Q: I have been looking for a natural way to control fleas in my house and diatomaceous earth has been recommended. Is it safe for parrots?
-Robert K., Baton Rouge, LA
As much as we dislike it, bugs are a part of life. They infest our homes, animals, sometimes us. There are many methods used to combat an infestation, but most involve chemicals that are deadly to all life depending on the amount used. Our parrots are especially vulnerable to chemicals and as their guardians we have to make absolutely certain that any product we use around them is safe.
When searching for a safe product, you will come across many “green” products that boast that they are “pet safe”. While this may be true of our larger and bulkier mammalian pets, products are almost never tested on birds.
So we turn, instead, to natural pest remedies, such as diatomaceous earth
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is the product of the fossilized remained of single celled aquatic algaes (phytoplankton) called diatoms which exist pretty much anywhere there is water and light. The cell wall of a diatom is made of silica which is a naturally occurring substances that comprises 26% of the earth’s crust – the substance from which we make glass.
How Does It Work?
Diatoms come in a variety of geometric shapes and sizes and it is the combination of this fact and the composition of their cell walls that make them so effective in fighting bug infestations: their fossils are basically microscopic shards of glass which work their way into the joints of the insect’s exoskeleton and literally slices away at the body as the insect moves.
Won’t It Hurt My Birds And Other Pets??
Diatomaceous earth is 100% safe for humans and pets, unless you happen to keep companion bedbugs, fleas or ants. It is safe enough to eat and, in fact, we do eat it. It is commonly and safely used to keep bugs out of grains supplies. Many people also dust their cats and dogs, and carpets and furniture with DE to eliminate a flea problem.
After crawling through DE, an insect will die within a couple of days from its injuries and dehydration. The difference between DE and pesticides is that it is an entirely physically death – no chemicals are involved at all.
It is important, however, to choose FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth. There are varieties that are treated with chemicals for other uses, such as with pool filters. Avoid any product that is not 100% DE, obviously that means there is a percentage of it that is “something else”.
Also preferred is DE harvested from fresh water deposits. The movement of ocean currents can shift foreign materials into the deposits found there.
Where Can I Get It?
Diatomaceous earth is mined and milled into a fine white powder that is available, inexpensively, through places that sell organic products or pest remedies.
The powder can be sprinkled around problem areas without concern for the welfare of your parrots.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.