Diatomaceous Earth: Understanding the Natural Pest Deterrent

Posted by Christy Caplan
Diatomaceous Earth

What is Diatomaceous Earth (DE)? It's simple - it's natural parasite protection for your pets and livestock. When people think about Diatomaceous Earth, they think about bug control for their garden and preventing mold in feed buckets. What folks don't realize is that DE can be used with your pets. Diatomaceous Earth is a very fine powder and comes from the cell walls of fossilized single-cell diatoms - so it's a fossil! How cool is this? 

The shell formed around the diatom's cell is considered to be primarily amorphous silica.  Its shape and hardness have everything to do with how it works. The hardness keeps it from dissolving like other hard minerals. The diatom's tubular shape and holes along the diatom's wall allow it to absorb moisture, hence its use as an anti-caking agent. 

We've been using DE for decades. A small amount of DE gets absorbed into the bloodstream as crystalline silica. One of the benefits of silica is its ability to destroy bad fats, so silica has a lot of health benefits. It maintains hair growth and healthy skin so well that many skin care products include diatomaceous earth. DE plays an important role in good health! 

However, the FDA has a clear statement about this product,

"This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Discussion of diatomaceous earth human use health benefits are based solely on personal experience and testimony shared by individual diatomaceous earth users and this company cannot market or label diatomaceous earth as a human health supplement with specific medical claims."   

How Does It Work?

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth helps control insects and kills by physical action, not chemical. And if you want to read more about the process with parasites, this study looks at how effective it is with laying hens! Earthworks Health explains, "After walking or crawling through the product (powder) the tiny diatoms polish off the insect's waxy coating when they move.  When the waxy coating is finally polished through the product sucks the body fluids from the insect, rendering it dead."

Also, food grade Diatomaceous Earth products vs. non-food grade is a very important thing to look for when you're purchasing this at a feed store. Always purchase food grade DE when you're using this so you can rest easy knowing it's safe around your animals and you.

Side Effects

Earthworks Health has an excellent overview of the side effects,

"Food Grade DE and Crawling Insect Control DE often get confused with filter grade DE.  Filter grade DE starts out as food grade but is then heated to about 1,000 degrees. After this, chemicals are used to crystallize it.  This works great for filtering but is dangerous to people and animals. Breathing the crystallized product over long periods of time causes disease lung damage.  The world health org. has said that DE needs to be less than 2% crystalline silica to be safe.  The filter grade DE is 60% crystalline." 

How Should You Use Diatomaceous Earth?

According to the guide and resource, "Naturally Healthy Living With Diatomaceous Earth", it's a cheap, safe alternative to dangerous pharmaceutical treatments. Use caution though and always wear a mask as the tiny particles can cause some respiratory issues if you breathe in the dust. The best way to apply DE is with a duster so you can get into corners and small spaces if you're dusting your chicken coop, for example. Any dust, including pure silica, can be irritating to the eyes. 

How Do You Use Diatomaceous Earth On Your Animals? 

Diatomaceous Earth

Some people feed it to their livestock and many use it in chicken coops. 

The Prarie Homestead blogger uses it in her coop and barnyard as a natural pest deterrent. She also uses it to control flies! Here are a few other ways to use DE:

  • Sprinkle on your pet's coat or your chickens' feathers to eliminate lice and mites
  • Sprinkle in your cat's litter box to control odor and fleas
  • Sprinkle in the chicken coop to eliminate flies
  • Sprinkle on your pet's food as a de-wormer (For dosage, check out this resource).

While this tip isn't animal related it's really crazy: Some people use DE to get rid of bed bugs! Do some research first, though. Bed bugs are not to be messed with.

Remember that this white powder is a serious bug killer, and that Diatomaceous Earth helps us and our animals! It's safe and encouraged for human consumption and great for pest control. Be mindful of the side effects and simply wear a mask so you don't run into any long-term issues. Use food grade DE and ask your feed store how they use it. Don't forget about easy applications we covered, like using it in the litter box and the ways it combats bed bugs, too. Our staff are big fans and many of us use it for its health benefits, but also to keep our chickens mite-free. 

Did you know that Diatomaceous Earth can also be used to kill slugs, beetles, and other unwanted pests in the garden? Diatomaceous Earth works in the garden. 

Are you using Diatomaceous Earth with your animals or in your chicken coop? Tell us in the comments below the various ways you use it to keep away parasites!

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Diatomaceous Earth: Understanding the Natural Pest Deterrent