Interview with Clive Boase: forget DDT, think better bed bug management

by nobugsonme on September 3, 2008 · 1 comment

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, DDT, entomologists, united kingdom

Renee has an excellent interview with UK entomologist and bed bug expert Clive Boase posted over at New York vs. Bed Bugs today.

One of the strongest messages coming from the discussion is that, in the UK at least, bed bugs were declining in the 1930s — well before DDT was available — due to better management of infestations:

. . . regarding DDT, this is often claimed as being responsible for the demise of the bed bug in the late 1940s and 50s. However, here in the UK, bedbug infestation levels were declining fast in the late 1930s, some years before DDT was introduced. This decline coincided with the introduction of the Public Health Act 1936, which gave local authorities (i.e., local government organisations) powers and responsibilities to deal with vermin, including bedbugs. To me this suggests that effective bedbug control is as much about organisation and management, as it is about using high performance insecticides, although of course they help.

This should give us a lot of hope as to the possibility of getting a handle on bed bugs again — just by dealing with them in a smarter, more organized way.

To this end, Boase makes recommendations that will come as no surprise (and I am paraphrasing here): detecting infestations early (which requires a pro-active, not reactive stance), the availability of good pest control to everyone who needs it, laws that support access to dwellings to carry out necessary treatment, getting residents to fully participate with treatment, aggressive treatments to eliminate (not just reduce) bed bug numbers in a dwelling, and, finally, follow-up inspections, to make sure bed bugs are really gone.

While, as I say, these recommendations are no surprise, they nevertheless elude us at this time. From where I stand, most bed bug eradication activity is reactive and comes after someone complains (and generally only to the someone who complains).

We need to get to a place where that complaint leads to careful inspections (and possibly treatment) in attached or adjacent units. And where that treatment is routinely followed up by treatment and inspections ensuring the problem is entirely gone.

I strongly recommend everyone read this New York vs. Bed Bugs article in its entirety.

And after you’ve done so, New Yorkers, join our NY vs. Bed Bugs campaign. Because without government support, I can’t imagine us getting to the solutions Boase describes.

1 Nick Danger September 11, 2008 at 8:50 pm

I live in an area that was once mainly agriculture. There is still a fair amount of
Ag. but mostly going to housing development and resort/condo dwellings. DDT was outlawed when I was a younger child and alot of effective pesticides and chemicals have gone by the wayside as well. I can remember a TV show (may have been 60 minutes or something of the same) that interviewed an older couple after DDT was banned. The interview showed the couple filling and eating a gel capsule of DDT every night to show that it wasn’t harmful to people. I understand that it affected the egg shells of Bald Eagle making them soft. The Eagle has been removed from the endangered species list with a full recovery. Eagles in Alaska are like seagulls along most seacoasts so there is no danger left of extinction. We need to take a look at effective pesticides that have been been banned and maybe re-introduce some of them regulated for use in a lesser volumn of use. It’s not only bedbugs, but mosquitos, spiders, fruit flies, gnats, no-see-ums etc. etc. that have become more prevelant over the course of the years. We know that carbon monoxide emmisions are terribly detrimental to our environment but I haven’t seen gasoline banned. There are alot of worse products and byproducts in our world that some of the banned substances.
One last question: As a Boy Scout, our local pharmacist used to have us load up on one of the vitamin B’s to deter mosquitos. I can’t remember which one of the B’s it was. I wonder if there is any supplements that a person could take to discourage bed bugs?

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