Diatomaceous earth is the perfect choice for safe pest control when you have animals or small children. Completely harmless for people and animals, but deadly for insects, it is a bug killer you can eat safely, and it even has health benefits for us.
Quick – can you close your eyes and spell diatomaceous earth without making a mistake?
Or do you just call it DE like the rest of us?
I’ll forgive you if you call it DE. Or even diatom earth … that’s easier.
As good as I am at spelling, I come up with stuff like diotamaceous and dietamaceious or even dietemaceious – what a crazy word! If you don’t know what it is, the quick answer is that it kills ants (and other insect pests) but won’t kill your cat. DE works as natural inset control, and you’re going to love it.
Diatomaceous Earth kills ants but won’t kill your cat.
Imagine a bug killer – an ANT KILLER – that is completely safe to eat, no bad side effects from getting it in your mouth or on your skin, and that, in fact, has health benefits for humans and other mammals.
I know, right???!
Can I tell you how very much I hate, hate, hate having ants in my house? Lice and earwigs are worse, but ants are bad.
Ok, so this bug killer is also completely earth-friendly, all natural and safe to have around your babies? No more running, screaming, because the inquisitive toddler is sucking on the ant bait.
Because yes, that sort of thing happens when you have children.
Hey, mandatory disclaimer so that you don’t sue me: I’m not a scientist, and I’m definitely not a doctor.
This is not medical advice.
Use common sense and do your own research because, hey, sometimes people actually are wrong on the internet.
I’m not wrong … at least not about the safety and usefulness of DE. But you should still verify and double check everything.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous Earth, also called diatomite, is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton – most certainly a natural product – which contains large amounts of silica. Generally, it is an off-white talc-y powder.
You can buy it from Amazon, or at your local farm co-op. I found it to be affordable at my local store.
Under a microscope, though, it looks like very tiny shards of glass.
Can you eat it?
Yes, if you buy food grade DE. Lots of people do. There are health benefits to eating it, they say. I’m not positive, since it needs to stay dry in order to kill bugs, but there are certainly people who use it as a dietary supplement.
Pool grade DE is not the same thing at all. Pool grade is treated with a type of high heat called calcination, which turns the silicon dioxide into crystalline silica. Do NOT ingest crystalline silica or use it around your animals. It is a toxin and useful only for filtration.
Can it hurt you?
Not by eating it, but you don’t want to get any in your eyes or breathe it into your lungs.
Keep it away from those very important, very tender spots of your body that don’t take well to microscopic shards of glass. That doesn’t make it bad – you don’t want to breathe in a face full of flour, chalk, or many other powders.
Can you eat ant poison?
Do you know how many people actually ask this?
Are you serious?
Keep normal ant poison away from your cat, puppies, guinea pigs and certainly away from your children or any adult who thinks ant poison, black licorice, or Tide pods can go in your mouth.
Not even small amounts. Why would you want to eat ant poison?
Diatomaceous Earth is NOT ant poison. It’s not poison at all. There are no bad short or long term effects, as far as I can tell, from using it.
What Is DE Used For?
The biggest use for it is killing bugs.
From flies swarming our livestock to lice in the children’s hair to ants invading the kitchen, we have insects that tend not to respect boundaries.
DE is amazingly effective at providing unwanted a crawling insect with a boundary that it will notice.
The biggest question I seem to get about this is — does diatomaceous earth kill ants? The answer is yes, oh, yes. I’m guessing many of you hate ants in the house as much as I do. We deal with an ant invasion in our kitchen every year.
There are two ways that I’ve killed ants.
One is by sprinkling an unbroken line around the place where they are crossing into your home – the window sill, the crack under the door, any place you’re seeing ant trails – and then vacuuming up the dehydrated ant bodies the next day. It’s very satisfying.
When they invaded my cupboards, I put 1/4 cup honey in a glass canning jar, then covered it with a generous scoop of diatomaceous earth. They came for the honey and took plenty of deadly DE home. No more ants in my cupboards. Again, it’s a lovely feeling.
It might be possible to take out the entire colony, if you can deliver it to the nest without getting the powder wet.
DE is Generally Recognized As Safe and is found in skin care products, toothpaste, food, beverages, medicines, paints and water filters. It is very useful stuff indeed!
Products containing it are registered for use against crickets, fleas, bed bugs, cockroaches, ticks, spiders and more. I have used DE as flea control with goats – it worked better than the chemical spray flea treatment!
Food grade diatomaceous earth can be used as an anti-caking material or as a clarifier in wine and beer.
Many grain products contain DE because it keeps the bugs from eating the grain. In fact, if you eat any kind of store bought grain, cereal or bread, you have probably eaten some diatomaceous earth.
Then It’s a Poison?
No. I said it earlier, and I’ll repeat it.
It’s not a poison and it’s not toxic to birds, animals and people. Well, it’s not really toxic (as in poisonous) at all.
If anything, it’s like a tiny knife that repeatedly stabs the insects until they die. If you’ve ever battled an ant infestation in your house, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the imagery!
To us, though, it’s a fine powder that does no harm to our exoskeleton. (You don’t really have an exoskelaton, in case you’re wondering.)
Diatomaceous earth absorbs the oils and fats from the cuticle of an insect’s exoskeleton and dries them out until they die. Although it seems fine and smooth to us, it has sharp edges – abrasive and yet incredibly tiny – that scratch the insects and speeds up the drying process.
Dehydrated insects die.
Have you ever had ants or cockroaches or *shudder* centipedes or earwigs invade your home? Right. (This is rather like my post on dealing with head lice. I’m scratching already.)
So long as the diatomaceous earth is dry and undisturbed, it will keep killing insects.
However, because it is not a poison, there is no damage to organisms higher (or lower) on the food chain that eat these insects.
In fact, it’s pretty normal to find silicon dioxide in human urine and eating a few grams of DE should not change the levels. Very little of it is actually absorbed by the body – most is rapidly secreted.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe To Eat? Is It Completely Safe?
Absolutely nothing on this planet is completely safe. Not even water.
Diatomaceous earth is not meant to be inhaled and it can irritate the nose and nasal passages. Like any dust, it will irritate eyes.
And don’t buy the stuff that’s sold for swimming pool filters. Pool grade DE is not safe to eat.
When you get diatomaceous earth (and I’ve typed this so much now, I could spell it in my sleep), you are going to want to get food grade DE.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Earth and Animal Friendly?
Silicon is the second most common element in soil, and it is common in rocks, sand and clay.
Plants actually need it for their growth and development. The ocean has huge amounts of silicon dioxide and marine organisms often use it to build their skeletons. It is highly likely that birds and mammals need a certain level of silicon dioxide to build healthy bones, too.
But …. please don’t use it in areas where there will be a lot of bees.
Applying diatomaceous earth to flowers is not a good idea.
I cannot imagine a reason you would want to dust flowers, but please just don’t. As amazing as it is an a non-toxic, non-chemical insect killer, it will also kill bees and other beneficial pollinators.
So please use it intelligently.
So What Can I Use Diatomaceous Earth For?
Add 1 cup DE to every 50 lbs grains (including flour) that you store, either for human or animal use. Mix it up well. The diatomaceous earth disappears into the grains and kills the bugs before they can eat the grain. Don’t worry – the tiny dead bugs won’t hurt you.
Those who work in industrial settings and are regularly expose to heavy metals are sometimes advised to take a teaspoon daily for several weeks to detox. I have no idea if this works or not, but it won’t hurt you. If you choose to do this, take it on an empty stomach and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.
Some people feed diatomaceous earth to livestock and add it to pet foods to cure them of worms. Studies say that that doesn’t work. However, it won’t harm them if you want to try it, and there is a good deal of anecdotal evidence saying it does work. If you do, double the usual dose and feed it daily for at least 60 days in order to run through the full life cycles.
Diatomaceous earth is supposed to kill internal parasites in livestock and pets. Give 2% of the daily food ration for cattle and hogs daily. It also is supposed to improve the quality of fur and hooves and increase the animal’s metabolism.
Daily doses for other animals: 1/2 teaspoon for kittens and puppies, 1 teaspoon for cats and for dogs under 35 pounds, 1 tablespoon for dogs over 35 pounds and 2 tablespoons for dogs over 100 pounds. 2% of dry feed ration for cattle and hogs, 2% in grain for goats and sheep, 1/2 – 1 cup in rations for horses.
– Cover a troublesome ant nest with about 1/2” of it so that they are forced to crawl through it. This is the best way to get rid of them. (Ants are pests with a purpose, though – not all nests need to be eradicated, just the ones that are causing problems.)
– Set a cockroach trap by putting food or roach bait inside a solid circle of diatomaceous earth so that they need to walk through it.
– Fill cracks in basement concrete with DE to keep insects from crawling through. Wipe away the excess and then add caulking to seal it in.
– Many people put it in their food in order to improve the quality of their hair, bones and joints, strengthen artery walls and lower cholesterol levels. The suggested dose is 1 heaping tablespoon daily. I have no idea if this works.
Disclaimer – although there are no reported cases of diatomaceous earth causing harm to people who ingest it, it is not certified as safe for human consumption in Canada. This does not mean that it is NOT safe, only that the proper studies have not yet been completed.
-Yes, it will kill bed bugs! Dust beds with diatomaceous earth twice a week and put some around the legs of the bed. Bed bugs can not fly. Continue until they are all gone. If you want to apply essential oils to your mattress, do so AFTER you’ve rubbed the DE into the fabric. It won’t work if it’s wet.
– Dust pets with diatomaceous earth to keep them bug-free, but please be careful that they don’t inhale any! I have used it to kill fleas on cats, dogs, and goats. You may need to repeat the treatment a few times as the eggs hatch, as it will only kill the adult fleas.
– LICE – Slip a t-shirt over your head so that the neck forms a tight cuff around your forehead and protects your face. Add DE to your hair and scrub it in, then wrap the t-shirt tightly up over your head and cover with a shower cap. In the morning, wash it very well. Comb daily. Repeat the DE treatment once a week for three weeks. Dust beds, too!
– Do NOT use diatomaceous earth in the deep litter in hen houses. The insects here are a good thing as they create the deep litter and feed the hens!
However, dusting chickens lightly with DE to kill lice and mites helps them grow back their feathers, and dusting the nest boxes is a good thing, too. And if you are not using deep litter, diatomaceous on the floor is certainly not a bad thing.
Also replacing 15% of their feed with diatomaceous earth has been shown, in Australia, to reduce internal parasites and increase weight gain and health. Just be careful not to get it into their lungs – it’s a fine dust that can irritate chicken lungs, too.
– Fill a burlap bag with diatomaceous earth and place it in a sheltered place where livestock can rub against it. This will gently dust them with DE and eliminate flies.
– Purify your water with a Berkey water purifier that has a DE filter. You absolutely can’t wrong with a Berkey water filter – they’re popular among preppers and homesteaders for a reason.
Have I convinced you yet?
Diatomaceous earth is an amazingly effective, non-toxic insect killer with health benefits to mammals and poultry. On a farm or in town, every household can find uses for this stuff! I buy it in big bags because I use it a lot!1