Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is diatomaceous earth? Will it kill beetles?

Diatoms - Public domain

Q. Little beetles are clustered on my peas, cabbage, and other plants. I've even seen them clustered on wooden posts! I've read that diatomaceous earth is a safe, natural insecticide. What is it? Will it kill them?

A. Diatomaceous earth consists of the fossilized, shell-like remains of gazillions of itty-bitty creatures called diatoms. They might have been algae or they might have been critters, or maybe both. I'm not sure. Diatomaceous earth looks safe, like white powder. For you, it's safe.

But, in a "who shrunk the kids" kind of way, diatomaceous remains are like teeny-tiny razors. Sharp and awful. Tiny soft-bodied creatures that crawl over them are cut to shreds. Their bellies are burst asunder, their liquids drain out, and they die. That's what we mild-mannered gardeners, naturally inclined, hope for.

Unfortunately, all pests are not soft-bodied. Some have hard shells. Beetles have hard shells. You might need something stronger.

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