Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a chalk-like powder made from fossilized algae sediment. It’s made specifically from diatoms, which are a type of single-celled algae with a cell wall made of silica.
If unsightly ant mounds are popping up in your garden, you’ll want to take action to get rid of them.
Diatomaceous earth is a popular option if you’re looking for a gentler pest control agent. We’ve shared the use of diatomaceous earth for aphids – but does diatomaceous earth kill ants?
Unfortunately, this organic agent isn’t effective against all species of ants. We will discuss how and when to use diatomaceous earth to kill ants and what other tactics you can try with it.
What Are Ants?
“Ant” is a broad term describing over 10,000 different insect species in the Formicidae family.
These social insects live in ant colonies and exist almost everywhere globally, and they thrive in hotter climates.
Food-grade DE is effective for ridding ants inside and outside your home and is often applied simply by sprinkling it by hand.
In addition to the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth (DE) against wasps, cockroaches, moths, and many other flying insects, DE will kill ants, including carpenter ants and fire ants.
Whether it is ants, bed bugs, roaches, or more, PF Harris can help you with all of your pest control needs.
Depending on the species, ants can range from less than half an inch to over one inch long. Colors include black, brown, red, or yellow.
Individual ants can be tough to spot outside among plants. Most homeowners discover them after spotting an anthill.
Unfortunately, destroying an anthill won’t do much besides enrage the colony occupants. The colonies can number in the thousands, living underground in a system of tunnels and caves.
What Damage Do Ants Cause?
Ants can cause damage both directly and indirectly, depending on what type you’re dealing with.
If you’re dealing with indoor ants, line their ant trail and spread the fine powder along baseboards, floors, window sills, wall cracks, crevices, and other small entry points where ants may have gained entrance into your home.
Colonies that build their nests near plants can disrupt the plant’s root system. They can also bury plants while they dig out dirt to create their underground tunnels.
Ants also “farm” other pests like Aphids to feed off the honeydew.
Related: More on Ants Farming Aphids.
The majority of ants are carnivores and won’t eat through your plants like herbivores such as caterpillars.
But there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, leaf-cutter ants remove pieces of leaves to take back to their colonies to grow a fungus they then eat.
If you have fire ants, you also risk another sort of damage – unpleasant bites or stings if you get too close.
The best pet-safe store-bought ant killers If breathed in in a powdered form, it can cause minor irritation to the throat and lungs.
But no more so than if a child breathes in a dust cloud or when sand blows into their face at the beach.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, crumbly, sand-like deposit. It’s the product of fossilized organisms, and its primary compound is silica.
These microscopic, sharp silica shards can cut through an insect’s body. Diatomaceous earth also dries out insects by absorbing fats and oils from their exoskeletons.
The food-grade version is non-toxic and natural, making it safe if you have kids or pets. Beware: the industrial variety is toxic and can be dangerous.
How To Use Diatomaceous Earth for Ant Control
First, wear a dust mask before handling your food-grade diatomaceous earth. It might not be toxic, but it can still irritate your sinuses if you inhale it.
Avoid watering your plants before you begin. This natural insecticide works best under dry conditions.
Sprinkle large amounts of the earth on and around the anthill to ensure that the ants will have to walk through it.
Unlike chemical pesticides, diatomaceous earth doesn’t work immediately. It can take up to 24 hours or longer.
The exact length of time it will take to kill the ants depends on the species, how much you use, and whether it remains undisturbed and dry.
So, does diatomaceous earth kill ants? The results vary.
It has little impact on leaf-cutter ants. Yet it can work against fire ants used with other insecticides such as pyrethrins.
Remember that diatomaceous earth must be dry to be effective. If you live in a wet or humid region, you might have to resort to other methods of pest control.
Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM)
You’ll have a better chance of solving your ant problem if you try a multifaceted approach. That includes common-sense practices such as:
- Watch and identify
Figure out how widespread the ant infestation is and what species you’re dealing with. A single anthill on the outskirts of your garden isn’t as much a concern as one underneath your prize roses.
Try out several methods at once for a higher chance of eliminating these unwanted pests.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth and other organic or chemical deterrents around your plants. Try cayenne pepper, cinnamon, or borax.
So, does diatomaceous earth kill ants?
Yes, it can be a strong deterrent – but not all ants will respond to it the same way.