What are DIATOMS

Screen capture comparing the result of the online survey that asked respondents “Which sounds like the name of a fire ant pesticide?” The vast majority chose DIATOMS (86) over FRUSTULES (14).
Photo Caption: This is the image of the result of any online survey I did to determine the name of DIATOMS. You can see that the simple DIATOMS was much favored over the more technically correct name I also considered, FRUSTULES.

DIATOMS are a fire ant pesticide that works mechanically.

Diatoms are an aquatic organism.

Spring, Texas

Fifteen million years ago there were lakes and seas in western North America.  Small creatures with silica shells lived in those waters.  The organisms are called diatoms.  Through the eons the shells of the diatoms accumulated and today you can use them to kill fire ants.

The shell’s size and material makes them effective.  They are microscopic and made of silica.  Silica is a molecule that has one silicon atom and two oxygen atoms.  SiO2.  The silica molecule is abundant in the Earth’s crust as a rock forming mineral.  Silica is essential to the growth and structure of many components of the biosphere.  The stable and versatile characteristics of the silica molecule have also made it a favored material for human use from early hand tools to current broad industrial applications.  Glass is silica.  Silica is a molecule worth knowing.

Diatoms are single celled creatures.  Silica is excreted by the cell and forms an intricate, durable case for the soft tissues of the cell.  Upon death the soft tissue dissolves and the shell settles to the bottom.  Through tectonic processes those deposits were preserved and today can be mined.  Someday I will get a mine, but for now I purchase the fossilized shells from a reputable distributer of industrial products.

The specific name for the shell of a diatom is frustule and it is in two parts.  One is slightly larger than the other and they fit together like a box with a lid.  The microscopic fossil frustules in DIATOMS are broken apart and function in the modern environment as tiny shards of glass.  When fire ants encounter the broken frustules their activity changes drastically as the shards damage the exoskeleton, antennae, eyes, and internal organs of the ant.

How do DIATOMS work?  Simple; fossilized frustules frustrate.  Miocene microshells mangle.  Silica shards slice.

At Okra Garden Supply, ‘DIATOMS’ is the brand name for our EPA registered Fire Ant Pesticide.  Diatoms are the creatures introduced above.  Diatomaceous Earth is a topic for another day.


Link: This is another introduction to DIATOMS that you might enjoy. “DIATOMS – How did you hear about them?”


How To Manage Fire Ants Without Pesticide

Square photo with the Okra Garden Supply Logo. Most of the photo is white and appears rough. There are a number of brownish dark red fire ants scattered around the photo. In the upper center is a ball of ants that contains at least 50 ants and about one inch across in real life.
Photo Caption: When Fire Ants are threatened they will clump together. This photo shows ants responding to DIATOMS. DIATOMS is made of very small glass particles that damage the body of the ants. As the most exposed ants begin to perish and become immobile the other ants start to cluster around them and balls are formed.

Ants Are Everywhere – Just Ignore Them

Spring, Texas, USA

We can live in peace with the ants if we establish boundaries.

The best management method for fire ants is ignorance.  Ignore ants.  If you live in fire ant country, your ground will be infested with ants.  Just accept this reality.  But, do not despair.  Most ants won’t bother you and you can live in peace with the ants.  It is my first and best recommendation.  Ignore ants.  I am getting better and better at ignoring.  It takes presence of mind.  I also always wear socks and shoes.

Occasionally, it is true, the industrious ants will set up shop somewhere that is unacceptable.  This happened recently to me when fire ants started mounding up just outside my back door.  This was just the situation for DIATOMS.  I just sprayed the area with about 2 oz of DIATOMS.  Activity slowed immediately.  Since we were not busy I let the DIATOMS and ants alone for a number of hours.  Ant activity did not resume.  We were then able to sweep the area without incident.


Link: Apparently this Ant balling behavior is very interesting to me.  Ishared this example earlier in the year:  “DIATOMS bother ants”