Capturing small animals via the use of natural attraction and a highly sticky surface is not solely a human invention, nor is it limited to the use of glue traps for mice. The famous carnivorous plant, Drosera (also known as sundew), for example, uses a concoction of sweet smelling secretions to easily attract small insects, which then become fatally stuck on the plant’s mucilage. The pattern is much as one might see in glue mouse traps today. People throughout history have attempted to use similar methods in capturing animals, often for sustenance. The most notable of such example is the long running practice of bird liming.
Bird liming, though commonly illegal today, is the brazen act of smearing adhesives on a branch (or any place a bird is wont to alight) with the distinct intention of entrapping the bird or birds. The substance, referred to as birdlime, is varied in its makeup, depending on the locale, but has commonly been derived from such natural resources as Holly bark, sebestens, mistletoe berries and parts of the wayfaring tree. This method has been employed at the very least since the time of the ancient Romans and has received recognition in texts throughout the ages. In addition to its use as a trap, birdlime was also used to reduce the flammability of wood. In more modern times, birdlime has been used in the construction of World War II bombs, not as an explosive element, but as an adhesive designed to increase the specificity of bomb placement.
In an ironic twist, some birdlime is created by the birds themselves. That is, by having birds ingest particular ingredients, allowing them to then mature within the stomach of the bird and be subsequently passed out through defecation, a bird can in fact create the very substance used to entrap it and its brethren. Such is the origin of the amusing Latin phrase “Turdus ipse sibi malum cacat,” or “The thrush defecates its own destruction.”
Today, however, glue traps for mice cannot be created by the mice, but are still in keeping with the mostly defunct practice of bird liming. The ingredients are not tree gums, but rather more modern synthetic adhesives. Still, the basic procedure remains roughly the same. Glue traps for mice may be a common sight today, but they are nothing new. They have analogs in nature, such as the Droserra’s mucilage, and a peculiar man made predecessor in ancient birdlime.
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