Diatomaceous earth has been used for parasite and insect control for years.
Diatomaceous earth, also called DE and fossil shell flour, is completely safe – you could even eat it and have no adverse reactions.
As a matter of fact, DE is used in many animal feeds to help keep bugs from infesting the food and even to help get rid of some internal parasites in animals.
There are 3 grades of DE on the market:
- food-grade (safe to use)
- garden-grade (safe to use)
- pool-grade (not safe to use)
Always use caution when applying DE around your home by using a respirator mask to prevent inhaling the dust and protective glasses to protect your eyes. While garden and food grade DE will not cause serious injury, it can irritate your lungs and eyes.
How Diatomaceous Earth Kills Fleas
Diatomaceous earth is a dust, but it is lethal to fleas and other insects. This dust is made from fossilized algae, hence the name fossil shell flour, and has microscopic razor sharp edges. When an insect crawls over this dust, the sharp edges cut through the protective covering, causing them to dehydrate and die. If the flea, or any other insect, consumes the dust, the edges will literally shred its insides, resulting in death.
This is a great way to get rid of all sorts of bugs as it is not engineered to kill one certain type of insect, as most pesticides are. And insects are becoming more and more resistant to the pesticides we create, causing us to take more potent pesticides. Diatomaceous earth, on the other hand, kills insects mechanically. This means they cannot become resistant to it and DE will still be a great, natural way to kill fleas in the years to come.
Where to Buy Diatomaceous Earth
You can buy DE online, at local health food stores, and local garden supply stores. Most natural pet supply stores also carry products that contain DE.
Using DE For Effective Flea Control
Some people say DE does not work for killing fleas or other insects. However, most of the time, this is because the dust is either used incorrectly or not for a long enough time.
Understanding a Flea’s Life
Adult fleas, the stage that bite, make up less than 10% of the flea population. The other stages, beginning with eggs, which become larva, and then go to the pupa stage make up the other 90+%. And when the fleas are in the pupa stage, which is right before the adult stage, is when they are resistant to ANY type of insect control – synthetic pesticide or natural. And unless you are able to get rid of all the stages, the fleas will come back. This is one of the reasons why flea sprays and flea bombs with an IGR can be very effective. The IGR, or Insect Growth Regulator, keeps fleas from being able to reproduce, giving you a better chance to finally get a hold on the infestation once the pupa emerge.
How To Use DE
Obtain food-grade or garden-grade Diatomaceous earth. You will need to apply the DE to 3 areas: your pet, your home, and your yard.
For your dog, you may first want to give your dog a bath. This is the easiest and quickest way to remove any fleas that are currently on them. When they are dry, apply the powder to their coat going in the opposite direction of their coat. You want the powder to get down to their skin, where the fleas live. If the DE doesn’t physically come in contact with the flea, it cannot work. You may need to apply the powder every few days to make sure that any new fleas that get on your dog will be killed. This is the downfall of natural products that most people don’t understand. It does not last as long as synthetic pesticides. However, the upside is you are not putting a toxic, dangerous chemical on their coat!
For your house, apply DE to your pet’s bedding, the carpeting, baseboards, and furniture. Work the dust down into the fibers. You want to keep the dust down for as long as possible. Vacuum frequently to pick up all stages of fleas, but also to encourage the pupa stage to emerge – so it too can be killed. Reapply to the carpeting after vacuuming and put some in your vacuum bag as well to kill any live fleas that were sucked up. You will need to do this as frequently as possible. Fleas can exist in the pupa stage for extremely long periods of time. This is why someone can move into a home or apartment that hasn’t been occupied for a while, and in a couple of days, start to get bit by fleas – even when they don’t have any pets! The pupa emerges because of the vibrations that people naturally make as they are walking around the place. They feed on you, and then proceed to lay eggs! The key is to keep dusting and vacuuming for weeks, to ensure you get all life stages of the fleas.
For your yard, you can apply DE to shady areas and places where your dog frequents. Be careful when applying DE to garden areas that you try not to get any on the flowers – bees can also be killed with DE as they collect the pollen. Keeping your grass mowed short is one of the best ways to discourage fleas in your yard.