What are the top tips for flea control?

  • Fleas hide indoors in carpets, rugs, floor tile joints, furniture, cracks between wood flooring, pet bedding, in pet resting spots, and under furniture cushions.
  • Up to 99% of your flea infestations are pre-adult fleas - just waiting to grow into another infestation.
  • Flea control includes ridding your home of the fleas you see now, preventing the pre-adult flea stages from turning into breeding and biting adults, keeping you pet flea-free by keeping flea eggs from hatching, and using flea collars to control flea eggs and adults that live on your pets.
  • Fleas must be stopped in all four life cycle stages for a complete treatment -- the egg, larva, pupa and adult.
  • Your yard needs a complete flea treatment at the same time as your interior home and your pet(s).
  • Homeowners can prepare for the treatment by thoroughly vacuuming all floors and furniture - be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag outside in a closed receptacle.
  • Clean and clear all floors and mop and sweep hard surfaces.
  • Remove pet food and toys from under beds and remove pets during the treatment.
  • Wash pet bedding and make sure the lawn is mowed short.
  • Resume normal cleaning and vacuuming 24 hours after the flea treatment and vacuum every three days for 2-3 weeks. The vacuuming will improve the effectiveness of the insecticide by stimulating unhatched fleas to emerge from their protective pupae cases since they are protected from the insecticide while in the cocoon stage.
  • Fleas should be eliminated.

Fleas are a nuisance to us and to our pets.  Fleas are no longer a July through October pest, but are a year-round problem, particularly if your flea problem is indoors. 

While their tiny bites are rarely felt, the irritation caused by the flea's mouth secretions can range from a rash or inflammation to secondary infections caused by scratching the irritated skin area, typically the ankles and legs of humans. They can cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), cause secondary skin irritations and lead to anemia as well as cause tapeworms, and carry typhus fever and bubonic plague.  Our pets suffer similar problems from fleas and may bite and scratch themselves constantly. Their coats become roughened and the skin can become infected leading to eczema.  

Each stage of a fleas’ metamorphosis -- eggs, larvae, pupa, and adult – requires treatment to rid the environment of fleas.  Fleas lay their eggs on the pet host and the eggs readily fall onto the ground, floors, bedding, or furniture.  In 6-12 days the eggs hatch, becoming larvae with biting mouth parts.  The white, worm-like larva avoids light and feeds on particles of dead animal or vegetable matter generally present in cracks and crevices. After a few days of feeding upon organic refuse, the larvae spin cocoons and enter a pupal stage.

Fleas are known to remain in the pupal stage from five days to five weeks in the absence of hosts. Adults emerge from the pupal case when vibrations from pets or humans let them know a host is near. This is one reason why people returning to an unoccupied home may suddenly be attacked by an army of fleas.

Fleas can jump to some 150 times their own tiny length with their powerful.  Female fleas lay over 2,000 eggs in her lifetime and consume 15 times her own body weight in blood daily. 

To completely rid your home, yard, and pets from fleas, all three must be treated at the same time.  Fleas are controlled by destroying the adults and making breeding places unsuitable for larval life. Adult fleas are destroyed by bathing the host (dog or cat)with strong soap and by applying insecticides.  Insect growth regulators (IGRs) are the most effective pest control and are used in conjunction with residual sprays to quickly reduce adult populations. IGRs prevent flea larvae from turning into adults, and have a residual effect of almost three months.   Additional applications at 2 week intervals may be necessary to completely eliminate the fleas.

Homeowners can prepare for the treatment by thoroughly vacuuming all floors and furniture - be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag outside in a closed receptacle and clean and clear all floors and mopping hard surfaces to prevent flea larvae from finding food.  Pet toys and bedding must be washed. Lawns must be mowed short.  After the flea treatment, the home should be vacuumed every three days for 2-3 week.  Vacuuming improves the effectiveness of the insecticide by stimulating unhatched fleas to emerge from their protective pupae cases.  (Fleas are protected from the insecticide while in the cocoon stage).  Once exposed to the insecticide residual, they also will be eliminated.

Fleas have been especially plentiful when there is a warm, wet spring and humid summer.  Many people are surprised they have fleas in their home even if they are using the veterinarian-supplied flea control products.  Interestingly most of these products contain the same insecticides your pest management professional uses to control termites, ants, fleas and other pests.

To understand flea control, it is necessary to briefly review the biology of a flea.   The flea life cycle begins as an egg that is laid on your pet and soon falls onto carpet, upholstered furniture, or in cracks or crevices. When a dog shakes he could be sending eggs all over the room.  These eggs hatch, becoming worm-like larvae.  The larvae feed on the fecal material, which contains dried blood, from the adult fleas.  As they grow, they morph into pupae with a protective cocoon.  The cocoon is resistant to insecticides and you may see adult fleas for an extended period (2-4 weeks) after treatment.  The flea pupae may remain dormant until they sense movement or activity.   The pupae then emerge as adult fleas to have their first blood meal on the most convenient host.  They do not care if the blood meal is from your dog, your cat, or you.   Adult fleas spend most of their time on the animal, so your pet must be treated as well as your home and yard.

To control fleas, a three-step program is needed.  First the pets are all treated.  Second the home’s interior, particularly furniture, carpet, and pets' bedding is treated.  Third, the outside perimeter, particularly the pet’s habitat must be treated.  This treatment must continue until there is no remaining flea population.  Outside, wild animals may serve as carriers for flea populations.   You may have fleas even if you do not own a pet.  In the U.S., coyotes, raccoons, rodents, skunks, rabbits, squirrels, ferrets, and the neighbor's dog or cat may all carry fleas.

To assist your Enviroguard's pest management professional and ensure the fastest flea control, it is necessary to mow your yard and remove all weeds, grass clippings, leaf piles, and other debris to disturb the flea habitat.  Fleas like to nest in warm, shady areas with plenty of organic debris.
Inside, the home must be thoroughly vacuumed daily before and within 24 hours after treatment.  Vacuuming should continue daily for up to two weeks.  Vacuuming also stimulates pre-adult fleas to emerge sooner from their insecticide-resistant cocoons, thus hastening their contact with insecticide residues in the carpet. By raising the nap of the carpet, vacuuming improves the insecticide's penetration down to the base of the carpet fibers where developing fleas live.

Many of today’s newer vacuums do not have a disposable bag.  Simply empty the contents into a sealed plastic bag and immediately dispose of the debris (which may include flea eggs, larvae, and adults) in your securely closed trash can.  All pet bedding should also be washed and rinsed in hot water to kill fleas.  Consider disposing of bedding that cannot be washed.  If your pet rides in your car, the car should also be vacuumed.  Do not forget to vacuum or sweep garage and basement floors and other surfaces pets frequent. 

Before your home is treated, pick up items on the floor like toys and clothes. Wash appropriate items.  Also, point out your pet’s favorite spots to your pest management professional.  For example, if your cat likes to sleep under your bed or plays in flower arrangements, these areas must be treated or the flea problem will not be completely eradicated. 

Because of the four-stage biology of the flea, the homeowner can see fleas for two weeks or longer following treatment. Provided all infested areas were treated initially, these "survivors" are probably newly emerged adults which have not yet succumbed to the insecticide. Instead of retreating the premises immediately, continue to vacuum.  If adult fleas continue to be seen beyond two to four weeks, re-treatment of the premises may be necessary. Make sure that your pet is also protected.

Most flea problems in our area can be eliminated by treating the pet and the interior of the home. In cases where pets spend most of their time outdoors, it may also be necessary to treat the yard. One way to determine if the yard is infested is to walk around your home and yard wearing knee-length white athletic socks. If fleas are present, they will be seen against the white background of the socks.   Outdoor flea treatments will focus on areas where the pet sleeps or plays and it is typically not necessary to treat the entire yard or open areas exposed to full sun.

What is “flea dirt”?

A sign of fleas is “flea dirt” on your pet. These small black specks you see at the base of your pet’s fur or hair is a sign of a flea infestation. This “flea dirt” is feces from the flea that consists of digested blood from your pet. Wet a small cloth or paper towel and rub a small piece of the flea dirt. If it changes color from black to reddish brown, it is “flea dirt.”

Last summer we had a terrible battle with fleas.  What can we do to prevent a repeat this year?

Spring and summer bring with a lot of insect pests but few can cause people and pets such misery as the flea does.  These tiny pests have been linked to the spread of various plagues including bubonic plague and pneumonic plague in humans.  They can trigger flea allergy dermatitis leading to incessant scratching, which leads to skin infections. Because fleas feed on blood they can cause anemia in pets and transmit tapeworms to pets and in the most severe infestations can cause death in pets.

There are important steps you can take to reduce the problem. Outside and around your home, you should keep your yard mowed regularly.  Cut back all tall weeds and grass, particularly around your home's foundation.  With our variable spring weather, it is important to maintain your grass at a regular, consistent height.  Rake leaves and other organic debris in your yard. Using a grass catcher on your mower is helpful as is raking and removing excess grass clippings remaining on the lawn.  These key steps will reduce harborage or places fleas can hide and live.

Inside your home you should reduce clutter including stacks of papers, newspapers, magazines, and clothing on the floor.  Make it hard for fleas to find a place to nest. Vacuum often; this is the single most important thing you can do to prevent a flea infestation inside your home.  Twice weekly vacuuming is recommended.  If your vacuum is bag-less, seal the dust in a tight closing plastic bag and dispose of it each time you vacuum.  In a vacuum cleaner with a dust bag, dispose of the bag regularly, also seal it inside a plastic bag and remove it to your outside garbage cans.  Vacuuming is key to removing flea eggs and larvae before they can hatch or grow into the next generation of adult fleas.  Fleas like to live in the base of carpet pile so for thicker carpet, be sure to vacuum slowly to remove these larvae.

If you have pets keep them groomed and use a flea control shampoo on dogs and cats.  Frequent baths are recommended during spring and summer as is daily brushing with a flea comb (a metal comb with tightly spaced "teeth"). Vacuum carefully around pet beds and wash pet blankets and bedding weekly in hot water and dry in an automatic dryer.  The drying in a machine dryer also helps to kill any fleas or eggs.  Flea control products purchased from your veterinarian are also recommended.  However these products only control the adult fleas.  Call Enviroguard, your pest management professional to control the fleas and flea larvae in your home.  Don't forget to wash outside bedding as well and vacuum your car's interior if pets frequently travel in your car.

While the presence of adult fleas and their bites signal the need for service, Enviroguard will concentrate on killing the flea larvae in addition to the adults.  Just before flea service you should vacuum floors and furniture with a beater bar.  This motion, noise and vibration trigger fleas to emerge from their cocoons (often hidden in carpeting and dark corners).  Fleas will then be more receptive to treatment.  Vacuuming removes flea waste (dried blood) and thus eliminates the food source for larvae.  Vacuuming also helps the carpeting receive insecticide more evenly.  But, do not vacuum immediately after treatment.  Allow the insecticide to remain on the carpet.  Working together with Enviroguard your pest management professional, together we can eliminate fleas, but it may take several treatments.

When my home was treated for fleas, my rugs and carpet stayed wet for a long time.  Did my pest control company use too much chemical?

Fleas are negative phototrophic pests meaning they stay away from light and their egg and larvae hide deep down within your carpet and rugs.  Using a coarse spray of water and chemical mix, the particles are heavier and will drop into your carpet to reach these two life cycle stages of fleas.  In addition, the spray nozzles typically used to administer the insecticide will be overlapped to ensure a full coverage.  You no doubt received a thorough treatment.  Be sure to stay off your carpeting until it is dry.

Nine conditions pets can contract from fleas and mosquitoes:

  1. Allergies
  2. Ehrlichia
  3. Heartworms
  4. Lyme Disease
  5. Rocky Mountain fever
  6. Scratching misery
  7. Skin infections/Hot spots
  8. Tapeworms
  9. Tick paralysis