Here are some general suggestions to optimize use diatomaceous earth for bed bugs safely.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth, or more commonly referred to as bed bug powder, is naturally occurring chalk-like rock and soft enough that you can crumble it into fine powder. Its particle size measures from at least 3 micrometers to more than 1 millimeter, but it usually ranges from 10 to 20 micrometers. In powder form, this soft rock has abrasive feel similar to that of pumice powder. It also has high porosity and therefore low density. Oven-dried Diatomaceous Earth typically is composed of the following chemicals:
- 80 to 90% silica
- 2 to 4% alumina
- 0.5 to 2% iron oxide
This rock is formed by fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms. These are tiny creatures with bones made of silica. Diatoms are categorized under algae, and the most commonly found type of phytoplankton. Over long period of time, remains of diatoms get accumulated in other bodies of water including rivers, streams, and lakes. Silica is nowadays mined from those areas. Apart from being used for bed bugs control, diatoms are also found in other products including but not limited to:
- thermal insulator
- matting agent for coatings
- anti-block in plastic films
- activator in blood clotting studies
- cat litter box
- reinforcing filler in rubber and plastics
- metal polishes
- porous support for chemical catalysts
- absorbent for liquids
- stabilizing component in dynamite
How It Works as Bed Bugs Exterminator
When the fine powder comes in contact with bed bugs and other insects, its microscopic particles penetrate through bug’s exoskeleton. Thanks to its absorbent and porous characteristics, the powder begins to absorb fat and oils from the bugs, draining all the liquids from inside their bodies. It may take days for the powder to eventually kill the bugs, but it is an effective method of bug extermination without the use of harmful-to-human chemicals.
Although Diatomaceous Earth is generally recognized as safe, it is always best to apply the product according to the product’s instruction. As a rule of thumb, wear some protective gears such as gloves and face masks, before you start dispersing it. Read the application instruction carefully, no matter the brand and what the label says. Some products claim to be food grade, but it does not mean you can dispose of the powders recklessly. Store them in safe dry place out of the reach of children who may be sensitive to pesticides.
Most bed bug powder products are relatively affordable, and some of them may recommend using specific amount you should use. Diatomaceous Earth does not actually require precise measurement for usage, but you will not want to waste any of them. In most cases, apply generous amount of powder in an area where bed bugs infestations are obvious. Also, if you want to prevent more bugs, apply the powder in borders of room, under the furniture pieces, along the spaces between chairs, and even along the bed. Make your best guess concerning locations and try to make sure that bed bugs will come in contact with the powder.
Use Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs safely (Tips and Tricks)
- Only very fine powder should be applied. If you can still see them easily after application, you probably need to grind them even more. Applying large mounds will only make the bugs go around them.
- If you use large amount of Diatomaceous Earth in one location, for example bedroom or living room only, chances are the bugs will find new place to breed and thrive. Use the powder wisely; your plan is to trap and kill the bugs, not to move them away to new breeding ground in your house.
- Check you air conditioning system. The powder gets easily blown away by draft, so make sure you do some preventive measures concerning air flow to avoid that.
- To minimize contact with skin, use dusting applicator designed to produce fine powder.
- For soft furniture pieces (mattress and carpets included), the powder is not effective because it will be airborne as you sit and step on the furniture. Use steamer instead for soft furniture.
- Protective gear is necessary especially gloves and respirator.
Exposure to Diatomaceous Earth
There is always the risk of exposure to Diatomaceous Earth. Because it is applied in powder, your skin will most likely come in contact; airborne dust can also contain the powder, meaning it does get inhaled. Contact with eyes can cause irritation, too. If you have pets, make sure you don’t put them to risk of exposure as well. You may not be able to completely avoid exposure, but you can minimize it by reading the application instruction. The following information concerning exposure to Diatomaceous Earth is sourced from NPIC (National Pesticide Information Center).
When inhaled, Diatomaceous Earth can irritate nasal passages. Shortness of breath and cough are common symptoms when large amount is inhaled. Contact with skin often results in dryness and irritation. Due to its abrasive characteristics, eye irritation is also a possibility. When eaten, very little is actually absorbed to the body because most of it is immediately excreted. In fact, small amount of silica is normally present in body tissues; silicon dioxide is normally found in urine as well. In a study where the subjects ate few grams of Diatomaceous Earth, the amount of silicon dioxide in their urine remained unchanged.
Inhalation of amorphous Diatomaceous Earth does not cause any issue because it is rapidly eliminated from lung tissue. On the other hand, crystalline Diatomaceous Earth is much smaller and potentially accumulating in lymph nodes and lung tissue. There can be very little amount of crystalline Diatomaceous Earth in pesticide products, but the protective gear is considered adequate protection to prevent medical conditions. Amorphous Diatomaceous Earth has not been associated with cancer of any kind in people. The pesticide is practically non-toxic to birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife. Animals often encounter them, and the effects are not harmful for them. The ocean contains large amount of Diatomaceous Earth, and marine organisms even use it to build their skeletons.