Diatomaceous Earth – What’s so good about it?

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I’ve noticed that a lot of people continue to visit a post I wrote 2 years ago entitled Food Grade vs. Pool Grade Diatomaceous Earth – Possible Confusion. Since then, I have come across an increasing number of DIY (Do-it-Yourselfers) who are irresponsibly using DE, whether Pool Grade or Food Grade.

Let’s assume that DIYers are using the correct stuff – and I’m not sure that is always the case. You must now picture this because no one I inspect will let me take a picture. If they did allow me to take a picture and they looked at themselves and their living environment, they might have to conclude that they have serious emotional issues. That is not to say that they don’t have serious pest problems.

People with alleged symptoms of mite bites, sometimes real, sometimes not, sometimes in the past,… are going to the internet and reading that DE will kill mites. So they buy pounds and pounds of the stuff. They swear that they had to do it. They are convinced of their mite problem yet refuse to see doctors that could help concurr or refute it. They search out only those websites and professionals who will agree with them and the actions they have taken. One of those actions is spreading DE all over their homes. I’m not talking a conservative placement of DE as might be done by a pest control company. What I see more and more is DE CAKED on the couch, beds, rugs, hardwood floors, kitchen table and countertop, bathrooms, mirrors. I recall one woman so angry at her feeling of mite bites that she then threw the DE like a baseball at her mirror. You had to search for a spot that did not have DE on it.

So you have to scratch your head when this type of prospect asks you to find the mites. If they were there, I certainly can’t find them in this mess.

What we need to be doing for these customers, should you ever come across them is similar to what one should do with a hoarder, that is, clean it up! It must be done politely and respectfully, but do not try to treat this type of self-destructive DIYer. First get them to prove, yes prove that they are worthy of your assistance by seeing that they trust you when you say that they must reverse the damage they have done. They must not let the feelings of bites (real or imagined) run their lives. They must make a commitment to never self-treat and to clean up every sign of self-treatment. Oh, and by the way, if they have been doing these self-treatments, you must also ask other questions about self-treatments. Have they purchased pesticides on the internet? How have they used other pesticides (and I classify DE in this case as a pesticide) to fix their problem. In one case I discovered that a customer was purchasing termidor and pyrethroids over the internet and pouring it into their washing machine so that every item they wore was covered in pesticide. One can’t help but think even if they did have mites, what they most likely have now is pesticide induced skin irritation or damage.

Sometimes, even these people can be worked with. But you can’t let them control the equation. Tough love is in order. You must set the guidelines on what, when, how, where and why you will treat after a full inspection. There is a real interaction between the animal kingdom (including vector pets), the world of insect and arachnids, and humans. I am also noticing a high frequency of people calling for pest control questions about bites who have unusual hormone counts. How do I know this? Because I ask. Mostly, I am finding middle age women – who some would say are developing mental defects. But I also have noticed that these people are often on hormone treatments with estrogen. Surprisingly, we had one case involving bites on a teenage boy. After a long discussion it was revealed that the teen was on human growth hormone.

There is much that I don’t understand about mites and bites. But I think I do know more than most all pest control operators. One thing I know for sure is that DE does not solve the problem. It does not address the potential source of mites and creates many distractions from proper, professional treatment.

Keep DE out of the house where it belongs. Personally I find very little good about the use of DE inside the home, as used by homeowners.

Please feel free to agree or disagree. Comments are always welcome.

9 Responses to Diatomaceous Earth – What’s so good about it?

  1. What is the proper way of applying diatomaceous earth? Thank s in advance

  2. Jerry A.C.E. says:

    I feel the same way about Borax– it seems people make cakes out of the stuff (both DE and Borax) & claim safety-green or whatever else all the while they are missing the target.

    Excellent article

    P..is your link working for the DE article? It didn’t let me in and I’d like to read that.

  3. Gerry says:

    Jerry, thanks for contributing to my consulting blog.

    Here is the link on DE Pool vs. Food Grade.

    I’ll have to go back and fix that link.

  4. charlette says:

    Insane. Termidor in the washing machine? What they spent nearly a hundrend dollars and couldn’t read the damn label? That’s idiotic. What are they doing with Termidor anyway, couldn’t bea certified Termidor applciator, or tech for that matter!

  5. Gerry says:

    The internet is the great equalizer. It is very bad that items can be purchased interstate on the internet avoiding all forms of regulation and environmental controls.

  6. BeenAroundForAWhile says:

    “There is much that I don’t understand about mites and bites.”

    Yes, this is obvious. More obvious is that you have not lived in the hell that is a mite infestation.

    I can only hope that one day you are infested in such a manner and hence have a significant attitude change. Until then, when you see someone cake their entire house in D.E. know that they are trying to survive, and soon may be dead. You would want to kill yourself if you had to deal with this problem.

  7. Gerry says:

    Dear BeenAroundForAWhile,

    In the sense that the subject of mites is a huge field that is under studied by science, yes I modestly say that there is much more I need to learn.

    But I can also say that since 2002, in conjunction with a strong rodent and bird control business, I have studied the subject far more than anyone I know practicing daily in the industry. I have developed a website called bugsinmybed.com which provides an expansive view of the subject and take calls from across the U.S. on the subject, while visiting many people on a regular basis with these scenarios.

    As you describe your own passion about DE and its’ use in killing mites, you haven’t told me that you’ve solved the problem. You haven’t mentioned anything about where they came from and eliminating the source. DE is a topical killer. But pests like mites exist in massive numbers that will not by itself (DE) eliminate mites, definitely not at their origin, which is almost always related to the exterior environment.

    Feelings of bites is one of the most contagious and persistant problems humans face. In pest control we know this because we often come out wanting to scratch after we have been to flea jobs even when we haven’t been bit. We often feel similarly after leaving homes with lice or bed bugs. We know that outside our profession, feeling bit or finding other things chronically wrong with our skin is extremely common. Dermatologists will tell you that a large percentage of “I feel bitten” problems have their origin in the emotional connection between the mind and the skin.

    Nothing I wrote indicated that you don’t have a mite problem, but the defensiveness and determination to be caking a home, as I presume you have done or are doing is not the answer. DE is an irritant and its’ use needs to be controlled. It’s not meant to be used by homeowners indoors and not in the quantities I’ve seen that can easily end up in someone’s lungs.

    Feelings of bites, long after the original infestation, is described better in this >article by entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle, than I have ever seen it addressed. The article describes the side effects of numerous drugs, as well as other medical and dermatological states that cause feelings of bites. I sincerely and respectfully suggest that you read this article with an open mind.

    Feeling pity for a person’s condition and condoning pesticide abuse is not the answer. More and more, people are realizing that pest control is really and integrated science involving the interaction of the natural kingdom of animals, the environment, pest vectors and humans. As complex as mites are and as diverse as their behavior, I think there is nothing more complex than the human mind.

  8. Jerry says:

    The “tough love” you describe always seems to ruffle feathers as is obvious with ‘been around for awhile’. Perhaps it’s just the natural reaction and I shouldn’t read into it but I have seen this many times in my business as well as in my blog- myths, here-say and anecdotal evidence for these people always hold more water than the view and proven opinion of a pro- I don’t know why.

    That said- I say shame on been around for wishing such ill on a professional who is only trying to help.

  9. Gerry says:

    Hi Jerry,

    Thanks for weighing in on the subject.

    Denial is a very strong human trait. We tend to reinforce our own beliefs. Sometimes people have to take a lot of self-inflicted damage before they will attempt new modes of thinking.

    A well trained pest tech, like yourself, I’m sure can sometimes find mites and the I.P.M. based causes of mite infestations where less trained techs just role their eyes in disbelief or treat inappropriately. But, as you see with this commenter and as you’ve discovered, the psychological aspect of the problem are also very profound. Did you read the article by Dr. Hinkle? Wow! This article goes well beyond Mallis’ Handbook of Pest Control on this subject matter.

    At my pest control company I now charge a serious consulting fee for mite infestations that I choose to investigate, that is, if the problem has gone on for more that a month, or if in the process of screening by phone I sense some borderline parasitosis symptoms. If their answers are over the line – such as DIY pesticide abuse, I don’t get involved. I provide a clear exclusion for mite infestations from my policy of free inspections. I share information from various disciplines on mites and bites and where I don’t find mites per se, I may address and treat all the I.P.M. issues that are condusive to mites (defining those problems under rodents and birds rather than something I could not physically confirm). Often, I will find issues with pets in close proximinity to wild life, pet sanitation issues, unkept and overgrown yardspace. These are problems where a common understanding can be reached between the I.P.M tech and the customer. Even if the customer’s symptoms are not completely relieved, which they won’t if there is an ingrained psychological disposition to feeling bit, at least I have formed a binding, enforceable pest solution that can only help – without entrenching possible customer dillusions or deceiving a customer who may have impaired reasoning.

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