Kill Bed Bugs with Diatomaceous Earth

STEP 4: KILL BED BUGS WITH DIATOMACEOUS EARTH

Diatomaceous earth (DE for short) is an extremely helpful tool in both eradicating bed bugs and proofing a home against re-infestation..

What is Diatomaceous earth?

Diatomaceous Earth is a great tool to use in your fight against bed bugs. It’s an all natural, non-toxic barrier to bed bugs that can both kill them and prevent them from moving freely throughout your house.

Remember that diatomaceous earth alone will not be enough to treat your bed bug infestation. While it works great at preventing bed bugs from moving throughout the walls, or for creating a safe zone, the best use of diatomaceous earth is alongside heat treatment and the rest of the 8-step process. You should heat treat your belongings whenever possible and use diatomaceous earth as an aid in managing the rest of your dwelling.

  • ALL NATURAL: Diatomaceous earth is derived from fossilized sea creatures called diatoms whose bodies were made up primarily of silicon dioxide.  It’s non-toxic and safe to handle, and is even used for deworming pets.
  • WORKS GREAT WITH HEAT TREATMENT: Diatomaceous earth is a great tool to use on your residence as you heat treat your items. It’s safe to heat up itself, and can be placed on items that are awaiting heat treatment or that cannot be heat treated.
  • KILLS SAFELY: Diatomaceous earth is a desiccant, disrupting the waxy shell of bed bugs and making them more prone to eventual death by dehydration. It does not have any pesticides or other dangerous compounds.
  • MECHANICAL BARRIER:It can also act as a physical barrier to bed bugs, meaning that they will avoid crawling through it.
  • NON-RESISTANT: Bed bugs cannot develop a resistance to it as they do with some pesticides.
  • LONG LASTING BUT SLOW ACTING: While diatomaceous earth does not kill the bugs immediately (it can take 7 to 17 days) it does have long-lasting, effective results.
  • SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: You will want to wear a dust mask when spreading DE because getting any fine particulate matter in your lungs is not a good idea. To reduce the risk of inhaling dangerous particles make sure that the diatomaceous earth you are using is pesticide grade, not pool grade, and that it is just diatomaceous earth (without any insecticides added in).

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Rose with ZappBug and in this video we’re going to cover the use of Diatomaceous Earth to get rid of bed bugs. Diatomaceous earth is a chalky substance made of fossilized sea creatures called diatoms whose bodies were primarily silicon dioxide.  It’s nontoxic and one of the safest ways we know of to kill bed bugs.

When handling diatomaceous earth there’s a couple safety tips to keep in mind. As with any substances be cautious when using it around pets or small children. Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic when ingested, and it’s actually used for deworming pets, but even so I don’t recommend eating it. Prolonged contact with your skin will dry it out but it’s no big deal. If you experience that you can just use some moisturizer, and maybe talk to a doctor if you have any preexisting skin conditions you feel could get aggravated.

The most important safety tip we have is that you don’t want to breathe any in. Always be cautious and use a dust mask when spreading it.  Also, make sure you’re buying pet or food grade diatomaceous earth, not pool grade. This is a crucial difference: pool grade has much smaller particles and is a lot more hazardous if breathed in. I’ve also heard of insecticide diatomaceous earth that comes premixed with pesticides, but I haven’t seen any brands actually selling that, so keep an eye out and avoid any that’s labelled as such.

As you can see, diatomaceous earth is a fine powder, similar to flour. Diatomaceous earth kills bed bugs by acting as a desiccant, which means that it dries out what it comes into contact with. You’ll be using diatomaceous earth as a barrier in areas you know bed bugs move around in. When they crawl through it diatomaceous earth disrupts their waxy shell and causes their eventual death by dehydration.

This process is not instantaneous, so keep in mind that after using diatomaceous earth it takes approximately seven to seventeen days for bed bugs to die.  The total length of time it will take varies depending on three things: what stage in the molting cycle the bed bug is in, how much of the DE they’re exposed to and for how long. So don’t panic – if you’ve spread diatomaceous earth and are still seeing bed bug activity for a couple days that doesn’t mean it’s not working.

The diatomaceous earth we’re going to be using today is the Thomas Labs three pound jar of pet grade. We really like this version because it’s pretty cheap, comes with enough to get the job done but not too much, and also the easily re-sealable container. I bought this on Amazon and you can find a variety of different sizes and brands. We also have a link here and in the description if you’re interested.

The brand itself doesn’t matter. As long as they’re pet or food grade they’re all going to be pretty comparable, and if you need more than three pounds there are larger sizes that are cheaper by weight.

Bed bugs often travel through the walls of dwellings. We see this really often in apartment buildings — it’s one of the main ways that they spread from unit to unit. To prevent them from surviving in your walls you’re going to want to put some diatomaceous earth in your electrical outlets. First, just a safety reminder, make sure that you are wearing a mask before you spread any diatomaceous earth so you’re not breathing it in.

Next, I recommend turning off the breaker for the room that you’re working in, just to be on the safe side. Whenever you’re working near electrical systems it’s always best to be extra cautious.

Now that the breaker is off we can get started. All we need is our diatomaceous earth, a screwdriver to take the switch plate off, and a plastic spoon and duster to help us spread it. First, let’s take the plate off.

Now you’ll just want to spread a thin layer of diatomaceous earth throughout the outlet gap. Depending on the size of the outlet you can use either a plastic spoon or a duster. For this outlet I’m using a duster. I bought this on Amazon and have a link in the description below if you’re interested. I’ve already filled this with diatomaceous earth so all I need to do is put my mask on, put the nozzle back in the outlet here, and press down.

Before we put the face plate back on we’re going to want to put a little diatomaceous earth on it as well.

We don’t need to go overboard here, but we want as much coverage as possible to make sure that we’re covering all our bases. You’re going to want to do this with all the outlets in your house just so that you know you’re covered.

Another great way to use diatomaceous earth is to place it around the edges of your room. We want to do this for the same reason that we spread diatomaceous earth in our wall outlets: to prevent bed bugs from crawling through our walls and spreading even further.

Here you can see the seam in between the wall and the floor where it’s possible for bed bugs to crawl and hide. Ideally we would want this seam to be calked closed, but that’s not always an option aesthetically or practically, especially if you’re in a rental unit. So our best bet is putting down enough diatomaceous earth that the bugs either don’t want to crawl through it, or if they do crawl through it they’ll be exposed to it and die.

This is a really simple process and no real tools are required beyond some kind of spatula or any other flat edged object that you can use to push the diatomaceous earth into the crack. I’ve got my handy bucket of diatomaceous earth here and I’m just going to use a little plastic cup to scoop out some and place it down along the crack. You can use anything to scoop here, even spoons or measuring cups if that’s easy for you, the only thing that’s important is getting enough down. Now, I’m going to use this spatula to push the dust back into the crack. It’s that easy.

If the crack is wide enough you can use a duster like we have here to push diatomaceous earth deep into the crevice. This one isn’t, but it’s the same principle.

One of the best uses for diatomaceous earth is creating what we call a safe zone in your bedroom. The principle behind this is using a much thicker layer of DE than we’ve used in our outlets and along the edges of our walls. We really want to get a nice, thick line here because we want to try and prevent bed bugs from approaching our bed while we sleep. We’re their primary source of food, so they’re naturally drawn to the bed above all other locations. But if the line is thick enough they won’t crawl through it at all.

So we’re going to create a diatomaceous earth perimeter around our bed to establish a safe, bed bug free zone and get a full night’s sleep. Now, you may still get a couple bites if there are bugs already inside the perimeter when you place it down, or if a couple bugs violate the perimeter anyway. But this will definitely severely reduce or eliminate the number of bites you’re getting. Also, keep in mind that bed bug bites can take a couple days to show up, so seeing bites after you create this perimeter doesn’t mean it isn’t working.

All we need to do this is, as always, our dust mask, and any kind of scoop for the diatomaceous earth. A couple quick words about the dust mask before we spread this down. It may seem counterintuitive to you that we’re wearing a mask to spread it, but then you’ll be sleeping right by it after it’s down. The reason for this is because diatomaceous earth is nontoxic when it’s not being breathed in, and as long as there’s nothing that will disturb this dust you’re going to be totally fine. I wouldn’t recommend putting it in front of a heating vent or air conditioner or something else that’s going to disturb it.

Now I’m going to create my barrier. As you can see I’m doing a much thicker amount than I did in the outlets or along the edges of the walls because I’m not trying to kill them as much as prevent them from coming near me. But that’s  all you need to do.

Now we’re done and you’ve successfully created a safe zone around your bed. Remember that this step alone isn’t enough to kill bed bugs; you’ll want to follow the rest of our 8-step guide or use one of the ZappBug products to heat treat your belongings. Once you’ve finished treating your house you can vacuum up the barrier you’ve created; for more detailed instructions on that please see step one – creating a safe zone.

Next we’ll be moving on to step five: sealing cracks and crevices. Please click here or check out the link in the description. You can also look at our full 8-step approach on our website, where we include additional information as well as links to all our videos. Thanks for watching!

Disclaimer: Diatomaceous Earth can be dangerous if inhaled. Please consult the MSDS before using diatomaceous earth:MSDS version one, MSDS version two, and consult any safety sheets or instructions provided by the supplier of diatomaceous earth. Always exercise caution when applying diatomaceous earth. If you have any concerns consult with a physician before applying diatomaceous earth. Always avoid pool grade diatomaceous earth.

How to kill bed bugs with diatomaceous earth

Bed bugs can crawl through electrical conduits and live in wall voids, so you need to “cordon off” these areas with diatomaceous earth. We recommend using DE along with other methods for a comprehensive treatment protocol. DE works best in large furniture and around the rooms you are treating, so we recommend using heat treatment for all your smaller belongings.

Purchasing Diatomaceous Earth and helpful tools

  • Any brand of diatomaceous earth will work, but we like Thomas Labs’ 3 lb Jar of Diatomaceous Earth because of the handy plastic jar it comes in. You will likely need more than 3 lbs, but a jar this size is easy to move around because it’s not too heavy and the convenient screw on lid is helpful as it’s tidier to have a jar with a lid, rather than rolling up the end of an open bag.
  • When you buy diatomaceous earth in larger quantities the price per pound drops dramatically. Larger quantities of diatomaceous earth are a real bargain.
  • For spreading a lot of diatomaceous earth over a wide area a pesticide duster is useful and reduces the risk of breathing in DE. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is helpful. We do not have a strong recommendation on which pesticide duster to get.
  • Diatomaceous Earth is safe to handle. However you will want to wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling any diatomaceous earth.

Additional Resources

 

Disclaimer: Some of the procedures outlined in this guide may be dangerous and should be undertaken at the readers own risk. Readers should consult all material safety data sheets for any products they use in their own attempts at pest control and consult with the manufacturers of all products regarding best usage practices. This guide should be construed as theoretical advice. ZappBug and its employees will not be held responsible for any injury due to the advice offered herein. This guide cannot be construed as formal advice and ZappBug will not be held liable in any instance of an action resulting from this story. This disclaimer assigns the readers all responsibility for their own decisions.