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Diatomaceous Earth and Bees

Honey Bee on flower

While no laboratory testing has been done on Red Lake Diatomaceous Earth to monitor its effects on bees, there have been no known instances of damage to bee colonies due to the use of diatomaceous earth. DE does, however, have the potential to be harmful to bees.

Food grade diatomaceous earth works to kill insects by lacerating their exoskeletons and dehydrating them. According to bee keepers, if a bee comes in contact with DE death is a possible outcome. When grooming themselves, in an attempt to get the diatomaceous earth off of their bodies, the movement of the bees will in fact aid the DE in cutting the exoskeleton.

However, according to Tui Rose, author of Going Green Using Diatomaceous Earth How-to Tips, “When Diatomaceous Earth is applied to crops or orchards, the honey bee tends to protect themselves by simply avoiding those blossoms already treated with DE. However, if DE does get on a bee’s body, it is covered with slick hairs that are able to help prevent dehydration of body fluids. Then the bee simply vibrates its wings to remove the dust and protect itself. However, should a bee get enough DE on it to cause death, he’s the only insect that dies. Even if he makes it back to the hive, he does not contaminate the colony, as DE is not a chemical toxin.”

In any case, diatomaceous earth has the potential to be harmful to bees and should therefore not be applied to any surface with which bees might come in contact. This is especially true of the flowers on a plant. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the ground surrounding the plants is the safest bet in assuring the safety of your bees.

When using food grade diatomaceous earth in your garden, it is important to keep an eye on the bee population. Remove the DE (washing it off with water is the easiest way) if you notice the bees climbing the leaves or stalks of the plants or on any other surface where you have applied diatomaceous earth.

Image by Rakib Hasan Sumon

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Diatomaceous Earth and Leaf Miners

The term leaf miner refers to the larvae of various species of insects that live within the leaves of plants and consume their tissue.

Leaf miners are known for the large blotches and winding tunnels that they create in a leaves’ tissue. While this effects the aesthetics of the plant, leaf miners do not usually significantly affect the health of a plant.

Due to the fact that diatomaceous earth must come in contact with an insect in order for it to lacerate its body and kill it, DE is not likely to be effective against leaf miners that are protected inside of the leaf. Most leaf miners spend their entire larval period feeding within the leaf, with some also pupating inside the leaf mine. However, leaf miners may also cut their way out of the leaf when they are fully grown in order to pupate in the soil. Therefore, applying diatomaceous earth to the leaves of plants, as well as the soil below, may be helpful in killing these miners that exit the plant tissue and drop onto the ground below.

Please note that Red Lake Earth is known to kill most crawling insects, including those that may be beneficial to your garden. When applying DE to your plants, it is therefore important that you try to keep the product off of any surface that these beneficial insects may come in contact with.

Image by Smabs Sputzer

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Diatomaceous Earth: Food Grade vs. Feed Grade

Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade vs Feed Grade

The difference between food and feed grade diatomaceous earth has to do with the specifications that each must meet with regards to heavy metal content.

Both food and feed grade must contain less that 1% crystalline silica and not be calcined, in order to be safe to use with and around animals. Food grade however has very strict specifications when it comes to heavy metal content. In order to be considered food grade, the diatomaceous earth must not contain more than 10mg/kg of arsenic and no more than 10mg/kg of lead.

Whether a diatomaceous earth product is food or feed grade, or both, depends on the natural state of the deposit. These specifications are not met by altering the product in any way but rather they are determined by the state of the deposit as it occurs in nature.

Both food and feed grade diatomaceous earth products can be used in animal feed and as natural insecticides, with equally effective results. Current regulations for all DE products specify that food grade diatomaceous earth can also be used as a processing and filtering aid in food, as long as the DE is not present in a final product that is meant for human consumption.

Red Lake Earth Diatomaceous Earth meets all specifications noted above and is a Food Chemical Codex Grade and feed grade product.

Image by BinaryApe

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How Long Is Diatomaceous Earth Effective?

How long is diatomaceous earth effective

When stored in a dry place, Red Lake Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth will not spoil or go bad.

If used as pest control, diatomaceous earth will continue to be effective as long as it is not disturbed – kicked up into the air, blown or washed away.

DE should be re-applied if an area gets wet, experiences wind, or high traffic, as the powder is easily washed away, blown away and kicked up into the air by foot traffic.

Try to keep the DE in protected areas, such as cracks and crevices where it will not be disturbed.

When you are finished, simply vacuum the product up.

Please note: While no problems have ever been observed, please be sure to test the product in a small sample space when using it on white or other light colored carpeting or fabrics.

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How Is It Made: Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance. In nature it can be found as large chunks of rock-like material.

These chunks of rocks are brought back from the deposit where they are ground up in to various granulations. This is due to the fact that different granulations are effective for different purposes. For more information on the variety of granulations and their purposes please see: Diatomaceous Earth Particle Size: Choosing the Right Granulation

After the rock is ground up it is washed and dried at specific temperatures in order to prevent it from becoming calcined.

Finally, the food grade diatomaceous earth is packaged for distribution by automated machinery.

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Keep Bugs Out With Diatomaceous Earth

While diatomaceous earth cannot prevent insects from entering your home, it can help to kill nearly any crawling insect as it enters.

Food grade diatomaceous earth must come in contact with an insect in order for it to kill it. Therefore, it is important to spread the powder in any area where crawling insects may enter your home. As they walk across the DE, the razor-sharp edges of the diatoms will rub against the insect’s body and stick to its waxy outer shell. Eventually, as the particles continue to lacerate the insect’s exoskeleton and the powdery DE dehydrates the insect, it will die.

When sprinkling diatomaceous earth around your home be sure to keep it to areas where it will not be disturbed and kicked up in to the air. Spread the DE along window sills, door frames, along the foundation of your home as well as in any other cracks or crevices where insects might try to enter.

It is very important that you use only food grade diatomaceous earth (and not pool grade) for this purpose.

For information on how long DE may take to kill insects please see: How Long Does Diatomaceous Earth Take to Kill Insects?

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Natural Pest Control: Food Processing Plants

Food Processing - Cheese

Diatomaceous earth has been used as a natural pest control product for millions of years. Home owners and gardeners have used the fine powder to rid their properties of many types of crawling insects including ants, bedbugs, fleas, cockroaches, silverfish, caterpillars, earwigs, spiders, crickets and slugs, to name a few. Now, food processing plants are finding that food grade diatomaceous earth, combined with heat treatment, works as an excellent, safe and all natural alternative to methyl bromide for controlling insects in their facilities. In fact, studies have shown that even pests that have traditionally been known to be resilient to heat are able to be eliminated with the additional use of diatomaceous earth. What this means for food processing plants is that costs can be reduced by incorporating diatomaceous earth along with heat treatment. Researchers have shown that when diatomaceous earth is used in the process lower temperatures can still attain the same or even better results.

For more information and study results, check out the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service’s Science Update

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Myth #6 – DE Mines are Destructive

In addition to being safe for animals, DE mining does not have a negative impact on the environment. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for mining operations in the early 1900’s. However, today, technology and new developments in techniques and machinery allow our DE mine site to operate efficiently and without imposing a toll on the environment. In fact, Absorbent Products has been recognized with several awards for our commitment to environmental sustainability.

Our mine site does not require tailings ponds and therefore no runoff or leaching occurs, ensuring that no land is disturbed beyond the limits of the mine site. When an area of the mine has reached the end of its production period, the area is reclaimed and continues its lifecycle as an addition to the 1,000 acre ranch that Absorbent Products owns beside the site, increasing the grazing land that is available. Due to these reclamation efforts and the incorporation of leonardite (the first of its type known in BC), reclaimed land is often more productive than it was before the mining process. It is common to see deer and bears roaming the reclaimed areas.

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Myth #5 – DE Will Scrape the Internal Tissues of Animals

Is DE harmful to animals

Diatomaceous earth will not affect the innards of an animal. This is due to the fact that DE particles are very tiny and their razor-sharp edges only function to lacerate surfaces at a microscopic level. Because insects are also small, the diatomaceous earth can easily cut their exoskeletons. The movement of their bodies across the DE, as well as their waxy exoskeletons, creates conditions in which the DE rubs against their bodies and lacerates their outer shell. A large, strong surface, on the other hand, such as the tissue of the intestines and stomach, is not affected by the sharp edges of the diatomaceous earth, as the particles are too tiny to cause any damage.

Image by David~O

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Myth #4 – Diatomaceous Earth Will Harm the Respiratory System of Animals, Particularly Chickens

Diatomaceous Earth and Chickens

Many people are confused by the various types of diatomaceous earth available and are unsure of the safety of the product, particularly because many generalizations are made online.

Natural, un-calcined diatomaceous earth is largely composed of amorphous silica. Silica itself is the most common element on earth and comes in several forms. Amorphous silica is not harmful. Crystalline silica also comes in several forms however, unlike amorphous silica, certain forms of crystalline silica have been shown to be harmful to the health of humans. The NTP (National Toxicology Program) and IARC have determined that crystalline silica inhaled from industrial sources can cause cancer in humans. This relates to workers in Quarrying & Related Milling Operations, the Cement and Ceramics Industry, etc. who could potentially be inhaling respirable crystalline silica if they are not wearing the proper safety equipment. The respirable dust range harmful to workers’ health is defined by those particles at, or below, the 10 μ size range. To put this size into perspective, 325 mesh is approximately 44 μ and is the smallest micrometer size that one can see with the unaided human eye (NIOSH).

Diatomaceous earth, zeolite (which is another form of silicates and has many of the same properties as diatomaceous earth), sand on the beach and most other silica based materials do contain some crystalline silica. However, the amount of respirable crystalline silica present in most food grade DE products would be minuscule or minimal. An individual would be exposed to more crystalline silica at the beach.

Image by Martin Cathrae