AUBURN, Ala. – Fleas are some of the most annoying biting pests known to man and pets. Knowing how to control fleas both indoors and outdoors will make life easier for humans and pets.
Fleas occur year-round but may go dormant during an extremely hot summer or cold winter. Dr. Xing Ping Hu, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said that fleas are worst during certain times of the year.
“Fall is the worst season for fleas,” Hu said. “This is because fleas thrive with increased precipitation, temperatures staying around 70 degrees, and an increase in dark and humid leaf piles.”
Hu says in Alabama, there are two common flea species, the dog flea and the cat flea. The cat flea is the most abundant species. It has the ability to survive longer and reproduce better on human blood than a dog flea.
When fleas make their way into the homes of unaware pet owners, life becomes miserable as fleas make their presence known through irritating bites and sometimes more disturbing symptoms such tapeworms.
Outdoors, fleas typically live in shaded, humid areas where pets play and rest. It just takes a few fleas to get established in your yard before you have a full blown flea infestation.
Fleas get into homes mostly by hitching a ride on pets or attaching themselves to humans. Inside, fleas live comfortably where pets play, feed and sleep. Common sites include pet sleeping mats, carpet and rugs, upholstered furniture, floor cracks and tile joints.
Fleas reproduce very efficiently. Adult fleas blood-feed within minutes of jumping on an animal. Mating and subsequent egg laying occur within 24 hours. A female flea lays 25 to 50 eggs per day and can produce up to 5,000 eggs during a lifetime. The eggs are laid in pet fur but soon fall off into carpeting, beneath the cushions of furniture and where pets rest, sleep or spend time.
Flea control includes treating the pet and the environment (indoors and outdoors).
When flea infestation is confirmed, pet owners should clean the pets and the flea infested areas where pets spend most of their time.
Treatment of Pets
Adult fleas spend most of their time on an animal, not in the carpet. This is why treatment of the pet is an essential step in ridding a home of fleas. Pets can be treated either by a veterinarian or the pet owner.
Products for treating pest are available in the form of oral medications and topical “spot-on” solutions, as well as sprays, collars and shampoos. Topical solutions (spot-ons) involve applying a few drops of pesticide along the pet’s back or between the shoulder blades. Oral or chewable tablets work within hours of ingestion. Be sure to read the product label to ensure you are purchasing the correct formulation and dosage for your pet. It is usually prudent to consult a veterinarian for the most appropriate treatment for your pet.
Rid Your Home of Fleas
The first step should be removal of pet bed, toys, and other items from floors and under beds so that all areas will be accessible for treatment. The pet bedding should be washed or dry-cleaned and all carpet, upholstery, rugs and mats should be vacuumed daily. Many different products are available for home flea treatment. These products are in the formulations of powder, liquid or aerosols.
The most effective formulations contain both an adulticide (e.g., permethrin) effective against the biting adult stage, and an IGR (methoprene or pyriproxyfen), necessary to provide long-term suppression of the eggs, larvae and pupae .IGR products are the most used for indoor treatment because of their safety and high efficacy. IGR stands for Insect Growth Regulator, works specifically on insects and stop the development of flea egg and larvae. Application should be thorough and retreatment is often necessary.
Treatment of Yard
Rake fallen leaves regularly and immediately bag and dispose of them in a secure trash receptacle. Regularly clean out pet playing,resting and sleeping areas. When necessary, treat these sites with pesticides.
Focus outdoor treatments on areas where pets rest, sleep and run, doghouse and kennel areas, along fences, under decks and next to the home foundation. Insecticide formulations containing an IGR such as pyriproxyfen (Archer® Insect Growth Regulator, NyGuard® IGR Concentrate) prevent hatching/development of flea eggs and larvae for several months.
Homeowners who lack the time to control fleas themselves or who are uncomfortable applying pesticides can enlist the services of a professional pest control firm.