DDT can’t fight bedbugs

Newsweek magazine, even in its much reduced form (bolstered by a good on-line site), still provides essential reporting.

A week or so ago Newsweek published a piece of reporting on the politics of bedbugs.  To wit:

  1. DDT doesn’t work against bedbugs, and hasn’t worked against them since the late 1950s.
  2. Astroturf organizations, so-called “think-tanks” set up by corporate interests jumped on bedbugs as another way of attacking the 46-years dead Rachel Carson, environmentalists, scientists and government — falsely.  The Heartland Institute is singled out as one group spreading false claims in favor of poison and against environmental protection.
  3. The recent resurgence of bedbugs is more related to changes in fighting other pests than in the discontinuation of DDT against them.  Had DDT been the magic answer, bedbugs should have made a resurgence in 1960 when DDT use against them was stopped, not 2010, a full half-century later.
  4. The many screeds in favor of DDT are politically driven, not science driven.

Think about that — every claim that we need DDT to fight bedbugs is a planted, political advertisement, and not a fact-based policy argument.  Each of those claims is based in a political smear, and not based on science.

The really weird part is that so many writers and bloggers spread the false claims without being paid.  Selling one’s soul for money is understandable; giving one’s soul away for nothing is stupid, or evil, or both.

Newsweek reported:

DDT “devastated” bedbug populations when it was introduced in the 1940s, says Richard Cooper, technical director for Cooper Pest Solutions and a widely quoted authority on bedbug control. Mattresses were soaked in it, wallpaper came pre-treated with it. It also killed boll weevils, which fed on cotton buds and flowers (by far, the majority of DDT was applied to cotton fields), and, incidentally, it killed bald eagles and numerous other species of birds, the phenomenon that gave Carson her title. In the laboratory, DDT can cause cancer in animals; its effect on human beings has long been debated, but since it accumulates up the food chain, and stays in the body for years, the consensus among public-health experts was that it was better to act before effects showed up in the population. But long before the United States banned most uses of it in 1972, DDT had lost its effectiveness against bedbugs—which, like many fast-breeding insects, are extremely adept at evolving resistance to pesticides. “Bloggers talk about bringing back DDT,” says Bob Rosenberg, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “but we had stopped using it even before 1972.”


Evolution has bred DDT-resistant bedbugs. Chart from

Evolution has bred DDT-resistant bedbugs. Chart from “Understanding Evolution, Bed Bugs Bite Back Thanks to Evolution,”

6 Responses to DDT can’t fight bedbugs

  1. bev says:

    DON’T DENY THE TRUTH! BRING DDT BACK! I recently saw an Excellent documentary, 3 BILLION AND COUNTING, in which a medical doctor looks into the myths, lies, coverups surrounding banning DDT by the EPA in the ’70s. He reviews thousands of pages of EPA Hearings’ testimony and found the conclusion was that DDT IS SAFE FOR HUMANS AND THE ENVIRONMENT,yet it was banned anyway. DDT is the SAFEST, CHEAPEST, AND MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO ERADICATE BLOODSUCKERS! What are we waiting for?


  2. kathy says:

    Wow! you comment: “Think about that — every claim that we need DDT to fight bedbugs is a planted, political advertisement, and not a fact-based policy argument. Each of those claims is based in a political smear, and not based on science” gave me chills! This is EXACTLY how DDT got banned. It was not based on Science, not based on FACTS, had been proven to be a LIFE SAVER .. and yet .. an emotionally charged novel by a woman with cancer and angry at chemicals .. gets full support and the EPA begins with banning DDT! It was totally poli tic based! Check out http://www.3billionandcounting.com OPEN your ears and mind .. the Truth is available around DDT. Over 100 serious doctors and scientists documented that DDT was SAFE for humans and birds. This was TEN YEARS after Silent Spring was out. But, we were too duped by then. Wake up .. save lives!


  3. karl says:

    Hi Ed,

    Finally started blogging, and my first post was on this very issue! http://panna.org/blog/DDT-for-bedbugs
    Unfortunately, the folks running the show haven’t enabled comments, but I think that’s coming soon.



  4. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m laughing — there’s certainly a good way to take that, and then there’s the possibility that you think I’m a tiny bloodsucker.


  5. Kate says:

    I saw a news report on bedbugs recently, and the report implied that it was the cessation of DDT usage that caused the problem. I thought of you immediately.


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