What’s in the Powder?
Bed bug powder is simply food grade Diatomaceous Earth and is ground fossilized algae-like plants called diatoms which is non-toxic. When placed into a duster such as a plastic ketchup container and gently blown into suspected areas, it effectively kills bed bugs (and works on fleas & ants as well).
There are two types of diatomaceous earth (DE), one is food grade (the good stuff) and pool grade which is dangerous to breathe. This is the same stuff farmers use to keep insects out of their grain. There are even claims that you can breath in as much food grade DE as you like and not risk lung damage, but I would NOT chance it. The absorbent quality may also cause significant drying of your hands, so play it safe, wear a face mask and gloves when spraying.
DE is also referred to as bed bug dust, mother earth, or fossil shell flour, it’s the food grade DE that they are talking about.
How Does It Work?
Mother Nature’s natural bed bug killer is a white power containing microscopic razor sharp edges that damage the bug’s protective covering, it then absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of a bug’s exoskeleton causing dehydration.
By using a duster to force the power into nesting areas, the bugs come in contact with the powder and are as good as dead!
So does it really work? Yes, without question, but you have to do multiple applications spread out over many weeks!
Not sure where to spray? No worries, we show you exactly where to find them :)
How Much Does it Cost?
Ah, the big question! Can you believe it only runs about $12 for a 2-pound bag and you can buy it from almost any local feed and supply store? This is why pest control companies would rather you not know about it :)
Some exterminators and online stores sell repackaged versions of this, jack the price way up, and claim their product is better than what you can buy yourself. Read the label to learn the truth :)
How Long Before They Die?
Changlu Wang, Timothy Gibb, and Gary W. Bennett from Purdue University did an excellent study on the cost and effectiveness of using Diatomaceous earth on infested apartments containing thousands of bed bugs. Also tested was chlorfenapyr spray but it was not as good as the powder.
They treated by using a mattress encasement (including the box spring) and with steam. They also made sure to put the legs of chairs, sofas, nightstands, and anything else into bed bug interceptor traps like that shown in the image above.
It took ten weeks, and they re-steamed and reapplied the powder when necessary; because death is not immediate, the females may be able to deposit eggs which will hatch and become active. It is these hatchlings (instars) that you need to stay on top of.
The study found that bug interceptors trapped an average of 219 bed bugs per apartment and were a valuable part of the treatment program.
In the study, 16 equally infested units were selected and half the units were 100% bug free while the remaining units were 98% free; another application would likely have taken care of the rest but the study was limited to 10 weeks, so we won’t know for sure. Total extermination costs averaged $470, but this amount can be greatly reduced using generic products, such as:
- Using dust mite mattress encasement rather than one made for bed bugs (they are the same but you pay more for one)
- Using food grade DE found at feed and supply stores rather than something with a catchy “green” label
- Making your own bed bug climb up protectors / interceptors rather than buying pre-made traps
- Buying a generic steamer (or renting) besides one made for infestations (just make sure the heat & attachments are the same)
We have plenty of success stories using these methods, just remember that these pests are not going to die overnight; it can take a few months to treat a large infestation properly, but don’t give up, you will succeed!
Visitors have successfully eliminated bed bugs using this same method, and the truth is, you’ll have to do most of the prep work if you were to hire a professional exterminator.
How to Apply Bed Bug Powder
You are going to make two solutions, and alcohol spray to kill them on contact, and one combining just the water and powder, and one duster of just powder. The water and powder are for those that cannot tolerate breathing in straight dust; this spray will not be effective when wet but once the water evaporates, it leaves only the dust and will become an effective insecticide.
Dry or wet, play it safe and always wear a mask when spraying.
1. Make the Power and Spray
You’ll need two sprays, a duster, and vacuum:
- A mixture of %40 alcohol (ethyl alcohol works), %40 water and %20 dish soap [this spray kills them on contact]
- A mixture of 2 heaping tablespoons of diatomaceous earth to 32oz water [this spray works only after water evaporates]
- A duster filled with diatomaceous earth [the powder]
- A powerful vacuum with attachments you’ll use for sucking loose bugs out of their hiding places.
Bed bugs love to hide and do a great job at it! Victims have gone months without signs only to discover months later that an infestation was right next to them – Know where to look.
What is nice about this type of pest control is that should the bugs retreat to another areas, like the apartment next door, the bugs will eventually die from dehydration after having come in contact with the dust – it only requires a little to kill the bug.
Make sure you have cleaned everything, see this list of treatment preparation tasks before we start applying the bed bug dust – but BE CAREFUL to not get the electrical outlets wet or use conductive attachments!
2. Spray the Powder
It’s time to have fun! Spray the mixture on any bed bugs you see which should kill them on contact. Use a flashlight and look for signs of bugs, such as eggs, stains (looks like someone dotted the area with a black marker). If you find eggs (they look like tiny rice, use a fine tooth comb or masking tape to collect them. Make sure to place any eggs in a zip-lock bag with a little dust and immediately place them in your outside trash container. Vacuum up the fallout.
You’ll want to spray the bed bug powder into all the cracks and crevices you vacuumed – a light dusting will do fine.
Now use your duster (filled with food grade diatomaceous earth) and dust into the bottom of the mattress box spring – you can choose to make a small hole in the fabric or simply dust through the fabric to prevent damage. I prefer making a small incision and getting it into the box spring rather than having a film of white powder on the outside. MAKE SURE you are wearing a dust mask and gloves!
The most important part of this whole process is repetition – do it all again a few weeks later to make sure the powder stays effective.