If you do an internet search on “Do-It-Yourself bed bug control” and you’re bound to stumble upon the “miracles” of Diatomaceous Earth. It’s touted as the non-toxic, echo-friendly alternative to pesticide products.
..And EVERY DIY pest control website selling D.E. feels the need to mention: “You can eat it!” I guess they make the statement as proof of the products safety, because I’ve yet to find a cooking recipe that calls for two teaspoons of Diatomaceous Earth.
Does Diatomaceous Earth Really Kill Bed Bugs?
Before we go any further, it’s important to explain how Diatomaceous Earth kills bed bugs.
Under a microscope, D.E. is porous with hard/sharp edges. Much like sandpaper abrades wood, Diatomaceous Earth abrades the waxy outer coating of insect’s shell. Without the waxy coating, the bed bug loses moisture, dehydrates, then dies.
D.E. works very well in the laboratory, but not so good in the field. This was discovered when two professors from the University of Kentucky Entomology Department teamed up with some local pest control professionals to conduct a study on the effectiveness of Diatomaceous Earth.
These experienced professionals treated six apartments with known bed bug issues.
The only product used?
Surprisingly, the mortality rate of the bed bugs was much lower than anticipated.
The most probable reasons for this include:
1: Bed bugs must be exposed to Diatomaceous Earth for long periods of time. Simply walking through the dust will not provide adequate abrasion to the bed bugs’ exoskeleton to cause mortality.
2. In the “Real World”, bed bugs are close to their host. They can feed on the nights they choose, so desiccant-exposed bed bugs can re-hydrate by taking regular blood meals. Following each blood meal, younger bed bugs also molt. In the process, a brand new outer layer shell is formed and they cast off the damaged remains of the old exoskeleton.
Keep in mind, the folks that conducted the experiment were experienced pest control professionals. They know were bed bugs hide. They know their tendencies. If they couldn’t get control of the blood suckers with Diatomaceous Earth, It’s highly doubtful a novice could.