Diatomaceous Earth, The Ultimate Pesticide: Success, Hype, Glory & Legend

How does anything ever become legendary? Can you position diatomaceous earth as the ultimate pesticide? I think it's time to make some noise for this amazing natural pesticide!

Suprising qualities of Diatomaceous earth:

- Non-toxic

- Longer lasting than DDT

- Kills almost any insect that comes into contact with it

- Made by sea creatures


Stop bed bugs and fleas

Bringing home bed bugs has always been a special concern to us. On return from providing bed bug control services, bringing back hitch hikers was a real possibility. So, we maintained certain preventative measures. For our detection dogs Pan and Gaia, a rub down with diatomaceous earth proved foolproof.  Naturally, we would do this outside to minimize breathing in the dust. In any case, diatomaceous earth does not normally stay air-born for long. Their dog house was also treated with diatomaceous earth to ensure that bugs would not propagate there. The next day, after the diatomaceous earth rub down, it was bath time for Pan and Gaia!

One day I was quite worried to find my forgotten training bottle of live bed bugs all chewed up. Thanks, Pan! Regardless, even though we were rearing and working with bed bugs, our strategy never failed.

You can also use this treatment to get rid of fleas on your pets. Just rub them down with diatomaceous earth, and leave it on them for a day. They can be given a bath the day after. Also apply a light dusting of the earth to their sleeping matt and other indoor places where they rest.

house centiped

Bug-proof your home

Bugs don't recognize any borders or have any concept of personal space, so it's often necessary to bug-proof your home, whether it's an appartment, condo or detached home. Fortifying your home with diatomaceous earth could be your best insurance against any number of bugs, whether it be cockroaches, ants, bed bugs or more.

- Blow diatomaceous earth into the cracks and crevices of baseboards, particularly into the walls adjacent to neighbors.

- Wipe away the excess diatomaceous earth and then caulk the bug passages closed with a clear latex caulking.

- Diatomaceous earth is so persistent that it will stay there for the life of the building! So do a thorough application, because you won't need to repeat it.


At left is a before and after photo of the house centipede in contact with diatomaceous earth. Don't be suprised when the diatomaceous earth doesn't instantly kill the pest. This is a good thing--it means its not toxic! Diatomaceous earth often takes 24hrs to take effect, by dessicating the insect. 

Get rid of Lice
head lice in hair

I've always been baffled as to why anyone would voluntarily apply neurotoxins to their head... or their child's head! Essentially that is what is being recommended when advised to use the usual de-licing shampoo. Here's a great tried-and-true alternative.

Diatomaceous earth is very good at controlling lice. I remember using this treatment for my children when they came back from school with lice.

- Fit a t-shirt over the child's hair, so that the collar seals around their scalp.

- Apply diatomaceous earth to their hair. I minimize dust by carefully applying the diatomaceous earth inside the "t-shirt bag".

- Close the "bag" and massage in the diatomaceous earth into their hair and scalp.

- Leave the diatomaceous earth on overnight. The lice turn white with diatomaceous earth and become more visible.

- Shampoo it out the next day. Use tea-tree shampoo for maximum effect.

- Use vinegar to comb lice eggs out of the hair.

- Repeat this treatment once a week for 3 weeks to be safe. This is to make sure all the remaining eggs hatch (takes ~ 1 week) are the new lice are killed.


Diatomaceous Earth Safety


Diatomaceous earth has none of the many ecological and health fall outs that continue to be experienced by DDT. Insect resistance was a major business setback that played an important role in allowing the banning of DDT. For diatomaceous earth, insect resistance is not likely to occur due to the nature of its mode of action.  It can be blown into house structures, and it will destroy many domestic pests. 

It is important to use diatomaceous earth that is food-grade or designated for insecticide. Some forms of diatomaceous earth, especially those used for pool filters may contain cristalline silica that should not be inhaled in powder form. 

At right is a photo of a cockroach that made contact with diatomaceous earth that I had applied one whole year before. In the morning it was dead. For more info on diatomaceous earth see http://eap.mcgill.ca/publications/eap4.htm.


What do we need to make diatomaceous earth become as famous as DDT? 

Cowan and Gunby, in their publication in The Economic Journal,  SPRAYED TO DEATH: PATH DEPENDENCE, LOCK-IN AND PEST CONTROL STRATEGIES  suggest that a chemical technology crisis may provide opportunity for movement to a better ecological technology. The failure of chemical technology for bed bug control is creating an important crisis. Angry calls for the return of DDT, as well as other banned pesticides for bed bug control reflect a strong dependance on well media-publicized, but out-dated technologies. Diatomaceous earth is frequently dismissed or misrepresented for  insect control. People with direct experience with the successful elimination of bugs with diatomaceous earth have the opportunity to make this natural pesticide SHINE by sharing their success stories!

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