Insects are all at once the friend and the foe of the gardener. Beneficial insects and bugs help with pollination and can help to keep the population of other insect species under control. But pest insects can quickly decimate your entire season’s crop, and leave you wondering if it’s time to reach for the heavy-duty chemicals to combat them.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a natural product made up of the siliceous skeleton of tiny freshwater algae (Diatoms). It offers a number of uses in and around the home. It is an extremely effective food and water filtration agent, and has even been used as an insecticide. The way diatomaceous earth works is by attracting and binding to harmful pathogens and unwanted substances in the water, such as bacteria and protozoa. Its high surface area to volume ratio also allows it to retain a large amount of moisture, which can ultimately reduce the risk of mold and other microbes growing in the water.
Because it is completely natural, diatomaceous earth is very safe for most people to use. It can be used in all types of freshwater tanks, including fish tanks, birdcages, and watering cans. It can also be used in any type of pond or aquarium.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) as an Insecticide
DE, a natural pesticide, does not poison insects but does kill them. The abrasive properties of diatomaceous earth hurt the insects. When they touch, the DE irritates their exoskeletons and efficiently absorbs the lipids. As a result, the insects dehydrate and die.
Diatomaceous Earth kills ants, however the effectiveness varies depending on the species. Diatomaceous earth may be used to get rid of black house ants as well as carpenter ants in your home. It also eliminates insects and arachnids such as ticks, mites, spiders, bedbugs, and scorpions.
How to use Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth should be applied only where it is most required, such as the soil at the base of your plants or the leaves, and only if pests are present. It may be sprayed directly on slugs and snails. However, keep in mind that Diatomaceous Earth will affect all insects, both helpful and harmful.
Diatomaceous Earth is extremely efficient for killing fleas and ticks on your dogs. Sprinkle it on their coats and rub it in with your fingertips. Death to insects comes between a few hours and a few days after application, about 12 hours most of the time.
Note that diatomaceous Earth is washed away by rain and must be sprayed after each downpour if the pests are not controlled.
Care for Beneficial Insects
Consider that ‘organic’ does not always imply that the pest control method is safe to use near beneficial insects. Some remedies are equally toxic to beneficial bugs as they are to destructive ones. However, the most important aspect is that you will be preserving the health of your soil and plants against chemical pollutants that may take years to cycle out of your ecosystem.
Remember that the aim is not to eliminate every bug on your property. Beneficial insects and bacteria are required for a healthy developing ecology, both on the plants and in the soil. The introduction of more predatory insects might prove to be an effective and natural pest management strategy. Beneficial insects such as praying mantis, ladybugs, ground beetles, and spiders will be drawn to a healthy garden ecosystem. This is described more fully in our beneficial insects article.
Many gardeners will tout the benefits of planting chrysanthemums among their fruits and vegetables as a deterrent for insects. It’s believed this is effective because chrysanthemums contain pyrethrin, an organic compound known for its proven insecticidal properties.
- Pyrethrin is biodegradable and generally considered to be non-toxic to mammals
- Pyrethrin works by quickly penetrating and destroying the nervous systems of the insects that it comes into contact with.
- Many commercially available pyrethrin-based pest control products combine with neem oil, for the best possible results.
These three organic methods for pest control are readily available at most garden or farming supply centers. While they are considered non-toxic to humans and household pets, it’s recommended that a face mask and gloves are worn to avoid direct contact and the risk of inadvertently inhaling them during application.
Ken Marshall is a huge fan of living his life to the fullest. His health is extremely important to him and he currently enjoys helping Norcal Ag Service get the word out about their organic farming supplies. When he’s not working, he enjoys blogging, hiking, and plenty of steak and grilled veggies.