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Keep Fleas Out of the House

As the summer months bring warmth and outside activities, they also bring the fleas. Not only can these little pests cause an itchy problem for your pet, but they can also spread diseases and cause any homeowner a lot of distress.

These are some helpful tips to keep you prepared against flea infestations in your home in Rochester. Flea defense can help you have a more flea-free summer in Rochester this year.

What Do Fleas Look Like?

Adult fleas grow to be between 1/16 and 1/8 inch long, which is large enough to see without a microscope but small enough to be easily missed. They also have a thin body structure that allows them to slip between the hairs of their host to remain as undetected as possible. As an adult, fleas are usually a dark reddish-brown color.

Flea eggs are tough to see and aren’t usually the first indication of a flea infestation. Eggs are tiny white flecks that are sometimes mistaken for dandruff or oval grains of salt

When flea larvae hatch from the egg, these wormlike bugs wiggle around on the ground, eating dried blood that adult fleas leave behind after a blood meal — gross!

Flea pupae develop inside a cocoon that the flea larvae spin when they’re old enough. The cocoon is usually in a hidden place, such as at the base of your carpet, in deep grass, or under fallen debris like branches or leaves.

This flea life cycle can occur almost anywhere, such as in the backyard or on your pet’s bed. When developing as a larva or pupa, fleas hide in low-traffic areas, such as under furniture or in cracks along the baseboard. Since this life cycle takes less than a month, 15-20 days, to grow from an egg to an adult, all effective methods must target every stage of the flea lifecycle to get rid of an infestation as soon as possible.

Get Rid of Fleas with DIY Flea Control

Fleas can be a serious problem if they cause medical conditions for you or your pets. Common problems fleas can cause include flea allergy dermatitis when a pet reacts to flea saliva, tapeworms that can enter your pet’s digestive system when they swallow a flea, Cat Scratch Disease, Flea-borne Typhus, and, though not as common, the bubonic plague, which still occurs in the United States occasionally.

Whether you choose to treat fleas yourself, or if you decide to call the professionals, your efforts to control the spread of fleas will go a long way to prevent fleas and the problems they cause.

According to estimations, only about 5% of the flea population are adults and the rest of the population are eggs, larvae, and pupae littered on the ground. Every effort to control fleas must target both adult and juvenile fleas in order to be effective. The efforts you make also have to be thorough enough to catch the tiniest egg and the most well-protected pupae cocoons.

These tips will help you target the three common flea target areas, like in the yard, on pets, and on the carpet.

1. Yardkeeping for Fleas

Most of the time, fleas will find their way into your yard before they infiltrate the house and get on your pet. Follow these directions to make your yard an uncomfortable place for fleas, which will make them less likely to stick around.

Usual Flea Hiding Places in the Yard

Fleas like shady, humid, warm areas away from the sun. They also like to gather in places where your pet likes to rest as well. While you follow these tips for your entire property, focus on these areas also.

Yardwork to Prevent Fleas

  • Trim the Grass Short
  • Long grass makes fleas comfortable by providing plenty of shade, convenient hiding spots, and enough humidity for survival. Short grass exposes fleas to the hot sun and predators like birds and reduces humidity in the grass.

    If you already have fleas in the grass, bag the clippings after mowing instead of composting. Disposing of the clippings will keep the fleas from getting out and making the infestation worse.

  • Clean up Debris
  • This step is vital for more than one reason, which we’ll discuss later. One purpose of cleaning up debris is to get rid of flea hiding places. Since fleas are so small, they can hide under the smallest pile of grass clippings or fallen leaves.

    Gather and get rid of fallen branches, fruit, and leaves. Remove all garden equipment, lawn toys, parked vehicles and trailers, hardware, and all other items.

  • OTC Flea Treatments for Outdoors
  • Lots of over-the-counter flea treatment products are available to help control flea infestations in the yard. Some products are designed only for outdoor or indoor use and others for both. Read the label thoroughly to check whether the product is EPA-approved and always follow the usage directions exactly.

    Also, be aware that pest control professionals may instruct you not to use your own OTC chemicals because they can interfere with the professional flea treatment products.

  • Beneficial Nematodes
  • Beneficial nematodes are a microscopic roundworm that only eats insects like fleas. Theoretically, they should be able to eradicate a flea problem in the yard within a couple of months after your scatter them in the lawn and garden. Research indicates that they are not a problem at all for humans, pets, or plants.

    However, exercise caution when approaching this method. Talk to your local gardening center about nematodes and make sure you are completely certain that they are right for you. Before you purchase any nematodes, be sure that you have the right type because other species of roundworms can be a significant hazard for you, your pets, or your plants.

    Be aware that standard flea treatment products will likely poison nematodes also, so you might have to choose between one or the other option instead of employing both at the same time.

Ward off Wildlife

Fleas can end up on your lawn by hitchhiking on rats or mice, squirrels, opossums, feral cats or dogs, and raccoons. Flea-infested wildlife may visit your yard while seeking shelter or food and could unknowingly drop eggs or live fleas in the grass.

There are plenty of ways to keep wildlife off your property, and fleas aren’t the only reason to do so. However, efforts that effectively keep wildlife away may reduce the likelihood of a flea infestation in your yard. Without a reason to stay on your property, wild animals will most likely leave your home and, hopefully, take their fleas with them.

  • Thin Out Tall Shrubs and Trees
  • Tree branches and bushes that are tall enough to let an animal climb on your roof can cause a lot of problems. Keep bushes at least two feet away from each other and one foot away from the house. Tree branches that hang over the roof should be trimmed. As appropriate for your situation, keep all the plants on your property thin enough to prevent wildlife from sheltering in them.

  • Outdoor Garbage Cans and Wood Piles
  • Rodents, raccoons, and other wildlife enjoy garbage as a food source. Raccoons especially are likely to knock over your bins and tear off the lids if they can. Make sure each trash can has a tight lid, or you can use rope or bungee cords to tie down the lid and make sure cans can’t be knocked over. Even if the garbage is knocked over, make sure the lid is tight enough that animals can’t get into the bin.

    Wood piles are a serious pest attractant, for both wildlife and bugs. If you decide to keep a woodpile, place it on a platform raised at least one foot above the ground and placed at least 20-50 feet away from the house. You might consider using steel mesh or screens to keep wildlife from accessing it and covering it with a tarp or similar item to prevent bugs and insects for accessing it also.

  • Clean up Debris
  • Wildlife is the second big reason why you should remove debris from the yard. Wild animals are likely to use fallen leaves, branches, fruits, vegetables, hardware, vehicles, trailers, and other debris for food or shelter.

    Less debris means smaller chances of wildlife visits, which means fewer opportunities for fleas to transport into your yard.

  • Don’t Leave Food Outside
  • Animals are in constant search of food, and many of them enjoy our food as much as we do. Some animals can smell our food for long distances away. Anything in your yard that is edible is like a beacon for flea-ridden wildlife.

    Pet food is a particularly strong temptation for them because it often contains all the nutrients required for survival, including a good balance of proteins. Rats, raccoons, and other animals will take advantage of a pet dish with leftover food or water, so wash and put bet bowls away at night.

    After a party in the yard, don’t fall to the temptation to believe that animals will “take care” of any scraps you might have missed during cleanup. Although the thought may seem innocent, the risks wildlife can bring to your home aren’t worth it.

  • Consider Motion-detection Sprinklers
  • Automatic sprinkler systems might be an effective deterrent against wildlife intruders, including the boldest animals like raccoons. Do your research to see if you are satisfied with the product before purchase. Many of these systems are quite easy to use.

2. Preventing and Treating Fleas on Pets

Even if you choose to hire a flea professional, treating your pet for fleas and preventing an infestation on your pet is essential to long-term success against fleas. These tips should help you keep your pet healthy and avoid flea problems. Talk to your veterinarian to help resolve specific questions and concerns about your situation.

  • Wash Your Pet’s Bedding
  • Fleas can drop eggs and larvae in your pet’s bedding. From there, they turn into pupae with protective cocoons. If you haven’t seen any fleas on your pet, eliminate the possibility of juvenile fleas as much as you can by washing your pet’s bedding with hot water and drying on high heat at least once per week. If you have seen fleas on your pet, do this as frequently as possible — every other day is ideal, but not every pet can tolerate that much washing. Try washing without soap if your pet is sensitive to soap.

    Alternatively, consider dry cleaning your pet’s bedding as often as you can. Just make sure the cleaning chemicals used are pet-friendly.

    Wash all places your pet usually rests, including crates, kennels, furniture, and spots on the carpet where your pet likes to lounge.

  • Pet Toys
  • Wash all your pet’s toys in hot soapy water. Use grease-fighting dish soap and rinse thoroughly. If your pet has plush toys, it could be a good idea either to wash them with the bedding or dry clean them. Otherwise, you might consider getting rid of plush toys completely.

  • Regular Pet Baths
  • If your pet can’t be bathed frequently, bathe them as often as they need it. Talk to your veterinarian about flea shampoo for pets that contains permethrin, which was developed from a naturally-occurring pesticide in chrysanthemum flower extract.

  • Flea Combs
  • Flea combs are specially designed to help find fleas in pet fur. The combs with finer tines are often the most effective. Run the comb through all your pet’s fur, but pay particular attention to the areas near the neck and around the tail.

  • Consider Summer Shaves
  • If your pet has long hair, you might think about shaving it during the warmer months of the year. Short fur during the summer may help reduce the likelihood of your pet catching fleas. Short fur can also make bathing and grooming for fleas less difficult.

  • Regular Checkups and OTC Flea Treatments
  • There are many flea treatment products that could be right for your pet. Some treatments are oral, as drops on the skin, or as sprays. Flea collars are effective in some cases, but others could cause irritation and additional complications.

    Talk to your vet about flea treatments that will work best for you. Your vet may also recommend a prescription-strength treatment that fits your situation better.

    Regular checkups with the vet will also help reduce the likelihood of ongoing flea problems. Your vet may also help reduce your pet’s possibility of contracting a flea-borne disease by catching early symptoms and giving you flea-removal tips.

3. Anti-flea Homekeeping Tips

When combined with everything mentioned above, these tips can help prevent a problem with fleas.

However, keep in mind that most infestations are impossible to eradicate without calling the professionals.

Some of these things might be something you’re already familiar with, but these tips have an additional twist that you might not have thought to do before. These tips are intended either to prevent or treat an infestation, depending on whether you’ve seen fleas in the house or not.

Some people are embarrassed about having a flea infestation because fleas have negative associations. Don’t worry — your home isn’t infested because it’s dirty. Even the cleanest, most sanitary places can be infested by fleas. The act of cleaning isn’t intended to make your home cleaner — cleaning drives them out of their hiding spots and makes your home less appealing for them to live in.

Vacuuming

For Prevention: If you haven’t seen any fleas, vacuum the carpet just in case of any fallen flea eggs, pupae, or larvae. It’s a good idea to freeze the vacuum’s contents overnight before throwing them away, but this might not be necessary if you haven’t seen fleas already.

While you are cleaning, perform your own flea inspection. Look for common places fleas might hide, even if you thinking you don’t have fleas. Usual hiding spots include along baseboards, under furniture, in upholstery, on or under cushions, in pet bedding, and all the places your pet likes to rest.

For Treatment: If you have definitely seen fleas on your cat or dog or on the carpet, the vacuum is your best tool against them. Thoroughly vacuuming 3-4 times a week for fleas is essential to fend off an infestation. Be sure to freeze the vacuum contents overnight before disposal.

Move furniture, pull away cushions, and vacuum the upholstery. Pay careful attention to places your pet lounges, such as furniture, carpet, and bedding. Vacuum your own bed as well, including the mattress, the bed frame, and other cracks and gaps around the mattress.

Wash the Carpet — Steam and Shampoo

For Prevention: Some areas may only need extensive cleaning like steaming and shampoo once or twice per year. Some carpets are designed to require even less cleaning, while others cannot withstand frequent deep cleaning. Regardless of whether you think you have fleas or not, plan to perform this necessary cleaning at least once per year.

For Treatment: If you are certain you have fleas, steam and shampoo is absolutely necessary to get rid of fleas for good. Although vacuuming might catch numerous fleas, most pupae and many eggs are likely to escape. Steam and shampoo will help reach deeper into the carpet and eradicate most eggs and pupae.

If you choose professional pest control or an over-the-counter treatment on your own, performing steam and shampoo cleaning on your carpet before the treatment will help the product sink deeply into the carpet to target unhatched flea eggs and pupae cocoons that were unaffected by the vacuum and the steam and shampoo.

Indoor OTC Flea Treatments

For Prevention: If you don’t have fleas, it’s best not to use any kind of products in your home. It is simply a waste of time and resources to treat specifically for fleas if there are no fleas present. As the old saying goes, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

For Treatment: As mentioned above, professional companies will ask you not to use your own chemicals during their treatment programs, or else the treatments could interfere with each other and cause problems and complications.

If you decide not to call the professionals, there are lots of OTC products you can use to help you fight fleas. Options for treatment may include active ingredients with pyrethrins and pyrethroids, which are developed from a natural pesticide in chrysanthemum flower extract. Insect growth regulators (IGRs) are another active ingredient that helps with home treatments. Ingredients like methoprene and pyriproxyfen are IGRs that act like insect hormones to stop adults from reproducing, prevent eggs from hatching, and stop larvae from developing. IGRs are often combined with a pesticide because IGRs don’t kill pests by themselves.

Always read the product label carefully to make sure it’s registered with the EPA. Registration numbers are located on the label, often next to the list of active ingredients. Some may also include a CAS number along with the EPA registration number.

On the EPA website, you can look up an EPA registration number for additional information about the pesticide.

Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Either as a preventative measure or as a home remedy for fleas, diatomaceous earth (DE) is very effective against insects like fleas. This organic product comes in a flour-like powder that is extremely safe for children and pets, but it can be damaging to the lungs if inhaled. Light sprinkles are all that is necessary, so use according to the label’s usage directions.

Use a light amount of DE under furniture, along the baseboards, in your pet’s bed, beneath cushions, and into cracks and crevices in wooden floors. The naturally-occurring silicone in DE acts like glass on fleas’ exoskeletons and causes them to dry out. However, DE may not be enough on its own to get rid of an infestation.

Call the Professionals

After following all these steps and got getting the results you want, it might be time to look into the professionals. Research your pest control professional thoroughly to make sure they are the right fit for you, that you share their same core values, and that they know about fleas and how to deal with them.

When you call Fox, you can relax knowing that your infestation is taken care of. Our Pest Pros will work with you and ensure that the job is done right the first time.

All our EPA-approved products will work for you so that you can focus on what matters most.

Fox Pest Control. No Bugs. Simply Better.

Posted on July 30, 2020.

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