Thursday 16 April 2015

Diatomaceous Earth For Natural Bug Control

One of the things you have to be careful about in chicken care is controlling lice and mites on the birds. No matter how clean you keep the coop, wild birds will carry these pests to your flock. The standard procedure is to dust the coop and chickens with Diatomaceous Earth.  Lice and mites can weaken a bird by feeding on it, so it's important to keep these pests under control.

You see it here as the white powder sprinkled throughout the hay in my newly cleaned coop. ~

I wasn't about to start dowsing my girls with this stuff without doing some heavy duty research first. What I discovered was a natural insect control product that can be used not only in the coop, but in the vegetable and flower gardens and inside my home.

What is it?  It is the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms. They accumulated in the silt of waterways and is mined from those sites since the 1800's. Crushed into a fine powder, it has uses for a drying or binding agent and to control insect infestations. It's in many of the bug control products marketed for garden use.

It comes in various grades and I want to be absolutely clear that I am only talking about food grade certified Diatomaceous. I'm saying it twice, only use certified food grade diatomaceous earth. Let's make that three times. It's food grade that is safe for you, your children, and your pets.

Here's how it works. When insects crawl over the powdered Diatomaceous Earth, the sharp particles damage their exoskeleton.  This allows the powder to enter the insect and dehydrate it.

It does not hurt creatures that do not have an exoskeleton, even if it is consumed orally. This makes it an ideal pest control product for inside the home. Sprinkled in areas where there is a problem with fleas, ticks, spiders, ants, bedbugs etc. it will kill all the bugs passing over it.

In the case of pet flea control, carpets, pet beds and furniture can be sprinkled with the powder and it can be sprinkled on the fur of the pet. It doesn't hurt your cat or dog to lick the powder off. I've used it with no ill effect on my cats. The only downside was the cats dragging the powder from the carpets to the rest of the house. I admit it was a nightmare of white paw prints that had to be cleaned off every surface they could manage to tromp all over! In my opinion, it was worth the mess to avoid putting chemicals on or in the cats to get rid of the fleas.

After about a week, the new flea eggs will have hatched and the process has to be done all over again.

I also leave a fine dusting of Diatomaceous Earth in the basement to kill spiders and centipedes.

Pots of herbs and weather sensitive plants that are brought indoors to overwinter should have a dusting of it on the pot soil to be sure you aren't importing bugs into the house.

It's the only product I use in my vegetable garden and flower beds now.  Since it is food grade and I can actually eat the stuff with no ill effects, I'm comfortable putting it on my vegetable plants when there is a bug problem and still have organic produce.

What does it cost? I find the price fluctuates wildly depending on the retailer. Garden centres sell a small canister or bag for around $8.00. I've seen stores specialising in organic and natural insect control charging over $60.00 for a 50 lb bag. I bought my 50 lb. bag at my local feed mill for $8.00 so do some price shopping in your area. Once you've determined it's food grade, you don't need any pretty packaging or chic labels to get the job done safely and quickly. I've been using the same 50 lb. bag for three years, have given tubs of it away and still have three-quarters of it left.

How do you use it?  I use a mask while I'm sprinkling the dust so I'm not breathing in the fine powder. Any  powder, inhaled, can be an irritant to lungs, sinus and throat. It is a drying agent and can irritate eyes so protective glasses are a good idea. For the same reason, I don't sprinkle it near pet's eyes or mouths.
It's recommended you leave it on surfaces in the home for four to twelve hours before vacuuming it up. I left it on my carpets for several days to be sure every flea had ample time to crawl over it.
It should only be sprinkled on dry surfaces. Dampness reduces the effectiveness of the powder and I find it solidifies into a bit of a paste if it gets wet that is difficult to clean up.
I sprinkle the powder on days when the windows are closed and no fans are running so it isn't stirred up into the air, causing potential breathing problems.
It only takes a thin layer of the dust to be effective. If you apply it too thickly to surfaces, it may cause clogging of your vacuum. I've never had a problem but somewhere I read that caution.
I sprinkle it on the floor, nesting boxes and perches of the coop. Once a month or so, I add a bit to the chicken feeders for a natural dewormer.

There you go. No more dangerous chemicals, low cost, earth friendly and your bug troubles are gone!

I'm sharing this with Tuesdays With A Twist

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