Bed Bugs: Killing Fields

Given that diatomaceous earth (DE) is the only useful insecticide-like substance with residual killing effect, the general idea is to turn your floors into killing fields by spreading a thin layer of DE everywhere. In practical terms, that means around the border of the room, under your bed, and anywhere you don’t walk.

J. T. Eaton makes the canonical duster, which is what I used in our house:

Eaton 530RD Insecticidal Duster
Eaton 530RD Insecticidal Duster

They also have a green-painted version, which they deem more suitable for “green” pest control operators; a red duster evidently signifies a powerful chemical at odds with planet-friendly symbolism. The dusters don’t care what’s inside and the powders all look the same, so do what you like.

This is the “improved” #530 version, BTW, with an insulated plastic tip so you don’t kill yourself poking it into electrical boxes. I can detect the faint odor of a lawsuit behind that improvement, can’t you?

The molded strap holding the cap on the end of the tube wants to spring closed, so I added a twist tie loop to keep the cap out of the way. Pop the cap, hold it against the tube, slide the loop to capture the strap. Sheesh.

Were this sort of thing made by, say, Hitachi, it would resemble a large white plastic pregnant guppy containing a microcontroller, a powder dispensing auger, a projected hologram application guide pattern, LCD coverage readout in g/m2, and a data uplink. Oh, and a USB-charged lithium battery. For twenty bucks in Walmart.

You fill the spring-loaded rubber can halfway with DE, jam in the cork, and discover that you have no idea how to use the mumble thing. The Eaton website has some videos (or search Youtube for the obvious keywords), but here’s what the result looks like under our bed:

Diatomaceous Earth under bed
Diatomaceous Earth under bed

The CoP says

Dose rate is not critical: even low doses of the DED can result in the death of the insect, it just takes longer.

A mumerical value in, oh, g/m2 wouldn’t be helpful, as I have no way to determine what’s coming out of the nozzle, nor how much each puff covers. Evidently, a barely visible dusting will suffice; those sprinkles indicate I probably applied too much.

There’s a fine layer of DE over the entire floor surface under there, so isn’t not as irregular as it might appear. That’s because, regardless of your intent, the duster poots out a huge blast on the first squeeze: the tube is full of powder and there’s nowhere else for it to go. Hold the duster sideways to get what you see above (after the first poot) or upside down for a minimal layer.

If it clogs, there’s a brass rod screwed into the rear of the tube, but that means you’re definitely getting carried away with the thing.

If you do this in a sunlit room, you’ll be astounded at the amount of dust left floating in the air. It’s a good idea to wear a dust respirator, at least an N95 mask, while you’re poofing away. You definitely won’t want to dispense actual toxins like this, either.

I have no way to evaluate the effectiveness of this treatment, except for our anecdotal evidence that the number of bites we sustained dropped after I dusted the living room, the two bedrooms we were using, and the connecting hallway. That could be due to other factors, but we needed all the help we could get.

5 thoughts on “Bed Bugs: Killing Fields

  1. i tried DE at whatever proportion contained in bulk pool filter DE. Was given this. I tried it in carpenter bee holes. No obvious affect upon the population.
    Caulk doesn’t work.
    Some powdered insecticide didn’t work on the few holes i tried (few, because i felt i was exposed to floating powder while pushing bits of fiber in the bee holes)

    What worked was a few sessions with a vacuum (actually the vac side of a leaf blower).

    Interestingly, the bees in non adjacent locations also disappeared, suggesting that they’re still communal in a fashion.

    1. We have carpenter bees, too, but they seem to prefer the untreated wood posts in the garden. Their nest holes are amazing: chewed out with micrometric precision, just large enough to exactly fit the bee.

      We enjoy watching them cruise around in the flowers: you can see the downdraft under each bee as is passes over the leaves and petals.

      bulk pool filter DE

      No surprise there: that’s the rounded-corner (or whatever) version. Other than making the bugs dusty, it doesn’t seem to have enough carapace-penetrating effect to make an impression.

      a few sessions with a vacuum

      The Australian CoP encourages that for bed bugs, too. Other sources mention that, because the eggs are glued down, They’ll Be Back shortly after you turn your back.

      Our experience says that vacuuming helps, but it’s essentially impossible to get enough suction in all those little cracks to pull everything out. That’s why we gave up on the upholstered chairs: too many un-reachable crevices.

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