Controlling ant infestations with natural methods like diatomaceous earth has become an increasingly popular topic for homeowners seeking to avoid the chemicals found in traditional pesticides. But does diatomaceous earth really kill ants?
In this article, we’ll explore what exactly diatomaceous earth is and whether it’s an effective solution for ant problems. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of this unique pest control method and whether it deserves a place in your ant management strategy.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth, often referred to simply as DE, is a naturally occurring sediment made up of fossilized remains of diatoms. Diatoms are microscopic, single-celled algae that have skeletons made of silica. Over long periods, these diatom skeletons accumulated and formed large deposits of diatomaceous earth.
DE is mined from these deposits and then milled into a fine, chalky powder. It feels similar to talc or baking soda. This powdery texture allows diatomaceous earth to have numerous applications, from industrial filtration and absorption to agricultural uses.
There are two main grades of diatomaceous earth – food grade and filter grade. Food grade DE is considered non-toxic and safe for use around homes and gardens. It is purified of any crystalline silica during processing. Filter grade DE contains higher levels of silica and is not suitable for pest control purposes.
When it comes to home pest control, food-grade diatomaceous earth is the preferred choice. It provides a natural method for controlling ants and other insects while remaining safe for human and pet exposure.
How Effective is Diatomaceous Earth in Killing Ants?
So, how exactly does diatomaceous earth interact with ants to kill them? DE contains microscopic fossilized diatom skeletons that feel sharp to small insects. When ants crawl through diatomaceous earth, these razor-sharp remains scratch the waxy cuticle layer on the outside of the ants’ exoskeletons. This causes their moisture to leak out, leading to dehydration and death.
The effectiveness of DE depends on proper application and sufficient concentration. Light dustings allow ants to walk over treated areas unharmed. The diatomaceous earth must completely coat their bodies and legs to be lethal. It does not work instantly but takes time as the ants gradually become desiccated. DE is also not highly soluble in water, so it retains its potency despite humidity or light water exposure.
When used correctly, diatomaceous earth provides effective control of ant populations. It is non-toxic to humans and pets, making it a safe option even in homes with children and animals. While DE does not eliminate ants immediately, gradually thinning out their numbers can provide substantial relief from infestations when paired with good maintenance habits.
Application Guidelines for Diatomaceous Earth
To get the most out of diatomaceous earth for ant control, proper application is crucial. Here are some best practices to follow:
- Focus on ant trails and entry points – Apply a thin layer of DE along known ant trails, both indoors and outdoors. Pay special attention to potential entryways like cracks in walls, around pipes, door thresholds, and windows.
- Use a dust applicator – Using a dust applicator puffer bulb or shaker bottle allows you to apply a fine layer of DE for maximum coverage. Avoid clumping.
- Apply under appliances and furniture – DE can be applied along baseboards and under appliances and furniture where ants may be active out of sight.
- Mix DE with bait – Sprinkling some DE in with liquid ant baits gives ants maximum exposure as they feed.
- Reapply after rain or watering – DE will need reapplication after getting wet to maintain its strength.
- Wear a mask – Use a standard particle mask and gloves when applying DE to avoid inhaling any airborne dust.
- Keep pets away during application – Until DE settles, keep pets out of treated areas to prevent them from inhaling the dust.
- Focus outdoors first – Getting control of ants outside limits new ants from entering the home.
Recommended Maintenance for Ant Control
While diatomaceous earth can be a powerful part of your ant control strategy, it works best when paired with additional maintenance steps to discourage ants from invading your home. Keeping counters and floors clear of crumbs and spills that attract ants is crucial.
Be sure to store food in sealed containers to reduce odors that draw ants in. Limit moisture sources like leaks, as ants need water to survive. Take out garbage frequently so it does not become an ant food source.
Implementing diligent cleaning habits removes the attractants and conditions ants need to thrive in a home. Sealing cracks and crevices denies entry points into your living spaces. Natural ant repellents like cinnamon, peppermint oil, or vinegar can be used to further discourage ant activity and trails.
Placing barriers like petroleum jelly or chalk lines with these repellents disrupts the pheromone trails ants use to navigate. A comprehensive maintenance approach addresses all of the elements ants need – food, water, and shelter.
When to Call a Professional
While natural methods like diatomaceous earth provide pest control without toxins, they have their limits. If you have a widespread infestation or find ants reappearing frequently despite your best efforts, it may be time to bring in a pest control expert.
Professionals have commercial-grade insecticides and baiting systems that can eradicate heavy ant populations. They also have the expertise to find and seal every crack and crevice being exploited as entryways.
Seeking professional help is especially important if you have ants that pose health risks like fire ants or pharaoh ants. Their painful stings or ability to contaminate food make quick elimination critical. Termites that can damage the structural integrity of your home also require professional extermination.
A trustworthy company will take the time to inspect your home thoroughly, address your concerns, and offer preventative maintenance tips. With the combined efforts of natural control methods and professional treatments as needed, you can rid your home of destructive ant invasions.
All in all, diatomaceous earth will kill ants and can be a natural option for pest management, to an extent. Its microscopic silica particles are lethal to ants but gentle for homes with children and pets.
While diatomaceous earth alone may not eliminate major infestations, it can significantly thin out ant populations over time as part of an integrated approach. Supplementing diatomaceous earth with vigorous maintenance and sealing of entry points creates an inhospitable environment for ants. However, regular inspections are wise, and getting help for severe cases may be necessary.
To get help with an existing ant issue, schedule other pest control services, or an in-depth home inspection, reach out to Honor Services in Melbourne, FL, and surrounding areas today.