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Diatomaceous Earth: Get Rid of Bugs Organically

How to safely get rid of ants, aphids, cutworms, crickets, bed bugs, cockroaches, crickets, Japanese beetles, millipedes, ticks, spiders, cabbage maggot, slugs and snails

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a naturally occurring, soft sedimentary rock made up of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of microscopic, single-celled algae. These algae have intricate, silica-based cell walls that form a highly porous, abrasive material when they accumulate and fossilize. DE is found in large deposits worldwide and is mined for various industrial and agricultural uses. It is available in two main forms: food-grade and filter-grade (also known as pool-grade).

How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work?

The microscopic, sharp edges of DE's diatom particles are its primary mode of action. These sharp edges can pierce and damage the exoskeletons of insects and other small organisms, causing them to lose moisture and eventually dehydrate and die. DE also has absorptive properties, further contributing to the desiccation of affected pests. It is effective against various insects, including ants, aphids, centipedes, cutworms, crickets, bed bugs, cockroaches, crickets, Japanese beetles, millipedes, ticks, spiders, cabbage maggot, slugs and snails, making it a popular choice for natural pest control.

Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Pets and Humans?

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is considered safe for pets and humans when used appropriately. It is often used as a natural flea control treatment for pets, as well as a dewormer for both pets and livestock. However, inhalation of DE dust can cause respiratory irritation in both humans and animals, so it is crucial to take precautions when applying it. Always wear a dust mask and ensure proper ventilation when using DE indoors. Keep the area clear of pets and children until the dust settles.

It is important to note that filter-grade DE, used primarily for pool filtration systems, has been heat-treated and contains higher levels of crystalline silica, making it more hazardous to humans and pets. Filter-grade DE should never be used for pest control or any other purpose that involves direct contact with humans or animals.

Is Diatomaceous Earth Good for the Environment?

Diatomaceous earth is considered an eco-friendly option for pest control, as it is a natural, non-toxic substance that biodegrades over time. It does not persist in the environment or contribute to chemical pollution. DE is less harmful to beneficial insects, like ladybugs, and lacewings, than many synthetic chemical pesticides. However, it can still have some impact on non-target organisms, so it is essential to apply it judiciously.

Can it Affect Bees, Birds, Fish, or Other Wildlife?

While DE is generally considered safe for larger organisms, it can have some impact on bees and other beneficial insects. To minimize harm to pollinators, apply DE in the early morning or late evening when bees are less active, and avoid applying it directly to flowering plants. DE is not harmful to birds when used as directed and is sometimes added to birdseed to prevent insect infestations.

What is it used for on Plants?

DE is a popular choice for natural pest control in gardens and on houseplants. It can help control a wide range of pests, including aphids, mites, thrips, and slugs. DE can also be used as a soil amendment to improve soil structure and drainage, particularly in heavy clay soils.

Pest control: DE is effective against soft-bodied insects, such as aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and thrips. It works by causing physical damage to the exoskeletons of these pests, which leads to dehydration and, eventually, death.

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 FotoHelin, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

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