otherwise, all conquering foe” (ViMtvL). The pest did not spread inland as rapidly as was feared. It did not reach Albemarle County, Va., until 1798.

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