Watch out – DDT article below

by bugzinthehood on May 24, 2007 · 13 comments

in bed bugs, DDT, pesticides

This article is from a group that I would admittedly consider to have a bias but I’m allowing them to be the strange bedfellow in my bed (of course on risers) on this issue.

Bedbug Outbreak Hits All 50 States Thanks to DDT Ban

Written By: James Hoare
Published In: Environment News
Publication Date: June 1, 2007
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

Some excerpts:

“The irony is, as a pest problem bedbugs were virtually eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s thanks to the use of DDT,” said Leonard Douglen, executive director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association, in an April 10 news release.

“Bedbug infestations have been on the increase in the United States for many years,” said Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute. “Hotels have been complaining about it for some time. There is little doubt that the loss of DDT in the Third World has allowed for the continuing increase.”

Many developing nations have banned DDT because the European Union has long refused to buy produce from nations where the effective pesticide is used.
Infestations Rising


Without DDT or other effective pesticides, bedbug colonies are difficult to exterminate. They may withstand weeks of treatment by today’s less effective pesticides.


“Perhaps as bedbugs hit home in the United States a stronger case can be made for returning to the use of the most important chemical ever produced by man,” said Lehr. Despite some environmentalists’ claims, “DDT has never thinned a bird egg or was a carcinogen to man. It is the best weapon humans have against disease-carrying insects.”

Click to read the entire article here.

1 Frank May 24, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Here’s one of the best articles on DDT that I would recommend. Not only is the author a real expert, his view is also balanced and unbiased:

2 hopelessnomo May 24, 2007 at 12:47 pm
3 bugzinthehood May 24, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Lest there be any doubt, I am not a Heartland advocate. Their policy statements on smoking are reprehensible. However, once in a while right and left can agree on an issue, much like a solar eclipse aligning, rare but it happens. In this case, DDT.

William Shockley was a man who espoused racism and sterilization of African Americans – and yet he invented the transistor. Sometimes you have to separate the message from the messenger or the invention or service from the inventor.

Regarding May Berenbaum’s article on DDT, I am familiar with it and also agree it is very well-balanced. I wish somebody would contact her now to see what her latest science is in regard to bedbugs.

4 nobugsonme May 24, 2007 at 3:14 pm

HI Bugzinthehood,
Thanks for the contribution!

I posted the message below to the yahoo group on 5/18 in response to recent DDT discussions there. It’s equally relevant here, so I am pasting it in.

I was personally very glad to see DDT used in African for malaria, since the numbers of people dying from this disease were tantamount to a massive genocide.

However, this article from the BBC (2001) about that use of malaria in Africa, claims bed bugs in African homes became more active when the homes were sprayed for malaria:

DDT and Africa’s War on Malaria

The article states:

DDT is cheap to buy and its effects are long-lasting; a year’s assurance at least against mosquitoes.
But there are drawbacks. As the chemical dries, it leaves a white deposit on the hut walls, and it has been found to make bedbugs more active.
The government entomologist who leads the hit-teams, Keith Hargreaves, says most people accept that as a small price to pay.
“The bedbugs they can tolerate,” he says. “But to watch one’s children die of malaria – that no man can stand.

I don’t have a dog in this race, and my mind isn’t made up. Believe me, I’d love to have a silver bullet, but I think we need to be open to research. I do not believe that university researchers would not get behind DDT for bed bugs if they felt it was the safest and best solution. Any university researcher would love to discover the silver bullet that was safe and effective.

I also don’t believe the BBC has anything to gain by making this assertion that DDT has been found to make bed bugs worse, though I grant that perhaps more research is needed–perhaps it’s even been done.

We know bed bugs are insecticide resistant to other pesticides. It seems fully possible they could become so to DDT, as some have claimed they were beginning to do when it was outlawed. (And entomologist Jody G-K has given some detailed insight on the yahoo list about why it’s scientifically likely that bedbugs, known to be resistent to pyrethrins, would also develop resistance to DDT.)

Finally, as Hopelessnomo has suggested on the Bedbugger blog, I suggest we get behind research that is bound to be approved and completed fast, to help stave off this epidemic ASAP. Jody mentioned one example. Thermal treatment is another. We need methods to be perfected, put into wide use, asap. No matter how you feel about DDT, as Hopelessnomo reminded us, it’s a deeply entrenched battle. Why not get behind possible solutions which are more accessible? If DDT were to be introduced again for bed bugs, it would not be before massive amounts of research both into health concerns and efficacy at killing bed bugs. That would take a lot of time to approve. From where I stand, we don’t have that kind of time.


5 nobugsonme May 25, 2007 at 1:07 am

I hope that too-long pasted-in comment did not scare everyone away.

6 willow-the-wisp May 25, 2007 at 1:57 am

No not scared away. Was busy in the forums tonight. What can I say? Perhaps some use of DDT in American hotels and institutions and maybe even in homes would be different that in Africa as far as bed bugs go. (And the research there is sketchy right?) I would not mind seeing it included in the newer “greener” IPM protocols as maybe like a last dose–“the kicker” so to speak, but then holessnomo makes valid points too. By the time the ban might be lifted, it would probably be too late. We might have better luck trying to reintroduce some other pesticides also banned besides DDT if we went that route–and isn’t that what IPM means? When you look at it that way, IPM is a misleading misnomer. We hardly have any pesticides to rotate–and that will soon cause quicker resistant strains despite the sentiment behind the idea. England, other countries in Europe and Australia, I believe, have some chemicals still available yet we no longer use here at home.
I’m not a chemical quoting sort of a guy, but I hear this is so. Perhaps lobbying in that direction for those pesticides to be returned may be a better FASTER route to go.
I am not sure why the pheromone strips are sounding so limited. If I had more info on them and how they work–and if the rest of us had it too–I can imagine all sorts of variations on a theme besides just detection. i.e. traps that would make a much larger difference. We have a few ideas really based in part on silliness in one of our forum threads “Bugginess the Mother of Invention” I believe it is, and some of those half-baked ideas are mine. So I am floundering in the direction that the pheromones may not be being billed as importantly as they could or maybe even should be billed (for whatever reason). We have more sophisticated pheromone traps for some other bugs and I hear they work quite well. I hate to see red tape and political agendas get in the way of the health and well being of actual human life, yet this is what we sort of get a lot about a lot of things. So although I have no magic bullet solution either, being just a plain old sufferer–I’m sort of just tossing a few thoughts on the table here: of course education about bed bug spread is important but in my sphere, so far, it seems nearly hopeless. Most folks just don’t know and don’t want to know until it happens to them.
I haven’t said a lot that’s both decisive and definitive so I’d be in the majority if I would but that I could make all the decision on who gets to spray what where.
Action in some direction sooner than later needs to be taken and I don’t think the silver bullet really exists or will exist—save to say bringing back some other banned chemicals and really expanding and expounding on the pheromone idea.
Creativity in IPM technique is nearly impossible unless we have more chemicals to use more creatively and more rotationally to decrease the resistance.

I’ll close with, since we mostly know already that dealing with bed bugs is a weird thing—as they are stealthy, somewhat hearty parasites and yet bugs all in one—then the solution is likely to be found in broadening the IPM trend with more options and in even more training of the receiver of the pesticides available right now.
1—standardized fact sheets on the pesticides being used needs to be plainly presented to the customers and adhered to with plain English spoken rationally. That’s all I have—but it is better than doing nothing but arguing and lobbying for things unlikely to occur. I feel I’ve said nothing but I’ve said a lot too.

2–What about more flexible rules on pesticide uses … Bring back this or that method for say five years and then bring in a few other pesticides for five more years. Nothing has to be forever … Even DDT wasn’t forever.

7 willow-the-wisp May 25, 2007 at 2:18 am

I do have one other thought: since bed bugs are nocturnal and most vulnerable or most likely to be exposed–then why do we do the extermination in the daylight hours? Stuff like the actual feeding habits needs more attention. Yes, I’ll say it a magic pill rather than a magic bullet may exist. Who is looking into that? In a phrase more concoctions and more creativity in directions that are not SOP in the pest control business.

8 hopelessnomo May 25, 2007 at 11:09 am

I understood you Bugz, just wanted others to see what the bias actually was.

I’ll see your Heartland Institute and raise you a Pan UK. In this article, this plainly biased 🙂 organization discusses the types of DDT misuse in Ethiopia. If we keep in mind what the Berenbaum article suggests, that DDT as a precision tool should still be used in malaria control in areas where you can ascertain that the mosquitos are not resistant (otherwise, what’s the point), we have to examine what such a precision tool becomes when it actually falls into the hands of humans. Of particular interest, see the suggestively titled section ‘Leakage’ from vector control operations. In more familiar vernacular, sticky fingers and other wild and crazy goings on.

So, extrapolating, if DDT were ever to be approved as a precision tool to fight bedbugs here where you can ascertain that they don’t have the resistant gene (just speculating, but isn’t that the scenario?), imagine what loveliness would ensue. We have people shipping our current weak-*ss prohibited pesticides out of state now. And using them against the label. DDT would be like, candy. Lemme get some of that! I’ll just spray it all over my room cause I don’t want no blood-sucking vampires. Can I spray it on my mattress? That kind of thing.

9 Winston O. Buggy May 25, 2007 at 4:12 pm

DDT is yesterdays material and is not suited for todays bed bug fight for a variety of reasons We need to stop living in the past and work on preventing todays non
scientific, Eco terrorists from passing bad legislation and overly restrictive regulation.
Yes IPM is a system a way of approaching a problem which than reviews the available options and seeks to come of with the best approach utilizing all methods of control and alternatives. And it has certainly contributed to the arsenal of bb control measures. Education, heat strategy, enzyme use, incorporation of the available pesticides, exclusion, trapping and monitoring are all tools of IPM and pest management practices. Unfortunately it is the chemical area which is lacking brought on by over regulation, self serving lobbyists and politicians who can’t see beyond the next vote. Who will protect us from the protectors!!!!!!!

10 willow-the-wisp May 25, 2007 at 4:17 pm

I know exactly how Winston feels, about this issue, as do so many of us I’m sure. Winston do you have any clout? If you would but that you could what would YOU do … or have done … or if that is not a fair Q. I take it back.

11 bugzinthehood May 25, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Oh, puleez don’t use that phrase “eco terrorists.” You’re all going to think I’m completely schizoid now because I have advocated resumption of LIMITED DDT application, but I am very much concerned about the future generations who inherit our planet. But this is not the forum for such a debate.

I agree heat is an excellent idea for further widespread use.

Still not enough experimentation is being done in the lab. I again advocate the creation of sleep labs, people sleeping in infested rooms to observe and to nail down the exact behaviors of bedbugs. Use macro infrared photography. In vitro testing has limited usefulness.

Other ideas. Why not search for the equivalent of a parasitic wasp that preys on caterpillars, lays their eggs inside and emerges a la ALIEN – one that would use bedbugs as a host? Any research?

I read that guinea hens love to eat ticks. Two guinea hens can keep an entire yard tick-free with no freakin’ pesticides. Centipedes will eat bedbugs. Why can’t we selectively breed centipedes that will be benign to humans and continue to feast on BBs?

I think a good deal of the lab work being done now is underwritten by chemical manufacturers and so there would be no profit in finding a a nonpesticide solution.

End of rant

12 willow-the-wisp May 25, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Yeah but see now that’s all true what you said–Bugz … only they’d need Human Volunteers. If they paid enough I’d go for it you know the heck I would.
It is more expanding of the research that is the problem I want to see SOME less stringent scientific protocol as was done with HIV virus meds in the early 1990’s.
As in … we are sort of like the “Act Up of the bed bug generation” but without, I hope–all of the negative backlash Act up got.
I did not prefer their tactics then again I am not HIV+ and have to chuck that in too! Just more expansive research is all I’m asking for too–and you hit the nail; the founders’ of all of this are usually only out for profits.
That is so so sad, and not just in bed bug research problems either.
1000 years ago it was the church that did all of the funding.
Man has not changed all that much and we like to fool ourselves that we have.

Speaking overall here folks! Not you guys (and, I hope, me!)

13 willow-the-wisp May 26, 2007 at 7:03 pm

Well I guess there are hotter topics going on in the forums, these days, than the DDT/ Where is it / get it the heck away form me discussion.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: