Diatomaceous Earth: Natural Bed Bug Control

What are bedbugs?

These flat, tiny bugs feed on human blood and are a real pain to get rid of. Bedbugs were in decline, but in recent years we've seen a rise in their numbers. This is due to a number of factors: increased travel, lack of awareness, and resistance to pesticide.

Many people feel embarrassed that they have bed bugs. One of our customers contacted for advice about her fight with bed bugs saying, "What I didn't say before because of embarrassment is that we have been fighting this problem for six years now! I am truly hoping diatomaceous earth works.' There is a happy ending to that story. After many years of fighting DE, she finally got the bed bugs out of her house by using a combination of intense cleaning and smart DE application.

They don't come because your house is dirty. You can pick them up many different places, but one of the most common ways is by staying in a hotel.

How do you know if you have bedbugs?

There is a myth that bed bugs only feast at night, but rather they do so at any point they have access to you. This means you won't just see them at night.

As bedbugs don't like to go far from their food sources. Checking your mattress is the one of the best ways to find them; check the seams and headboard for black fecal matter, blood smears, and bed bugs.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs aren't known to spread disease, and they're not considered dangerous. People react to bedbug bites differently. For some people they leave no mark at all, which can make it difficult to tell if you have any. It can take up to 14 days for marks to start to appear. Others can have severe allergic reactions to bedbug bites. Unfortunately most people don't know they've been bitten.

Why use a natural pesticide for bedbugs?

The main reason to use diatomaceous earth is because it's still effective against bed bugs. Over time, insects can develop a resistance to certain pesticides. In fact, bed bugs are now resistant to most commercially chemical pesticides approved by the EPA.

Only one chemical pesticide, propoxur (sold as Baygon), is viable against bed bugs. While this might seem like good news, the problem is propoxur is toxic to humans if ingested. This limited its indoor use and in 1996 pesticide manufacturers dropped their registration of propoxur for residential use. Since then, the market for effective bed bug pesticide is looking sparse.

Most bed bugs have developed a resistance to most chemical pesticides. This is one of the major problems chemical pesticides face today. For every synthetic chemical insecticide used there are insects that have developed a resistance to it. Developing resistance to pesticides is when insects develop the ability to tolerate doses of toxicants that are lethal to other insects. Because many people often use multiple chemical treatments to kill bed bugs, this has increased their immunity to chemical pesticides.

Diatomaceous earth acts as a different type of insecticide. DE absorbs the oils and fats that help an insect to retain water. The exposure to diatomaceous earth and its water-absorbing capabilities is what kills soft-bodied insects, and the greater the exposure the more quickly the insect will die. The likelihood for genetic selection for resistance is low, so far, insects have not developed a resistance to the dehydrating effects of diatomaceous earth.

How do I treat bedbugs?

Before you begin treating your home, take note of the areas where bedbugs spend time:

  • Mattress seams
  • Box Spring
  • Bed frame and bedding
  • Furniture (couches and chairs)
  • Picture frames and wallpaper
  • Cracks in hardwood flooring
  • Baseboards
  • Cracks in the flooring
  • Wall voids and switch plates and outlets
  • Clothing and other fabrics

Diatomaceous earth alone isn't going to get rid of the bed bugs. The best way is an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) method. This means a combination of heat treatments, thorough cleaning, and use of diatomaceous earth.

These steps will walk you through how to treat a bedbug infestation:

Step 1:

Start bug proofing your home. Seal up any entrances, cracks, or crevices in your home to restrict the bed bugs' movement. De-clutter your home as you go. The chances of re-infestation are much higher for people who don't follow this step.

Step 2:

Pull the bed away from the wall and dismantle the headboard if there is one. Strip the bedding off the bed and put it in the washing machine in hot water. Dry the bedding on high heat and then place the bedding in a sealed plastic bag or container and stow away safely. Remove all fabrics from your room and follow the same procedure you just did.

Step 3:

Vacuum every part of the mattress-paying particular attention to the seams-with a nozzle attachment. Also vacuum the joints of the bed, the bed frame, and the headboard. While vacuuming is an important step, it's impossible for you to kill bed bugs just doing that. You would need to cover every inch of your home. After this process, you can start adding diatomaceous earth to every area in your house that is susceptible to infestation.

Step 4:

After this treatment is over, you may reassemble your bed. Then purchase a mattress cover and put it on your bed. A good one to go with is Total Encasement Mattress Cover. Regularly check your mattress cover for rips or tears as well.

Step 5:

Check the mattress and box spring to ensure there are no rips or tears. Bed bugs can hide out in places like this.

Step 6:

If you want to steam treat your house that is also a good option. You can either hire a professional or you can rent a the steamer. Bed bugs cannot survive in temperatures above than 140°F for longer than two hours or 130°F for three hours. After steaming your home, it's a good idea to do a cold treatment; lower the temperature to 32°F for at least a 2-4 hours. To learn more about the freezing method follow this link here.

Diatomaceous earth works best as both a tool for prevention and treatment. So even if you don't have bedbugs, using DE is a good precautionary measure to take. After cleaning, steaming, and cooling your home, proceed to apply DE by following these steps:

Step 1:

Vacuum every part of the room from the top to the bottom, (including picture frames, dressers, bookcases, lamps, and any all all items in the room).

Step 2:

After vacuuming every part of the room, start dusting with an applicator everywhere you just cleaned, as mentioned here and here.

Step 3:

Use a duster with a thin nozzle like those listed here, to get DE between the baseboard and the carpet. Do this every foot or so to cover all portions of this space.

Step 4:

Repeat after after vacuuming, or once a week.

Step 5:

Be sure to dust all the outlets as well since bed bugs can travel along the wiring. Remove the faceplate and dust inside the outlet and the faceplate by inserting the nozzle of one of [these dusters]. Cover the outlet afterwards.

What are common mistakes people make?

This isn't an easy task. You need to go through every part of your room. If the infestation lasts for a long time then bed bugs can spread to other parts of the home. Unfortunately, bed bugs can live up to 18 months without a blood meal. Be sure to repeat the cleaning, dusting, steaming, and cooling processes to break the cycle until the problem goes away.

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