Diatomaceous Earth: A Safe, Natural Insect Pest Control for Organic Gardening
written by: J.C. Wilkinson•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/14/2011
Pest control is a major consideration in organic gardening. Diatomaceous earth is an effective pest control method that is safe for humans and pets.
slide 1 of 6
Organic gardening can make your yard and your family healthier, and reduce your carbon footprint. Using Diatomaceous Earth for natural insect pest control ensures that your food is safely protected from harmful garden insect pests.
slide 2 of 6
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth (also known as DE) is a chalk-like sedimentary rock made up of the fossilized remains of a type of hard-shelled algae called diatoms. The very fine, white powder has a slightly abrasive feel, much like pumice powder. Due to its high porosity, it's also very light.
Diatomaceous earth's chemical composition is typically 86% silica, 5% sodium, 35% magnesium and 2% iron. It's high silica content makes it an effective dessicant which can be used in home and garden insect pest control.
slide 3 of 6
How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work for Garden Insect Pest Control?
Diatomaceous earth's fine dust has microscopic, razor sharp edges. These edges slice through the insect's exoskeleton and absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer. This causes them to dehydrate and die. If insects ingest Diatomaceous earth, it shreds their insides.
slide 4 of 6
What Garden Insect Pests Does it Kill?
Diatomaceous earth is an effective natural pest control for organic gardening. Garden pests include flea beetles, coddling moth, thrips, sawfly, twig borer, mites, aphids, ants, cabbage root flies, carrot root flies, and fungus gnats. Read the label for possible additional insects DE is effective against.
slide 5 of 6
How to Apply:
Diatomaceous earth is applied as a dust, or can be applied by making a thin slurry of DE and water. Using the slurry gives you more precise coverage. The slurry can also be painted onto tree trunks as sunscald protection and to deter insects such as borers from laying eggs on the bark..
slide 6 of 6
Safety and Use Precautions
You must wear a dust mask when applying Diatomaceous earth, as it can irritate the mucous membranes. Once it settles after application, it won't hurt you.
While food grade Diatomaceous Earth is proven to be an effective and safe means of parasite control, Do Not Take Non-Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth Internally.
Diatomaceous Earth can be a valuable addition to our natural insect pest control arsenal. While it is generally safe for organic gardening, please always read and follow label directions.