Does diatomaceous earth harm lizards?
June 27, 2014 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Mr. Ant and I own a specialty retail shop that is housed in your standard-issue metal building on a concrete pad. We have seasonal problems with bugs, mostly assorted beetles (not roaches, praise be to the small god who manages insect infestations.) We also have skinks that live in the walls. And our dogs come to work with us.

We have relied on diatomaceous earth for pest control, as it's mostly harmless to dogs. Summer skink activity is ramping up, though, so I wondered if diatomaceous earth is harmful to skinks, either directly or if they encounter or eat a bug that was killed by DE. We would strongly prefer not to harm the skinks, as they're neat and pretty and they eat bugs. The added bonus is that they give the dogs fits when they pop out of the walls.
posted by workerant to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It won't hurt the skinks. Diatomaceous earth will harm only hard-shelled organisms; people use it in their earthworm bins (the worms actually eat it) and sprinkle it on pet and livestock food to treat internal parasites, and eat it themselves. I'll note that inhalation of it, of course, is a bad thing.

Make sure you're using food grade stuff, but worst-case scenario a skink gets some skin irritation from crawling through it.
posted by Specklet at 8:02 AM on June 27, 2014

Diatomaceous earth works primarily as an absorbent: by absorbing fats from an insect's body it eventually dehydrates them to death, and is known to be harmful only to animals with an exoskeleton. (The sharp edges of the silica contained within can also speed up the process.) Thus, it's a mechanical, not a chemical/poisonous insecticide. Studies have shown it to be non-toxic to aquatic invertebrates, which is one of the reasons why it's used in toxic waste spills. So if aquatic invertebrates, which are enormously sensitive, are okay, the skinks should be fine.

Some people swear it works on slugs - as a dehydrator - but I've never had it work that way.

Diatomaceous earth is also widely used in industrial applications (to name a few: toothpaste, rubber, cat litter...and paint). It's possible the skinks have already been exposed to it multiple times, obviously with no ill effect. Not only that, it's commonly found in the environment, and diatoms, which make up diatomaceous earth, are pretty ubiquitous. (Only they're alive, not fossilized.)

For further information, you visit the National Pesticide Information Center or call their information hotline at 1-800-858-7378.
posted by barchan at 8:15 AM on June 27, 2014

> I'll note that inhalation of it, of course, is a bad thing.

That is where the dogs come in. Having DE sprinkled on the ground would seem to me a Bad Thing with dogs around, since dogs are all about sniffing at everything there is on the ground.
posted by megatherium at 1:05 PM on June 27, 2014

Duly noted. Most of the DE we use goes inside the walls. We don't leave it in places the pups can get to it easily, and now that they know what it is neither has the slightest interest in it ("Not food? Whatevs.")
posted by workerant at 2:56 PM on June 27, 2014

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