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.

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
Catherine (@guest_1407)
2 years ago

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
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Catherine
2 years ago

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
Arcelia (@guest_1465)
2 years ago

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

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Arcelia
2 years ago

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
Jeannie Schroeder (@guest_1632)
2 years ago

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
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Jeannie Schroeder
2 years ago

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 »

Jim
Jim (@guest_6060)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
1 month ago

What insecticide soap do you recommend? Thanks

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Jim
1 month ago

A variety of products are available, and all from the top brands are relatively similar with the active ingredient “potassium salts of fatty acids” – look for a liquid product, either concentrate or ready-to-spray, from Safer, Garden Safe, or Natria.

FELIPE CARAVEO
FELIPE CARAVEO (@guest_1658)
2 years ago

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
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  FELIPE CARAVEO
2 years ago

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
Barb (@guest_1751)
1 year ago

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

Christopher
Christopher (@guest_1916)
1 year ago

Thank you very much for the article.

Ally
Ally (@guest_3505)
1 year ago

Will this harm beneficial insects?

Sarah
Sarah (@guest_3985)
1 year ago

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

Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn (@mike20)
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Reply to  Sarah
1 year ago

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
Marie (@guest_4283)
11 months ago

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

Lisa
Lisa (@guest_4394)
11 months ago

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
Lyle Werner (@guest_4590)
10 months ago

Fire ants, works great!!

Lyle Werner
Lyle Werner (@guest_4591)
10 months ago

Use on fire ants!!

Lyle Werner
Lyle Werner (@guest_4592)
10 months ago

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

Roxy
Roxy (@guest_4624)
Reply to  Lyle Werner
10 months ago

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
Michelle (@guest_4668)
Reply to  Roxy
10 months ago

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
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Michelle
10 months ago

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
Art Laurejas (@guest_4700)
Reply to  Lyle Werner
10 months ago

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 🙂

Linda
Linda (@guest_4719)
10 months ago

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
Angie Skiba (@guest_4749)
9 months ago

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
don (@guest_4983)
8 months ago

how well will it work on cockroaches and fleas

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  don
8 months ago

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

Becky
Becky (@guest_5078)
8 months ago

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
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Becky
8 months ago

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.

Wendy
Wendy (@guest_5243)
7 months ago

Does diatomaceous earth have expiry date? I put diatomaceous earth and found small mushroom sprouting on the pots that I put. Why is it so?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Wendy
7 months ago

As long as it is kept dry in storage, DE does not expire. But it can sometimes harbor spores, such as those of Tricholoma viride, a type of fungus. Or, perhaps the soil in your pots contains mushrooms spores. In particularly moist conditions, mushrooms can sprout.

Sandy
Sandy (@guest_5566)
5 months ago

can I use food grade diatomaceous earth in the corners of my kitchen drawers and cupboards to ward off the little mealy bugs

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Sandy
4 months ago

Yes, food grade DE can be used effectively against mealybugs indoors, but note that it’s generally recommended for use around baseboards and in cracks in the floor. Wearing gloves is recommended when handling it, and a mask is recommended to avoid inhalation. If any of your dishes, silverware, or cookware come into contact with the powder, washing is recommended before use.

Josh
Josh (@guest_5573)
5 months ago

I have a spider mite problem from the information that i have found
what honestly is not alot i understand it should shred thoes lill buggers
and im testing it out as we speak but as aposed to just spreading the powder ive mixed it up in water and sprayed down my plants as a folier how effective is this method

Bianca
Bianca (@guest_6878)
Reply to  Josh
24 days ago

Hi, i’ve read it needs to be dry to be effective

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Bianca
18 days ago

This is true, since it’s a powdery substance. Be sure to reapply after it rains, or after watering. Fortunately, DE tends to come in large bags that are relatively affordable, and you don’t need much to sprinkle around your plants.

Chris
Chris (@guest_5721)
3 months ago

What about more wet regions of the U.S., like Seattle, Wa? I have an ant problem but if applied outside the house to stop the ants, will this still be effective? If it needs to be reapplied after it gets wet, what are the good options here since having to do that every day is not practical?

Chris
Chris (@guest_5722)
Reply to  Chris
3 months ago

I understand that I can use it indoors but would prefer to also use it outside around the house edge to prevent the ants from entering in the first place.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Chris
3 months ago

Especially in wet areas, DE is not the most effective treatment against ants. Do you know what type or types you’re dealing with? We’re happy to help! First, check out our article on controlling ants inside and around your home.

AnnaMarie
AnnaMarie (@guest_5915)
2 months ago

Learning about DE for pest control. Just purchased feed grade I am assuming that I can use this for pest control like the food grade. Am I correct??

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  AnnaMarie
2 months ago

You can, but keep in mind that this distinction is related to naturally occurring heavy metal content. “Food grade” DE has more strict specifications than “feed grade” regarding lead and arsenic. Food grade DE is what we recommend for use on edible plants and for household pest eradication, but both types can be used for pest control.

Rosemarie
Rosemarie (@guest_5920)
2 months ago

Thank you Linsey for your very informative post. It’s highly educational, first one I read that came up, don’t need to read anything else you covered it all 🤗🌟😊

Joe
Joe (@guest_5986)
2 months ago

When I lived in Phoenix Arizona I used Diatomaceous Earth to kill scorpions. It worked great!

Jim
Jim (@guest_6059)
1 month ago

Hi…Does DE kill earwigs, and or Brassica pests

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Jim
1 month ago

Hi Jim,

Yes, DE may be used to kill or repel earwigs as well as flea beetles, aphids, and cabbage worms, which are common pests that like Brassicas.

mindy
mindy (@guest_6413)
1 month ago

There seems to be a third option besides “pool” and “food grade.” The last product photo in this article is for “safer” brand DE, and on their website, they specifically say that this one is for insect problems, and their FOOD GRADE is for adding to animal feed. So it seems that it’s not food grade, but not pool grade either. I can’t seem to find a clear answer about what the difference is between this not-food-grade and not-pool-grade version (and if there are other versions also in this category by other brands). Any thoughts on this? Thank you.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  mindy
1 month ago

You are correct- the Safer brand product that you described does say it’s not food grade, and it is comprised of 85% silicon dioxide with 15% “other ingredients” – that’s where the concern lies, since these additives are not described in detail. Other products that we’ve seen labeled “food grade” are comprised of 99.9% pure silica. We’d recommend using something like this Safer brand product for insect control only around the base of edible plants in the garden.

mindy
mindy (@guest_6435)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
1 month ago

Thank you! I could not see what the make-up of the Safer one was; the package only says “100% diatomaceous earth.” I will stick with using this only on non-edible houseplants or outdoor ant control as needed and will find food grade DE for anything we might eat.

Kathy
Kathy (@guest_7171)
17 days ago

I have grubs in the soil of my garden raised beds. What’s the best way to get rid of them?

Kristine Lofgren
Kristine Lofgren (@kristinelofgren)
Reply to  Kathy
12 days ago

Although the treatment can vary depending on which type of grub you’re dealing with, the first step should be to turn over the soil as much as you can without disturbing your plant’s roots. Handpick and destroy the grubs and let birds feed on them. Adding some beneficial nematodes can help as well. Good luck with your grub problem!

Marie
Marie (@guest_7725)
4 days ago

I have a butterfly garden and didn’t see it mentioned if it will affect butterflies. I don’t use anything on my plants now except a soil enhancer.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
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Reply to  Marie
3 days ago

Great question, Marie. Food grade diatomaceous earth is often recommended as an environmentally friendly form of pest control, but it isn’t recommended for use in areas/on plants frequented by beneficial insects like butterflies and their larvae. It cuts and dries out soft-bodied insects like caterpillars. However, if you are experiencing an infestation of insects that you would like to treat with DE at a time when larvae are not present, it may not be altogether off-limits. It washes off plants easily within about a week or two, after watering or rainfall. A plant that was once treated with DE doesn’t… Read more »

Opal
Opal (@guest_7839)
4 minutes ago

How and when is DE used on corn crops?

Opal
Opal (@guest_7840)
2 minutes ago

My radishes got eaten by aphids. Do I dust with DE and hope for the best or replant with a treatment?