You may have heard people talk about diatomaceous earth as an amazing bug killer and wonder what this magical substance could possibly be. Not only is it natural and safe to use around humans and pets, but it is also inexpensive and kills everything from fleas and bed bugs to spiders and roaches. Your new go-to pest control may seem like magic, but it is simply science in action.
Diatomaceous earth, often referred to as DE, is the fossilized remains of one-celled aquatic plants known as diatoms. When the diatoms died, their shells would settle at the bottom of ancient oceans or lakes and form thick layers of diatomaceous earth. DE is now mined and ground up into a fine powder, and is comprised mostly of silica.
Diatomaceous earth is white or off-white and feels soft to humans. Under a microscope, however, DE has sharp edges that can cut the waxy outer layer of the exoskeleton of insects. These cuts cause insects to quickly lose moisture and dehydrate. Since DE is very absorbent, it can also help quicken the dehydration process.
DE can be used to get rid of a wide variety of insects, but they must come into direct contact with the powder for it to work. The good news is that since it is a mechanical form of pest control, insects will never grow resistant to it, so you can use it forever with great results. Diatomaceous earth will remain effective as long as it stays dry. For more information on application methods, check out How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth for Ants and other insects.
Not all diatomaceous earth is the same, so read labels before use. For example, pool-grade DE should not be used as a pest control agent. Even though Diatomaceous earth is generally recognized as safe, like any dust, it can bother the lungs if inhaled in large amounts, so precautions should be taken.
If you would like to learn more about this amazing substance, check out the story behind Harris Diatomaceous Earth.