Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is EPA approved and registered for use against indoor and outdoor crawling insects, including cockroaches, ants, bedbugs, fleas, boxelder bugs, carpet beetles, centipedes, crickets, earwigs, grasshoppers, ticks, millipedes, scorpions, slugs, and silverfish. For use in Cracks, Crevices, Hiding and Running Areas, Under and Behind Appliances, and Wall and Floor Surfaces. For use in and around homes, office buildings, restaurants, motels, warehouses, theaters, schools, hotels, and food handling establishments.
DE is odorless and nontoxic.
DE is composed of finely milled fossilized shells of minuscule organisms called diatoms. The microscopically fine, sharp edges desiccate the insects' exoskeleton upon contact and the pests dehydrate and die within hours. The insects also die when they eat the dust.
Indoor and Outdoor Application: Sprinkle a light layer of DE in areas where pests frequent, including under stoves, cabinets, sinks, garbage cans, window and door frames and sills, entrance ways, sewer pipes and drains, and in cracks and crevices. Repeat treatment as needed.
For Carpet Beetles: Thoroughly dust along baseboards, carpet edges, under furniture, carpet, and rugs, and in closets and shelving.
For Bedbugs: Take apart bed and dust joints and channels. Dust any hollow tubing and the interior framework as well as the mattress and all cracks in the room.
For Fleas: Thoroughly dust carpets and pet's bedding and sleeping areas, as well as cracks and baseboards. It also can be rubbed into your pet's fur.
For Flies: Thoroughly dust areas where flies frequent (walls, straw bedding, livestock pens). It also can be applied to livestock coat as an insect repellent/contact insecticide.
Natural Diatomaceous Earth (DE for short) is the remains of microscopic one-celled plants (phytoplankton) called diatoms that lived in the oceans that once covered the western part of the United States and other parts of the world. Huge deposits were left behind when the water receded. They are now mined and have several important uses in toothpaste, beer filtering, and swimming pool filters. DE is approximately 3% magnesium, 86% silicon, 5% sodium, 2% iron and many other trace minerals such as titanium, boron, manganese, copper and zirconium.
Natural DE also makes a very effective natural insecticide. The insecticidal quality of DE is due to the razor sharp edges of the diatom remains. When DE comes contact with the insects, the sharp edges lacerate the bugs' waxy exoskeleton and then the powdery DE absorbs the body fluids causing death from dehydration. Said more simply, DE kills insects by drying then up. You'll see how drying DE is if you handle it with bare hands.
There is no residual danger of contamination. In fact, DE is actually beneficial to the soil. It's loaded with trace minerals. However, there are a few precautions. Diatomaceous earth is very dusty and can cause lung problems if breathed heavily and for long periods of exposure, so when applying it dry always wear a good dust mask or stand up wind. The second precaution is that DE sold for swimming pool filters is ineffective for insect control because it has been heated and chemically treated. It won't kill insects and it is dangerous to breathe. Finally natural DE will kill beneficial insects too, so use it sparingly to kill problem infestations of harmful insects and don't use it too often.
Diatomaceous earth can be applied in a variety of ways. To use for flea and tick control, apply a light dusting over the lawn, in dog runs, around pet bedding or favorite resting spots and sprinkle a little on your pet between baths of a mild herbal soap. Avoid Dips and soaps containing chemical insecticides. It's also a good idea to avoid soaps that contain ammonium laurel sulfate. It's used to make good studs but it is a skin irritant. Check out your own soap and tooth paste while you're at it.
The best way to apply the dust over a large area is with a light weight apparatus such as Dustin' Mizer, Spritzer or other similar blowers. Applying by hands can be done but wastes a lot of material and will dry your skin. To apply with water, mix 1/4 cup of DE in a gallon of water and apply to the lawn and/or shrubs where pest problems exist. It doesn't hurt insects until it dries out.
One of the best uses of DE is to add it to animal food - pets or livestock. When used at 1% to 2% of the food volume, it controls internal parasites, increases digestion and provides valuable trace minerals. You will usually see an overall increase in health of any animals fed DE on a regular basis.
Here are some of the common questions I get on natural diatomaceous earth.
Is DE dangerous to my family, me or my pets?
Since DE is dusty and abrasive, it can cause lung damage if breathed heavily. Remember, however, that breathing any dusty materials can be dangerous. Be sure to wear a dusk mask if applying with a dry blower. Mixing into a water spray eliminates most of these problems. DE will not hurt earthworms or beneficial soil microorganisms. DE is one of the few natural pesticides in the world classified as non-toxic.
How much DE should I feed my animals?
Some of the feeding rations suggested by suppliers and users include: 1-2% by weight of DE in ground, dry feed. 5% by weight in stored grain. 5 ounces (one cup) daily ration for horses. One tablespoon per day for large dogs (over 55 lb.). One teaspoon per day for small dogs, cats and puppies.
Does spraying DE in a wet solution work as well as the dry dust?
The wet spray method does work but only after the liquid had dried. Mix from 1-4 tablespoons DE per gallon of water and spray on the lawn, shrubs, tree trunks and building foundations. When the mixture dried, it has the same abrasive and dehydrating powers as the original dry dust. When sprayed wet, the material covers the foliage and other surfaces better than dusting dry, thus giving better insect control. It seems to last longer when applied wet, but the dry application is usually more effective at killing insects quickly. DE has no insect killing power while it is wet.
Can I mix DE with other sprays?
Yes, it can be mixed with other organic products such as seaweed, fish emulsion, garlic tea, and biostimulants. It would be silly to mix DE with chemical insecticides. In fact, it's silly to use synthetic toxic pesticides for anything.
Is DE registered by the EPA and labeled for insect control?
Yes! Some people would have you believe that DE is untested, unlabeled and therefore unsafe for use. That's just one of the feeble arguments left to the organiphobes. DE has been used for years in the food processing industry to treat stored gains to eliminate weevil and other insect infestations. There are currently dozen of registrations of DE with the EPA for various insecticidal and food supplement uses. DE, with and without pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, is registered and labeled for fleas, ants, roaches and many other pests. Piperony butoxide (PBO) is a synthetic synergism that is added to increase the killing power of the product. I do not recommend it for any use. Those wanting to avoid it can mix pure pyrethrum and DE together at a 25% -75% ratio. Pyrethrum products that are available include Natural Guard and ECOsafe . There is approximately 1% pyrethrin in natural pyrethrum powder. Pyrethroids are synthetic insecticides. They do not resemble natural pyrethrum.