Using Diatomaceous Earth for Insect Control
Diatomaceous Earth is a wonderfully effective natural pesticide offering green-minded consumers a non-chemical alternative to other commercial products. Diatomaceous earth can be used to fight insects on household pets like cats and dogs, in farm animals like chickens and horses, and as a preventive measure in places like chicken coops, barns, and kennels. It can even be used right in your own home to combat fleas, gnats, chiggers, and bed bugs in your carpet, walls, and bedding.
Diatomaceous earth is a unique substance mined, milled, and processed from lake beds and ocean deposits. It is formed slowly over centuries from the decomposition of fossilized remains of ancient algae. When processed, diatomaceous earth comes in a fine, spreadable powder. On the microscopic level, diatomaceous earth is porous making it very good for soaking up moisture. The fossilized remains of ancient algae gives diatomaceous earth many tiny sharp, hard edges.
How does diatomaceous earth fight insects?
When using diatomaceous earth for insect control it is important to know how diatomaceous earth works against insects. Diatomaceous earth’s effectiveness comes from it’s microscopic structure. Diatomaceous earth is similar to sand in that it is composed largely of silica. Also, like sand, diatomaceous earth is good at sticking to things whether that’s animal skin or the slimy bellies of pests.
The important thing to remember when using diatomaceous earth for insect control is that it works through physical contact with the insect, so to kill the insect the diatomaceous earth needs to work itself onto the insect. When insects come into contact with diatomaceous earth, its sharp edges cut into insects’ exoskeletons causing the insects to lose moisture, and eventually die from dehydration.
Ensuring that diatomaceous earth comes into contact with the pests you want to kill can be achieved in different ways but there really is no wrong way to apply diatomaceous earth. A common practice with poultry, for example, is to add diatomaceous earth in their favorite dust bathing areas. The chickens will coat themselves in a protect armor of diatomaceous earth and also kill any insect like fleas hiding in their feathers. In another example, many horse keepers have found success hanging burlap sacks full of diatomaceous earth in places accessible to horses. Horses can rub against the burlap sacks and coat themselves in diatomaceous earth in much the same way as the chickens. Spreading diatomaceous earth in places where insects are likely to be - like the floors of barn and coops is another way to ensure the insects contact diatomaceous earth.
Diatomaceous Earth as Insect Prevention
Using diatomaceous earth in a preventive capacity is a good way to combat pests before they even take root. First, muck your barn or coop thoroughly. Remove old, wet straw and mop out moist areas. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth liberally in places where moisture collects because diatomaceous earth is good at soaking up water depriving insects of their favorite breeding and egging grounds. Also, spread diatomaceous earth in places where insects are likely to be such as cracks in the floor, along window sills, and in the nooks and crannies of walls.
Diatomaceous earth may also be used in your home - on your floors and carpets - in a similar way. First, agitate your carpets by brushing them, vacuuming them, or shaking them. Then, sprinkle diatomaceous earth across your floors. Let the diatomaceous earth sit for twelve hours so that pests will have an ample opportunity to come into contact with the substance. Then, vacuum or sweep your floors. When using diatomaceous earth in your home use the food grade quality. under no circumstances use diatomaceous earth marked especially for use in pools.