How Long Does It Take Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Bed Bugs?

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re about to doze off and feel something crawling on your skin?

You jump out of bed to find a tiny multi-legged culprit skittering away.

Yes, that’s right. You’ve got bed bugs! The incessant itch, discomfort, and invasion of your personal space are all a nightmare.

But fret not. There’s a hero in the house, and it’s called Diatomaceous Earth (DE). The question is, how long does it take diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs?

Well, fasten your seatbelts because we’re going on a deep dive into the world of diatomaceous earth!

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Before diving into how long it takes for diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs, let’s understand this mysterious substance.

Diatomaceous earth, or DE for short, is a light, off-white powdery substance. It’s derived from the crushed remains of tiny, fossilized marine phytoplankton known as diatoms.

These diatoms are primarily made up of silica, giving DE its unique properties.

Despite its smooth texture, DE has microscopic edges that are sharp and lethal for the unsuspecting bed bugs.

It’s like a bed of nails for these tiny pests. And the best part? It’s non-toxic, natural, and safe for you and your pets when used occasionally.

When DE comes into contact with bed bugs, it works as a desiccant, scraping away the wax-like outer layer of their shells.

This layer is essential for bed bugs to retain moisture and nutrients within their bodies.

So, when DE damages this protective coating, the bugs lose moisture, leading to dehydration and eventual death.

Type of Diatomaceous Earth

Not all diatomaceous earth is created equal. You’ll come across two main types: pool/garden grade and food grade.

The former is heat-treated, enhancing the hardness of the diatom exoskeletons, and contains a high concentration of crystalline silica, which can be harmful to humans and pets.

On the other hand, food grade diatomaceous earth, which contains less than 1% crystalline silica, is safer for use.

So, when you’re on a mission to eradicate bed bugs from your home, you’re going to want to opt for the Food Grade DE.

Experiments Using Diatomaceous Earth to Repel Bed Bugs

Diatomaceous earth isn’t a magic potion that’ll make your bed bug problems disappear overnight.

Its effectiveness varies depending on several factors, including the size of the infestation, the environment, and the application method.

In a field study conducted by Westmead Hospital and the University of Sidney, the effectiveness of DE against bedbugs was tested.

In the study, bed bugs were placed on special paper inside small, round dishes.

Different amounts of Diatomaceous earth were spread on the paper to determine the amount that works best for killing bed bugs.

The amounts used were based on what’s already approved for treating other bugs.

A small paintbrush was used to spread the DED evenly on the paper. For each amount tested, ten bed bugs were put in each dish.

This was done four times, so a total of 40 bed bugs were tested for each amount.

There was also a control group of 40 bed bugs that were not exposed to the DE. This was to compare and see if the DE actually made a difference.

Every day, starting 24 hours after the bugs were exposed to the DE, the researchers checked to see how many bed bugs had died. They did this by tapping the dish and counting the bugs that didn’t move.

It should also be noted that a separate study found that frequent use of Diatomaceous earth can have harmful effects on humans, such as lung cancer, silicosis, and various respiratory complications.

So use it in moderation, and clear the DE once it’s served its purpose.

This finding underscores that while DE can kill bed bugs, it shouldn’t be your only line of defense. It’s more effective when used in combination with other pest control strategies.

How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth for Bedbug Control

Before applying DE, remember to don gloves and a face mask to prevent skin irritation and inhalation.

Here’s a simple guide on how to apply diatomaceous earth:

  1. Preparation: Wash your sheets and bedding in hot water and seal unused clothes and bedding in plastic bags. Move furniture away from the walls and ensure your bed or bedsheets are not touching the wall or floor. If you’re using any liquid bed bug sprays, let them dry completely before applying DE.
  2. Identify and Apply: Identify the areas where bed bugs are hiding or where they can access your bed. These locations could include your mattress, box springs, bed legs, floor around your bed, edges of carpets, gaps in walls and baseboards, windowsills, doorframes, and nearby furniture. Sprinkle a thin layer of food-grade DE powder across these surfaces.
  3. Spread the DE: Use a brush or duster to evenly distribute the DE across each surface. If you’re applying DE into cracks and crevices that can’t be brushed, use a squeeze-type bottle dispenser.
  4. Repeat: Repeat the steps for spaces between walls and baseboards, along window sills, and around each room where bed bugs are suspected.
  5. Create a DE Barrier: Pile up DE to form a thick ring around your bed so that any bed bugs hiding outside must cross it to reach you.
  6. Cleanup and Reapplication: Vacuum up any DE applied to the floor every seven days and reapply. It may take four weeks or more to get rid of the majority of bed bugs.

Pro Tips for Using Diatomaceous Earth

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using DE:

  • You need to sleep in your bed for DE to be effective. You’re essentially the “bait” that’ll bring the bed bugs out and into contact with the DE.
  • Wear gloves and a mask to prevent DE from entering your lungs or causing skin irritation.
  • Vacuum up excess powder to avoid blowing it into the air.

How Long Does Diatomaceous Earth Take to Kill Bed Bugs?

Now, returning to our original question – how long does it take diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs?

The answer is, it depends. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks to see significant results.

Remember, the bed bugs must come into direct contact with the DE. It also depends on the size of the infestation.

You might see results in a week or two for a small infestation. But for larger infestations, it could take several weeks or even months. The key is patience and consistent application.

DE is a passive pest control method, meaning results may take a while.

This is because bed bugs need to come into direct and prolonged contact with DE for it to be lethal.

It’s also worth noting that DE is ineffective against bed bug eggs until they hatch and start feeding.

Diatomaceous Earth vs. Bed Bug Sprays

You might wonder why you wouldn’t just use a bed bug spray instead.

While sprays are a faster solution, they often contain chemicals that might not be ideal for everyone, especially those with allergies or sensitivities.

Moreover, bed bugs can develop resistance to these chemical sprays. Diatomaceous earth, being a natural substance, doesn’t face this problem.

It’s a slow but steady and, most importantly, a safer solution.

When to Call in the Pros

While DE is an excellent tool in your arsenal against bed bugs, it’s not a standalone solution.

Remember, DE takes time to work and requires direct contact with the bugs. It doesn’t affect bed bug eggs. So it’s tough to tell when all the bugs are finally gone.

It’s best to combine DE with other methods for a robust and foolproof approach. Professional extermination services can be an excellent addition, providing a faster, more comprehensive solution.

These experts can locate hot spots of bed bug activity and use advanced traps and techniques to eradicate the bugs effectively.

Preventive Measures for Bed Bugs

Prevention is better than having to find a cure. Regularly vacuum your home, wash your sheets and blankets in hot water, and inspect secondhand furniture for bed bugs before bringing it inside.

Also, after a vacation, wash your clothes immediately to avoid bringing home unwelcome hitchhikers.

Wrapping it Up

If you’re looking for an affordable, safe, and natural solution to your bed bug problem, diatomaceous earth is a great choice.

It might take a bit of time and patience, but it’s worth the wait.

Remember, DE is not a standalone solution, and it’s best used in conjunction with other bed bug control methods.

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