Diatomaceous earth has received a lot of attention as a possible treatment for bed bugs. However, many of the claims about DE have been based on studies where bed bugs were placed in constant contact with the dust. In real world application, that just isn’t how it happens. In real application, the bugs will come into short term contact with the substance, and can make the choice as to whether or not to walk through it or around it. This photo is of bed bugs 12 days after being dusted with DE. The bugs continue to feed and lay eggs despite having a significant amount of DE on them.
The following graphs are from a study published in Pest Control Technology (PCT) online magazine. As you can see, the results were hit and miss, mostly miss.
From PCT- Treatment Outcome.
As in previous apartment insecticide trials (Potter et al. 2006, 2008, 2012), the majority of bed bugs (93 percent) were initially found on beds (15 percent mattresses, 42 percent box springs, 9 percent bed frames), or on sofas and recliners (27 percent). In the more heavily infested units, smaller numbers of bed bugs were also found in such places as nightstands, bookshelves and curtains.
Figure 1 shows the number of live bed bugs found in each apartment before and after treatment with DE. The average percent change in populations was unaffected by the DE treatment (1 percent increase). Because populations might be expected to continue to expand in the absence of effective management measures, DE may have slowed that increase. In five of the six units, post-treatment assessment had to be curtailed because of tenant dissatisfaction and inadequacy of the treatment. The one apartment with a satisfactory treatment outcome (Unit 1) was the first study site treated and received the heaviest application of powder while we were refining the application method. It also had the lowest initial number of bed bugs, and the tenant who traveled extensively was seldom at home. Apartments #5 and #6 received a “booster” application of DE (two weeks after the initial) when both sets of tenants complained that there had been no improvement. Both of these study sites (as well as Units 2, 3 and 4) had to be terminated and treated conventionally as per our agreement with the occupants.
Some studies have also shown that DE may actually give a bed bug extra protection by preventing more effective products like silica dust from adhering to their waxy exoskeleton.
The following graph (Pest Control Technology, 8/14) represents a direct comparison between the silica product used by GP Home Defense, and diatomaceous earth.
Small pieces of carpet were lightly dusted with each product. The bed bugs were briefly exposed by allowing them to walk across the carpet before they were removed. Within 24 hours, 97.5% of the bugs exposed to the silica were dead, while only 10% of the bugs exposed to the diatomaceous earth had died. At 4 days 100% of the silica exposed bugs were dead, and only 20% of the DE exposed bugs had died.
The bottom line (literally) is that if you want to put a dent in a bed bug population, DE can help. If you want to eradicate them, you better give me a call. (785) 829-0644