What Kind of Bugs Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill

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Have you noticed the natural bug killers popping up in local stores and online? Awareness of the chemicals in commercial bug sprays is spreading, and consumers are looking for healthier, safer ways to eliminate roaches, ants, spiders, bedbugs, and other pests from their homes and workspaces. 

Gardener white sprinkle Diatomaceous earth

If you’ve noticed a bug or two, you know there are more where they came from. You may not want to spread harsh chemicals around your home or office, especially if you have children and pets. Professional pest control companies are the fastest and safest option to eliminate current infestations and prevent future intrusions, but you can also use diatomaceous earth as a natural pest control that is easy to obtain and apply. 

What is Diatomaceous Earth? 

Diatomaceous earth, referred to as DE, is the fossilized remains of single-cell microalgae that exist naturally in the soil and many bodies of water. These tiny algae are known as diatoms. Their primary job is to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, but their microscopic remains have proven useful for other applications as well. 

Diatoms have cell walls or shells constructed from silica that takes a form much like glass. You can’t see it with the eye, but they have sharp edges capable of cutting into some small bugs. 

When diatoms die, they remain on the earth and are collected to create what we call diatomaceous earth or DE. 

Types of Diatomaceous Earth 

Before using diatomaceous earth to kill bugs or for any other application within or close to a living space, it’s important to understand the different types of DE available. Some are designed for safe use near humans and pets, while others have other intended uses and aren’t effective for pest control due to processing. 

The primary types of DE you may see in stores or online include: 

Food-Grade DE

Food-grade DE must contain less than 1% crystalline silica and is the safest option for pest control around your home or business. Products with this label are designed for use near humans and present the least risk when used in line with package instructions. 

Feed-Grade DE

Feed-grade DE is slightly different from food-grade because it’s intended only to feed animals. The testing and safety standards aren’t as high, so you should still look for food-grade products when applying anywhere near your living or working space. 

Pool-Grade DE

You can’t use pool-grade DE to kill bugs. It’s heated to high temperatures to create a substance that efficiently filters impurities out of water. The heating process reduces its effectiveness for pest control applications. 

We’ll talk about the safety of DE in a moment. For now, it’s important to look for food-grade products if you want to kill bugs naturally without introducing potential toxins into your home. You’ll get the best results while keeping your loved ones or professional environment safe. 

What is Diatomaceous Earth Used For? 

There are a variety of ways that you can use DE within and around your home or place of business. It’s often added to potting soil to improve nutrient and moisture retention. It’s used in some whitening toothpaste products because the tiny silica pieces help clean and shine teeth.

From preserving food to enhancing the efficiency of pool filters and even detoxing the skin and digestive system, manufacturers and everyday people have found various ways to use food-grade diatomaceous earth. Natural indoor and outdoor pest control remains the most common application. 

You can use DE to kill bugs in your home, garden, or outdoor living space. It’s readily available around the country, easy to apply, and much safer than most commercial pest control sprays available at your local supermarket. 

How Diatomaceous Earth Works for Pest Control

Exactly how does DE kill roaches, fleas, ants, and other pests that may intrude on your space? It returns to the glass-like silica that forms the shell or wall around each of those microscopic diatoms. 

The sharp edges of the silica can cut into an insect’s exoskeleton, sometimes removing it entirely. It can also absorb fat and oil from the exoskeleton, which leads to it drying out and killing the bug. 

How Do You Use Diatomaceous Earth for Bugs? 

The DE must come in direct contact with a bug for it to work. That means you must apply it directly to surfaces where you have seen pests crawling in your home or commercial space. There is a waiting process because the bugs need to crawl through the diatomaceous earth and then dry out and die. 

There are multiple ways you can apply DE for pest control, depending on the location. Let’s look at some of the best indoor and outdoor application options. 

Sprinkle food-grade DE on carpeting, rugs, or upholstery. 

Let it rest for at least 4 hours if not an entire day, and then vacuum it up. Do this once a week for at least several weeks to eliminate fleas and other small bugs infesting the area. This approach is most effective if you can cover the entire surface, wall to wall. 

Sprinkle DE around pet bedding. 

Let it rest for at least several hours before vacuuming it up. You should keep your pets away from the area until it is completely vacuumed, even if you use a safe, food-grade product. Do this regularly if you’re worried about fleas or ticks entering your home from your pets. This is a good approach for puppies or kittens too young for flea and tick control treatments. It’s also a good precaution to protect your home and pets of all ages. 

Use a duster or brush to lightly cover surfaces throughout your property. 

You can apply light dusting around the edges of windows and doors to stop bugs from entering your home. If you see bugs inside your home, then you may do this around the interior edges of cabinets, across shelves or other flat surfaces, and along baseboards. Food-grade products are essential for this type of application. Make sure it doesn’t come in direct contact with any food or drink, so placement choices are critical. 

Create lines of DE behind furniture and in other strategic areas where you’ve seen pests. 

The thick lines will coat the exoskeletons as the bugs crawl over. You can do this on windowsills and outside of doors as well, but make sure humans aren’t walking through the lines before the bugs. If you want to get as many bugs as possible in a short period, place large barriers of DE along walls or in other areas, pests have infested. They will have no choice but to get coated if they want to pass through. 

Surround outdoor plants with DE to create a barrier that slugs, snails, aphids, and many bugs don’t want to cross. 

That’s a natural way to stop pests from devouring plants for food or using them to lay eggs. If you have pests or enjoy squirrels, birds, and other wildlife in the area, make sure to use food-grade DE even though you’re not placing it inside your home or business. 

Use a DE sprayer to apply the powder around the exterior of your home. 

You can find these sprayers online or in most home improvement stores. Try spraying the DE in cracks and crevices around your home and the base of the house. That can stop many pests from entering your property. This is a great application for commercial and residential properties. 

Coat surfaces throughout an infested room and leave for at least 24 hours to eliminate a large infestation. 

The longer you leave DE in place, the more bugs will crawl through it and dry out. If you have a serious infestation, consider covering all flat surfaces, plush floorboards, windows, and doors with the powder and then leaving it for up to a week before vacuuming. It’s best to shut that area off and not enter until treatment is complete. You can vacuum every 2-3 days and reapply if needed. 

Find a product designed for use directly on cats and dogs. 

There are some flea and tick products that use DE as a natural way to control pests on your pets. You shouldn’t use anything directly on your pets unless it is clearly designed for direct application on the pet’s coat or skin. 

What Kind of Bugs Will Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth Kill? 

Diatomaceous earth will kill a wide variety of pests that have an exoskeleton, including but not limited to: 

  • Cockroaches
  • Bed bugs 
  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Spiders
  • Mites
  • Lice
  • Silverfish
  • Ants
  • Millipedes
  • Centipedes
  • Earwigs
  • Crickets
  • Flies
  • Stink bugs
  • Aphids
  • Thrips
  • Grubs
  • Beetles (some varieties)

There are some pests that have their own protections, making DE ineffective as a pest control solution. For instance, caterpillars and cabbage worms have thick mucus surrounding their bodies, so they can slide through DE without consequence.  

How Long Does It Take Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Bugs? 

Eliminating bugs with DE isn’t a fast process. You need the bugs to come in direct contact with the DE and then dry out. The drying-out process happens relatively quickly once contact is made, but large infestations require contact with many bugs to completely clear up. That’s why multiple applications of DE are often necessary. 

In areas that aren’t disturbed or used by humans or pets, you can leave DE for 24 hours and then clean it up. Reapply as needed in those areas. 

For areas that you use regularly, you have two options: 

  • Apply around the room's edges along floorboards, walls, windows, and doors only. That allows you to continue using your home while still treating bugs. 
  • Block one area off at a time, and don’t use it while the DE is in place. You can leave it for part of the day and then clean it up to re-open that property area for humans and pets. Cycling through treatments in each area of the property can eventually deliver the results you want. 

Potential Dangers of Diatomaceous Earth  

Diatomaceous earth is a natural resource that is much safer than bug sprays and powders made from chemicals and man-made substances. It still contains a lot of silica, and silica dust isn’t healthy when breathed into the lungs in large quantities or over a long period of time. 

Let’s look at the potential risks of using diatomaceous earth in your living environment. 

Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Humans? 

Food-grade DE is safe for use around humans of all ages under the following guidelines: 

  • Don’t eat or drink DE unless it’s in a product designed for human consumption. Make sure consumable products, even toothpaste, are tested for safety in humans. 
  • Avoid breathing in large quantities of DE. Silica dust can cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs when inhaled in large quantities or over long periods. You should wear a mask when applying DE powders or dust. Running an air purifier in the room while DE is in place can also help. 
  • Wear gloves to avoid skin contact with DE during application and cleanup. It can dry your skin out with prolonged direct exposure. 

Humans should only use food-grade DE. Treat it like you would harsh household cleaners. You protect yourself when using products that contain bleach and other chemicals that are generally safe without direct contact, and diatomaceous earth is the same. 

Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Pets? 

Removing pets from areas you’re treating with large amounts of DE is best. You don’t want a dog or cat to ingest any DE product unless it was intended for pet consumption and was properly tested for safety. You also don’t want dogs or cats putting their noses in a line of DE, which would lead to them inhaling it. 

I Applied Diatomaceous Earth – Do I Still Need Professional Pest Control? 

Diatomaceous earth is an effective pest control product for deterring pests and eliminating small intrusions. If you have a substantial infestation that has been building for a long period, you’re more likely to need a professional service. Contact us if you want to discuss safe, natural pest control treatments for commercial and residential property.

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