Diatomaceous Earth: Effective Natural Pest Control

Nobody wants to see this first thing in the morning when they head out to the berry patch.

Nobody wants to see this when the head out to the berry patch. Stop pests in their tracks with our simple trick- read more to learn how to use diatomaceous earth in the garden: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/diatomaceous-earth/

And if you’re visiting my homestead during the gardening months, you’ll hear us refer to “D.E.” almost daily.

The powdery substance, also known as diatomaceous earth, is one of my favorite weapons against garden pests.

Do you want get rid of pests in your garden without harming your plants? Learn more here: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/diatomaceous-earth/

It has saved my family from losing large portions of our garden to beetles, moths, and other crawly things.

What on Earth is DE?

Diatomaceous earth, the official name for DE, is not new.

A popular topic of discussion by many gardeners in recent times, it is an organic gardening pesticide that has been used by some farmers and pest control professionals for decades.

Prevent garden pests from eating your crops with DE. | GardenersPath.com

In fact, the powder is often a go-to remedy for household flea infestations as well.

The compound is made from the ground-up bodies of prehistoric diatomic fossils.

When ground, these tiny oceanic skeletal pieces are very sharp, and produce the effect of many miniature razor blades on the respiratory systems of any smaller insect or bug that inhales it. It also causes drying of the mucous membranes of breathing holes and lungs in bugs.

Try diatomaceous earth, a powerful weapon against garden pests | Gardener's Path
Highly magnified diatomaceous earth shows the intricate fossils that make up the substance. Photo courtesy of Auburn University Food Systems Institute. Used with permission.

Effective against slugs, beetles, worms, fleas, mites, and most any spider or insect, it is not much of a concern for larger creatures. Because the particles are so small, DE is safe to use around other wildlife, children, and pets.

Anyone who is particularly sensitive to particulates (such as those with asthma or any other type of breathing condition) will want to avoid directly breathing in the dust.

My husband is one such person, and he wears a dust mask to avoid coughing fits and temporary irritation.

What’s the Best Way to Apply It?

My husband carries around a recycled carpet cleaning powder container that he uses to sprinkle liberal amounts of diatomaceous earth on plants in our garden that are the most susceptible to insect damage.

While we may have used Sevin or another toxic product in the past, DE works just as well for us – without the worry of our children ingesting trace amounts of toxic chemicals with each garden snack.

Pests are eager to eat your plants. Here's one simple trick to keep them away. | GardenersPath.com

You can sprinkle it directly on the ground where slugs are most likely to reproduce. Or, you can apply a light dusting to the plants themselves.

Diatomaceous earth must be reapplied after every rain or heavy dew to be effective. It’s important to remember that wet DE does not have the drying, cutting effect that’s needed to be work against pests.

All DE is Not the Same

It is important to note that “food grade” diatomaceous earth is the only kind appropriate for use in gardens, and around pets and kids. There are other types that may contain contaminates that are harmful if inhaled or ingested.

Studies on food grade DE, however, have shown it to be relatively harmless to people, even if inhaled in rather large amounts.

How to Use Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Control | GardenersPath.com

As harmless as the food grade version can be for your household, the regular stuff may cause major problems.

The type that is often used in pool filtration systems is not safe to use around kids and pets. Be sure to purchase food grade only and check the packaging for this designation.

As helpful as many garden store employees can be, many are not aware of the differences. It is up to you to protect your family and flock by reading labels, and ensuring that you are introducing a safe pest treatment to your garden.

For more information on the safe use of diatomaceous earth, we like this helpful resource from our friends at Pest Strategies.

DE in the Environment

I want to keep our acreage, and the neighboring land around it, free from harmful chemicals. It’s important that it continues to be a source of food and shelter for my kids, grandkids, and their families.

Diatomaceous earth gives me some piece of mind in that area, as it doesn’t negatively affect the soil or surrounding waterways when used over time. In fact, DE is a sustainable source of silicon dioxide, an essential ingredient needed for poultry development.

Keep pests at bay with your new best friend - DE. | GardenersPath.com

Chickens that eat vegetation treated by diatomaceous earth may potentially experience significant health benefits.

Note: While I do not live near the oceans or any major waterways, runoff containing DE simply redeposits the silicon that originally came from the ocean back into it. The silicon continues, undissolved, until it can be used by certain marine life species in building their exoskeletons!

Squash Bugs: A Case Study

If there is one foe of our garden that I have despised more than any, it is the squash beetle. Our soil is perfect for inviting these destructive creatures in, and they have taken out hundreds of pounds of potential pumpkins, butternuts, and melons over the years.

How to Get Rid of Squash Beetles | GardenersPath.com

Before diatomaceous earth, we would wait anxiously for them to hatch, then move quickly to harvest before they overtook everything. Now, we have a new plan:

  1. Each day in late summer that the squash beetle is likely to lay eggs, check the undersides of the squash plants. If we see eggs, we act!
  2. Using gloved hands, carefully remove the eggs, being careful not to tear the leaves.
  3. Immediately sprinkle DE on the tops of all of the plants.
  4. Reapply after each rain.
  5. Continue checking for eggs and apply DE throughout the life of the squash plant.
  6. Discontinue application when the harvest is done.

It seems like work, but the reward is sweet! We experience an abundant squash harvest, with no rotting or dead vines, and organic food for my family.

I can’t tell you how good it feels not to worry about chemical residue getting into my family’s meals.

Other Uses for DE

Food grade diatomaceous earth can be a powerful tool for many home and garden ailments.

Added to a sandbox filled with dirt, it makes a good dust bath for chickens, and can keep bird lice and fleas away.

For this use, look for concentrations of the product that contain less than 1% of other ingredients to make sure you are using the purest form for animals.

It is also a potent remedy for fleas in the house. After you find your first flea, liberally sprinkle DE on your carpet and other cloth surfaces, and allow to sit for a minimum of 12 hours before vacuuming.

You may need to repeat this after a week, or when flea eggs are likely to hatch. Repeat 3-4 times to rid your home of stubborn indoor fleas.

A Word on Bee Protection

Bees are our friends. Gardeners should be especially mindful of any products used that may cause issues for our pollinators.

If your garden happens to be attractive to bees, you may consider covering any treated plants with a sheet during the day when bees visit.

Keep an eye on which plants are more likely to bring the bees around, and make note for when the time comes to apply DE.

Most of the plants will be in a flowering stage, which may or may not be during the same time pests are likely to attack.

Getting the Best Price on DE

While you can order it online, be aware that the price per ounce can vary dramatically between suppliers. Your best value will often be found at a local feed store or garden center. Some Amazon sellers have also to earned the repeat business of gardeners who are looking for a more natural option for pest control.

Safer Brand Diatomaceous Earth Insect Killer

Ordering in the off-season and storing what you’ve bought throughout the winter is likely to be the best way to take advantage of low prices.

Why Diatomaceous Earth is For You

While the idea of using ground up sea creatures on your garden may seem strange to you, it’s worth integrating into your pest control routine.

The powder is a very simple product to apply, and it has proven to be just as effective (if not more so) than its toxic counterparts. Keeping a coffee can full of diatomaceous earth in my garden shed leaves me with no excuses – it’s so easy to keep on top of bugs and crawly things.

Do you want to have a natural product to get rid of pests in your garden? Learn more now: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/diatomaceous-earth/

If you’re trying it for the first time, consider starting with a small project – such as your raised bed of greens. Use it in place of commercial pesticides or other homemade solutions. I think you’ll be amazed at how little you’ll need to use!

Have you used diatomaceous earth before? What tips and tricks have you discovered? We’re happy to answer any questions you have regarding specific applications in the comments.


Don’t forget to Pin It!

Diatomaceous earth is a wondrous powder made from the crushed bodies of prehistoric fossils, with many modern garden uses! Get tips for application as a natural pesticide. Plus, learn how to use it in your home and on your poultry flock in this guide from Gardener’s Path.

Product photo via Safer. Microscopic photo via Photo courtesy of Auburn University Food Systems Institute. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

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About Linsey Knerl

Born and raised in a small Nebraska town, Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mother of six who enjoys blogging and working hard on her 3 1/2-acre Nebraska homestead. When she’s not working on her next fantasy novel, you will find her in her kitchen, perfecting the Danish recipes of her grandmother with those special ingredients you can only find in a backyard garden.

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Catherine
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Catherine

Hi Linsey. I use DE personally and find it a fantastic product. I have roses that are affected by aphids. Can I use DE on them and what dosage?

Allison Sidhu
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Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Hi Catherine. Thanks for your question! DE really is amazing, isn’t it? You can definitely use it on your roses. You may sift a few tablespoons or so onto the leaves and stems of your plants to coat the surface in a fine dust, being sure to reapply after any rain if the problem persists. A mesh sieve devoted to garden use is great for this. Be sure to wear a dust mask when you apply it, as the particles can become airborne. Depending on the product, you may also make a spray of a few tablespoons DE per gallon… Read more »

Arcelia
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Arcelia

If the package says for garden but nothing about food grade can I still use it around my herb garden?

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Thanks for your question, Arcelia. Have you already bought a big quantity of the stuff? The type recommended for garden use should be alright applied around the base of plants (as opposed to the kind for swimming pools). But we recommend using a product labeled as food grade since this means it’s recognized as safe for human consumption by the FDA. If you’ll be applying DE to the leaves of edible plants, better to be on the safe side.

Jeannie Schroeder
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Jeannie Schroeder

Will DE get rid of japanese beetles? Those nasty little critters just about ruined my rose bushes last year. I have the good grade DE. Thanks!!

Allison Sidhu
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Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Thanks for your question, Jeannie! Some experts are fans of DE for this purpose. They recommend sprinkling it onto the lawn around plants, directly onto the plants, and even on the bugs when you see them can help (though I’d recommend picking off the bugs and killing them on the spot when you see them). Changing your lawn irrigation and mowing habits can help, in an effort to create a less hospitable environment for the beetle grubs to develop. Insecticidal soap sprayed onto your plants can also help. Good luck! Please check out our article on preventing and eradicating Japanese… Read more »

FELIPE CARAVEO
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FELIPE CARAVEO

DEAR FRIEND:

I HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT AVAILABLE SILICE FOR DE ROOTS. IS SILICA FROM DE, AVAILABLE FOR THE ROOTS ?

IS POSSIBLE THAT THE ROOTS TAKE IN THE SILICA FRON DE, AS ANY OTHER FERTILIZER ?

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Thanks for your question, Felipe. The silica in food-grade DE won’t harm plant roots, but it isn’t water soluble. Liquid micronised DE, which can be absorbed by plant roots, is a different product which is broken down so the particles are very small.

Barb
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Barb

Excellent and very helpful article!! Full of pertinent info. Thank you!!

Christopher
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Christopher

Thank you very much for the article.

Ally
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Ally

Will this harm beneficial insects?

Sarah
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Sarah

Will DE kill ladybugs and can I use it on my pets?

Mike Quinn
Admin
Mike Quinn

Hi Sarah, yes it will kill ladybugs (not sure if you’re worried about beneficials or if you have an outbreak of Asian lady beetles, but either way it will kill them). Food grade DE is safe for your pets.

Marie
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Marie

Thank you! Will DE control lettuce insects such as aphids?

Lisa
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Lisa

I use an old strainer with a long handle to apply my DE in my gardens. It works great and keeps things simplified.

Lyle Werner
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Lyle Werner

Fire ants, works great!!

Lyle Werner
Guest
Lyle Werner

Use on fire ants!!

Lyle Werner
Guest
Lyle Werner

I find figuring out a way to apply it difficult. Have tried strainers, not a fan. Any suggestions?

Roxy
Guest
Roxy

I use a large hair coloring tint bottle. It’s easy to squeeze the DE directly where you want it! I learned this when I had bed bugs! The DE made short work of them! I squeezed it with the tint bottle all along my baseboards, and I haven’t had a single bug in my home in 5 years! Not even a fly. I am now using it in my garden the same way! It works!

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Hello, I was wondering if the strainer takes away from DE’s effectiveness? For Instance, this powder is suppose to have a sharp, cutting effect to penetrate the bug, just wondering if the strainer will eliminate this cutting effect? I have been using a strainer when applying DE and did not think about this until today.

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

Nope, the strainer won’t eliminate or reduce the effectiveness of DE. These sharp edges occur at a microscopic level, and using a strainer to scatter them shouldn’t have any detrimental effect. Good question, though!

Art Laurejas
Guest
Art Laurejas

Hi Lyle, use a hand duster, the one you dust the furniture with…. get the extended handle for hard to reach areas and you can get these anywhere….I got mine at the dollar store. Then put some DE in an old coffee can or even a large gal ziplock bag and and walk around and apply with your hand duster. It makes dusting DE very easy for me in my garden bed since I have a lot of grasshoppers everywhere….thinking on using these on aphids also. Good Luck smile

Linda
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Linda

Wonderful info….my lovely raspberries are wormy now but weren’t the first pickings. We had to go out of town for a week and came home to plants that needed watering and wormy berries. Should I cut my plants back and start over for next year?

Angie Skiba
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Angie Skiba

Would this work on fungus gnats in the soil of house plants? I bring in a lot of succulents for the winter and am inundated with those pesky creatures.

don
Guest
don

how well will it work on cockroaches and fleas

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

It works well for cockroach and flea control. You can read more about ridding your garden of cockroaches here.

Becky
Guest
Becky

When using in your home, do you just sprinkle it around all of your baseboards throughout your home? And how often do you need to reapply?

Allison Sidhu
Admin
Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

What type of pests are you trying to get rid of, Becky? Yes, sprinkling DE around baseboards and in any cracks or holes where bugs may find a way into your home is an effective treatment. Indoors, you will need to reapply after dusting or vacuuming.