Diatomaceous Earth As A Pest Control Solution
Natural and environmentally friendly pest extermination solutions, for in and around the home. This seems to be what many people want these days. But are there products out there that can do the job and get rid of pests from around the home, and if so are they safe to apply and in what form are they used.
Well, I’ll give you the rundown on one particular product called diatomaceous earth or DE. This is a natural product that some say is an excellent way of controlling pests of all sorts, from cockroaches, termites, ants, bedbugs and many more. I have applied DE for one of my customers once only, and it did the job well, but and yes there’s always a but, and this one is to do with the residual effect. That is the amount of time that it lasts for as an insecticide for different pests.
If using DE as a pest control treatment it will need to be applied a lot more often. DE just doesn’t have the ability to last for a full 12 months, which is what customers have come to expect from a pest treatment.
DE, is also not good in the case of an infestation; it just doesn’t have the fast knockdown action, or the ability to flush pests out from where they are hiding, as commercial insecticides do.
First, let’s have a look at DE and where it’s from and also how it works as a pest elimination solution compared to the more commonly used synthetic products.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a natural soft siliceous sedimentary rock that crumbles into a white powder easily, the powder is very fine, and it consists of fossilized diatoms a hard-shelled protist chrysophyte.
So we know that it’s from mother nature herself and in that case it must be safe to use for pest treatments right, well hold on there not so fast, it’s not that simple as there are two forms of DE.
The two types of diatomaceous earth are saltwater and freshwater and the one to use for around the home would be the freshwater DE. Freshwater DE has little to no traces of (crystalline silica) which can be harmful to the lungs and can cause silicosis. Click on the link to find out more information on silicosis. I wouldn’t touch the saltwater form of DE even with a good spray mask, as it contains large amounts of crystalline silica.
The freshwater diatomaceous earth is used a lot in the agricultural industry for grain storage as an anti-caking agent and also an insecticide, some people also believe it is a natural dewormer, but some studies have in fact shown it not to be an effective dewormer. Some eat the freshwater DE saying it gets rid of all parasites in the body, personally I wouldn’t.
Some people also use it as a soil additive to aid in growing plants and even for use in vegetable gardens. It’s very good at retaining water and nutrients which is excellent; for those that are a bit of a green thumb and like to grow their own veggies.
How to apply it and be safe?
There are a couple of ways to apply diatomaceous earth either as a dust/powder or liquid, as it comes in its natural form as a finely ground powder, most just use it that way and sprinkle it around plants etc., but there are some instances where a dust form just won’t do the job, so then you need to turn it into a liquid, and this is a pretty simple process, yes you guessed it you just add water, and that’s pretty much about it.
The amount to mix into water is about four tablespoons of DE to 3.7 litres of water or 1 Gallon. This mix is what most use, but you may need to adjust it slightly by adding more DE; this would have to be dispensed using a pump sprayer.
Now we know how to apply it; should you use protective clothing and face mask, some will say you don’t need to especially if using the freshwater food grade DE, but me always edging on the side of caution would advise wearing at least a respirator.
I never spray anything without my respirator on, you just don’t know and probably in 10 years down the track they’ll be telling us that diatomaceous earth is a carcinogenic and will kill us, who knows so just play it safe and wear one if you are going to try a DIY pest control solution with DE.
So although we say now that DE is safe and effective as a pest deterrent and relatively easy to use for the DIYer, you will still need some equipment to apply it safely. When doing a professional pest treatment a high-pressure sprayer that costs around 700 dollars and a specialised duster that dispenses the powder very finely and evenly is used.
So again to do your own DIY pest control service, you will need to spend some money on equipment and time on maintenance.
What warranty can you expect from DE?
Warranties in the pest industry will vary from company to company. It will depend on the pests in question and the products that we use.
For my customers, we give a 12-month warranty when using commercial products, But as far as DE goes, once it rains that’s pretty much it warranty period over, as it gets washed away and is no longer effective.
There is no product on the market at present that will get rid of all pests completely, one such pest is the ant. We can give a 6 months warranty on ants if we use commercial products, such as Termidor.
If a Brisbane based pest control company tells you, that they will warranty an ant treatment for 12 months they could be lying. But if they say they will “GET IT IN WRITING” and hold them to it.
The main problem with any pest treatment that is carried out externally is going to be the weather. Products break down when exposed to the elements whether their commercial grade products or not.
The one problem I can see with using DE is that its residual effect isn’t going to be as long as some of the other products that can be used such as fipronil or bifenthrin, which I have to say, are very safe products if used correctly and applied correctly.
De will wash away when it rains when used in powder form and dissolve into the earth whereas other products as mentioned earlier take a longer time to get broken down by the elements, giving a better warranty in some situations.
So as always there will be a trade-off when wanting a full organic environmentally safe pest control done around the home, that’s just the way it is.
The best thing to do is to find a company that deals with environmentally friendly pest control solutions and get their opinion on whether this sort of treatment would be sufficient for your home.
Termites and Diatomaceous Earth:
Would I use diatomaceous earth for a termite treatment, termites are a specialised pest that can cause a tremendous amount of damage to a home When I do a termite treatment, I do feel a great deal of responsibility to the customer, and putting my trust in a natural product is a big ask.
I haven’t used DE personally for a termite treatment as yet, if I was ever to be asked by a customer to do this, I would probably sit down with them and explain all the pros and cons. They would also have to understand that there would be limitations written into the contract, and pretty much no warranty could be given.
Some people have put up on the internet videos etc., saying that they have used DE on termites and it has been successful. But let’s get this into perspective first, people say all sorts of things online, but how do we really know it’s the truth or not, so I would always take what others say with a pinch of salt.
The best natural way to help keep termites out of your home; would be to have a comprehensive inspection of the home done. This will determine what areas are the most susceptible to termite attack, and this needs to be repeated every twelve months, and that’s chemical free.
Brisbane, Ipswich and the Gold Coast here in Sunny Queensland, all are areas that have had and still have severe problems with termites. Pest control companies have been trying for years to keep them out of our homes, and too many times the treatments have failed.
But this doesn’t mean you just right them off and then give something else like diatomaceous earth a go. Unfortunately, some termite barriers just haven’t been correctly installed or installed at all, this sort of thing does still happen in this industry.
Before you go applying your DIY termite barrier with DE or any other organic product, it’s best to contact your local pest control company for some free advice. As far as termites go it’s best to go in fully armed as they can not only destroy your home but your life too.
So after reading all of that, I do hope this has given you something to think about; we do have to start to try and look after the planet and if possible use products that won’t harm the wildlife or our families. We do also need to ensure the products we use are going to be effective especially in the case of termites.
For general pests like cockroaches, spiders etc., we can try different things, and get away with it as they are not going to destroy our homes, but termites, I think that serious thought is needed before attempting a barrier with DE or any other type of organic product.
So the short of it is DE can be a useful pest control product if you want to go DIY, but it needs to be applied correctly and into the right places where pests are more likely to harbour, and may also need re-applying more often than specially manufactured products.
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