Diatomaceous Earth: The "Silver
by Howard Garrett
Not long ago, I started talking about diatomaceous earth as an
was I a genius. This stuff had only been around since near the
beginning of time.
It's been nature's insecticide since than and its other uses are
many. So why
haven't the university systems and all the gardening experts been
recommending it for years?
More recently I started talking about using natural DE as a food
animals. The results are almost too good to believe - even for me,
and the question
again comes up - why am I the only one recommending this stuff?
Seems like the
vets should be extolling the virtues of DE from the highest hills.
Undaunted ( hard headed might be a better choice of words), I wrote
about DE in
the Dallas Morning News and when I started the gardening show at
WBAP, it was
the main topic of conversation. So much so that my boss told me that
getting a little boring from talking about DE every call. I didn't
ask the questions -
just answered them.
Natural diatomaceous earth (DE for short) is the remains of
plants (phytoplankton) called diatoms that lived in the oceans that
once covered the
western part of the United States and other parts of the world. Huge
deposits were left
behind when the water receded. They are now mined and have several
in toothpaste, beer filtering, and swimming pool filters. DE is
approximately 3% magnesium,
86% silicon, 5% sodium, 2% iron and many other trace minerals such
as titanium, boron,
manganese, copper and zirconium.
Natural DE also makes a very effective natural insecticide. The
insecticidal quality of
DE is due to the razor sharp edges of the diatom remains. When DE
with the insects, the sharp edges lacerate the bugs' waxy
exoskeleton and then the
powdery DE absorbs the body fluids causing death from dehydration.
Said more simply,
DE kills insects by drying then up. You'll see how drying DE is if
you handle it with bare
There is no residual danger of contamination. In fact, DE is
actually beneficial to the
soil. It's loaded with trace minerals. However, there are a few
earth is very dusty and can cause lung problems if breathed heavily,
so when applying
it dry always wear a good dust mask or stand up wind. The second
precaution is that
DE sold for swimming pool filters is ineffective for insect control
because it has been
heated and chemically treated. It won't kill insects and it is very
dangerous to breathe.
Finally natural DE will kill beneficial insects too, so use it
sparingly to kill problem
infestations of harmful insects and don't use it too often.
Diatomaceous earth can be applied in a variety of ways. to use for
flea and tick control,
apply a light dusting over the lawn, in dog runs, around pet bedding
or favorite resting
spots and sprinkle a little on your pet between baths of a mild
herbal soap. Avoid Dips
and soaps containing chemical insecticides. It's also a good idea to
avoid soaps that
contain ammonium laurel sulfate. It's used to make good studs but it
is a skin irritant.
Check out your own soap and tooth paste while you're at it.
The best way to apply the dust over a large area is with a light
weight apparatus such
as Dustin' Mizer, Spritzer or other similar blowers. Applying by
hands can be done but
wastes a lot of material and will dry your skin. To apply with
water, mix 1/4 cup of DE
in a gallon of water and apply to the lawn and/or shrubs where pest
problems exist. It
doesn't hurt insects until it dries out.
One of the best uses of DE is to add it to animal food - pets or
livestock. When used
at 1% to 2% of the food volume, it controls internal parasites,
increases digestion and
provides valuable trace minerals. You will usually see an overall
increase in health of
ny animals fed DE on a regular basis.
Here are some of the common questions I get on natural diatomaceous
Is DE dangerous to my pets, me or my family?
Since DE is dusty and abrasive, it can cause lung damage if
breathed heavily. remember, however, that breathing any dusty materials can be
dangerous. be sure to wear a dusk mask if applying with a dry blower. Mixing
into a water spray eliminates most of these problems. DE will not hurt
earthworms or beneficial soil microorganisms. DE is one of the few pesticides in
the world classified as non-toxic, although I'm not real comfortable with the
classification. I think anything can be toxic if over used or misused.
How much DE should I feed my animals?
Some of the feeding rations suggested by suppliers and users
include: 1-2% by weight of DE in ground, dry feed. 5% by weight in stored grain.
5 ounces ( one cup) daily ration for horses. one tablespoon per day for large
dogs (over 55 lb.). One teaspoon per day for small dogs, cats and puppies.
Does spraying DE in a wet solution work as well as
the dry dust?
The wet spray method does work but only after the liquid had
dried. Mix from 1-4 tablespoons DE per gallon of water and spray on the lawn,
shrubs, tree trunks and building foundations. When the mixture dried, it has the
same abrasive and dehydrating powers as the original dry dust. When sprayed wet
the material covers the foliage and other surfaces better than dusting dry, thus
giving better insect control. It seems to last longer when applied wet, but the
dry application is usually more effective at killing insects quickly. DE has no
insect killing power while it is wet.
Can I mix DE with other sprays?
Yes, it can be mixed with other organic products such as
seaweed, fish emulsion, garlic tea, and biostimulants. it would be silly to mix
DE with chemical insecticides. In fact, it's silly to use synthetic toxic
pesticides for anything.
Is DE registered by the EPA and labeled for insect
Yes! Some people would have you believe that DE is untested,
unlabeled and therefore unsafe for use. That's just one of the feeble arguments
left to the organiphobes. DE has been used for years in the food processing
industry to treat stored gains to eliminate weevil and other insect
infestations. There are currently dozen of registrations of DE with the EPA for
various insecticidal and food supplement uses. DE, with and without pyrethrins
and piperonyl butoxide, is registered and labeled for fleas, ants, roaches and
many other pests.
Piperony butoxide (PBO) is a synthetic synergism
that is added to increase the killing
power of the product. I do not recommend it for any use. Those
wanting to avoid it can
mix pure pyrethrum and DE together at a 25% -75% ratio. Pyrethrum
products that are
available include Natural Guard and ECOsafe . There is approximately
1% pyrethrin in
natural pyrethrum powder. Pyrethroids are synthetic insecticides.
They do not resemble
natural pyrethrum and should not be used.
(note: ECOsafe was a tradename for Natural Animal)
Animal Home & Garden Products
Be sure the Diatomaceous Earth is FOOD GRADE. There is a lesser
DE sold for swimming pools. This is NOT the same.
Some breeders put it in the llama's dust bowl for them to roll in.
Dust it over manure piles or onto the manure spreader.
Some llama owners hesitate to add DE to their grain supplement for
of the dust they will inhale. But, it can be added to home made