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DIY Flea Prevention: Keep Fleas Away

As the weather warms in Syracuse, the heat doesn’t just bring fun outside activities — it also brings fleas. Although they’re most famous for making your pet itch, these pests can also spread disease and cause a lot of problems.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare against a flea infestation in your home in Syracuse. Know what to do when fleas try to infest your home for a more flea-free Syracuse summer this year.

How to Identify Fleas

Adult fleas are about 1/8 inch long, so you can see them without a microscope, but they’re extremely easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. Their bodies are thin to let them pass between the hairs of their host without being noticed, and they usually have a dark reddish-brown color.

Flea eggs aren’t usually the first sign of a flea infestation, partly because they are extremely difficult to identify. Flea eggs are tiny white flakes that can be mistaken for dandruff, and they look like oval grains of salt.

Flea larvae are wormlike creatures that hatch from the flea egg. They move around looking for fallen dandruff, flakes of skin, or dried blood left behind after an adult flea feeds on a blood meal — super gross!

Flea pupae develop when the larvae spin strong cocoons around themselves. The cocoons are usually located in an exceptionally safe place away from foot traffic. Cocoons could be located at the base of your carpet shag, near the bottom of deep grass, or under fallen branches or fruit.

Since the flea life cycle can happen virtually anywhere, it’s important to stop them before they can grow into adults. Since only about 5% of the flea population are adults, effective anti-flea efforts must attack every stage of the flea lifecycle, from egg to fully grown flea.

Effective DIY Flea Control to Get Rid of Fleas

Fleas can cause all sorts of problems for you and for your pet. If your pet has an allergic reaction to flea saliva, your pet can experience flea allergy dermatitis and itch to the point of bleeding. Tapeworms can enter your pet’s body when swallowing an infected flea. Fleas can also transmit illnesses like Cat Scratch Disease, Flea-borne Typhus, and although not very common, the bubonic plague, which can still happen in the United States in rural areas.

These methods will help you prevent or control a flea problem in your home. If you decide to call flea control professionals, these efforts can help make the treatment process go faster.

Target these three problem areas: the yard, your pets, and the carpet.

1. The Yard

Because they often find their way onto the yard, treating your lawn is your first line of defense against fleas. These directions will make fleas uncomfortable on your property and make flea control much easier.

Preventative Yardkeeping

Fleas enjoy warm, humid areas out of the heat of the sun. They will most likely congregate around your pet’s favorite resting spots. Follow these directions to safeguard all your property, but focus especially on places like these in your landscaping.

  • Clear Away Yard Debris
  • This is extremely important to do for more than one reason — we’ll discuss other reasons later on. One of those reasons to clear away debris is that it reduces the number of places fleas can hide. If they can hide, they can survive long enough to find their way on a host, such as your pet.

    Debris that fleas can use includes everything that is not growing, such as yard tools, fallen branches or fruit, dead leaves, lawn toys, hardware, woodpiles, parked cars or trailers, and even grass clippings. So, gather and put away or dispose of everything in the yard that doesn’t grow.

  • Cut the Grass
  • Long grass gives fleas shade, good hiding places, and plenty of humidity to thrive. Trim your grass short so that the sun and predators can kill fleas for you.

    When you know for sure that your grass already has fleas, it’s a good idea to gather the clippings up and dispose of them instead of composting.

  • Outside Flea Products
  • Over-the-counter flea treatments could help reduce flea problems in your yard. Read the label to see whether the product is intended only for outdoor or indoor use, and follow the usage directions carefully. Also, make sure the product is EPA-approved.

    Pest control professionals will ask you not to use your own OTC chemicals during their treatment programs because they will react with professional products and be ineffective or cause problems.

  • Beneficial Nematodes
  • Beneficial nematodes are a type of parasitic roundworm that targets insects, including fleas. According to research, they might be able to eliminate fleas in the yard after a couple of months in your lawn and garden. They should not cause problems for humans, pets, or plants.

    Be cautious about this particular approach, though. Talk to your local gardening center about nematodes and be completely sure they are right for you. Before making a purchase, be certain that you have found the right species of nematodes because other types of roundworms can be a serious danger for you, your pets, or your plants.

    Standard flea treatment products are likely to kill both fleas and nematodes, so just be aware that you are unlikely to use both methods at the same time.

Wildlife and Fleas

Often, fleas find their way on your property when adult fleas or eggs fall off wildlife that wanders nearby. Squirrels, opossums, feral dogs or cats, rats or mice, and raccoons are all likely to come around to find shelter or food and leave unwanted pests behind.

All of these steps are useful to prevent wildlife from being attracted to your property and to help control many kinds of pest problems.

These methods to keep wildlife away could lower the chances that fleas will infest your yard. If the wildlife leaves, hopefully, they’ll take their fleas with them.

  • Take Care of the Garbage Bins and Wood Piles
  • All kinds of animals are perfectly willing to go through your garbage to find food. Raccoons, mice, rats, and other rodents are particularly good at knocking over the cans and finding their way into your trash.

    If your outdoor garbage or dumpster doesn’t have a tight lid, use rope or bungee cords to strap the lid on and keep the bins from falling over. The idea is to make sure that the lid will stay secure even if the bin is knocked over.

    Wood piles attract all kinds of pests, like wildlife and a huge range of bugs, including rats, mice, carpenter ants, termites, spiders, beetles, wasps or bees, or another ant species. If you choose to keep your woodpile, avoid pest problems around it by placing the wood on a metal platform raised at least one foot off the ground and located at least 20-50 feet away from your house. Consider installing a steel screen and covering it with a tarp or something similar to keep bugs, insects, and wildlife from accessing it.

  • Trim Bushes and Trees
  • To avoid attracting wildlife and other pests, all bushes should be at least two feet apart from each other and one foot away from the house siding. Tall tree branches that hang above the roof should be trimmed. However possible for your situation, all bushes and trees should be thinned out enough to discourage wildlife from nesting or sheltering inside them.

  • Clear Away Yard Debris
  • Keeping away wild animals is the second reason why clearing away debris will help reduce fleas in the yard. Anything that doesn’t grow should be put away or thrown out. Less debris means fewer chances of a wildlife visitor, which means fewer opportunities for fleas in your lawn.

  • Clean Away Food
  • Since wild animals are always looking for food, our meals are an easy choice. Rodents and raccoons can smell our dishes from long distances away, so anything edible left outside will attract flea-ridden wildlife like a beacon.

    Pet food is especially important to put away because it usually has many of the nutrients animals need to survive, including balanced proteins. Rats, raccoons, and many other animals will drink from a water bowl or finish off leftovers in a food dish, so be sure to wash out and put away pet food containers.

  • Pet Bedding
  • To get rid of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae cocoons, wash the bedding with hot water and dry on high heat at least once per week, even if you haven’t seen any fleas. But if you know your pet has fleas, perform this washing as often as possible, even every other day. Wash without soap if your pet is sensitive to it.

    You can also dry clean the bedding as often as possible. Just ensure the cleaning products they use are pet-friendly.

    Clean your pet’s favorite resting spots, like crates, kennels, furniture, and areas of the carpet where your pet likes to lay.

  • Pet Toys
  • Wash all pet toys in hot soapy water. Grease-fighting dish soap is the best. Plush toys can either be washed with your pet’s bedding or dry cleaned. If you definitely have fleas, it might be a good idea to get rid of plush toys altogether.

  • Baths
  • Not all pets can be bathed often, but try to do so as often as your pet needs. Consult your veterinarian about flea shampoo for pets that contains permethrin, an insecticide that was developed from a chrysanthemum flower extract.

  • Flea Combs
  • Flea combs, especially those with fine tines, can help you find and get rid of fleas in your pet’s fur. Check your entire pet’s body for fleas, but pay special attention to the areas around the neck and tail.

  • Summer Shaving
  • It might be a good idea to shave long-furred pets during the summer. It will make bathing and checking for fleas much easier, and your pet will be less likely to catch fleas.

  • Checkups and Treatments
  • Numerous products are available for pets that could be effective for your situation. Some are spot-on treatments on the skin, others are sprays or collars. Flea collars can be helpful for some pets, but some collars can cause worse itching or other drawbacks.

    Checkups with your vet will help reduce the likelihood for fleas and flea-borne diseases. Your veterinarian may provide a prescription treatment for fleas, or they may recommend an OTC flea treatment that’s right for your pet.

3. Keeping Fleas Out of the House

Perform these steps along with the other steps above to help get rid of fleas.

Some of these tips might seem like things you are already doing, but these directions have a twist you might never have thought of doing before.

Some people are ashamed to admit that they have fleas because of the common stigma that people who have fleas are sloppy and live in filthy conditions, but that isn’t true. Fleas can infest any location, regardless of how sanitary it is.

This misconception most likely stems from professional advice to combat insects by cleaning your home. Even when your home is perfectly sanitized, cleaning makes fleas uncomfortable and gets rid of eggs, pupae cocoons, and larvae. The purpose of cleaning a home isn’t to make it clean, but to chase away and kill the fleas.

Just remember that most flea infestations need a flea professional to eradicate them completely. All of these tips will help control the flea population, regardless of whether or not you choose to hire a flea professional.

The Vacuum

Prevention: Even if you haven’t seen fleas, vacuum at least once a week in case of any fallen eggs or other juvenile fleas. You can also freeze the vacuum bag overnight before you toss it out, but that might not be needed if you don’t already have fleas.

Treatment: when you know you have fleas, this kind of washing is vital to eradicating fleas for good, even if you call the professionals for help. Vacuuming might get rid of some fleas, but eggs and pupae, and even some larvae could get away. Steam and shampoo will find many eggs and pupae and reach deeper into the carpet.

Steam and shampoo for your carpet will help any standard flea control product sink deeply into the carpet and get rid of any surviving fleas.

OTC Flea Treatments

Prevention: Indoor flea treatments aren’t necessary if you are sure you don’t have a problem with fleas. It’s just a waste of time and resources to treat your carpet for fleas if there aren’t any present. As the old saying goes, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Preventative flea treatments for your pet, on the other hand, are absolutely essential. Talk to your vet about which treatment is best for you.

Treatment: Professional companies will ask you not to use your own chemicals during their treatment programs because the professional product and the OTC chemical could interfere with each other and cause problems.

If you choose to use OTC indoor treatments for fleas, consider one that includes pyrethrins and pyrethroids as the active ingredients, which are developed from chrysanthemum flower extract. Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) aren’t a pesticide but act like insect hormones that will prevent juveniles from growing and stop adult fleas from reproducing. Ingredients like methoprene and pyriproxyfen are sometimes additional active ingredients to offer an extra measure of control.

Always make sure the product is registered with the EPA. The EPA registration number is usually on the label near the list of active ingredients. Some labels may include a CAS number as well. You can always look up an EPA registration number on the EPA website. The professionals should be able to provide their list of products they use upon request.

Diatomaceous Earth

Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is an organic, flour-like powder that is effective against insects like fleas. Although it is very safe for children and pets, it can be harmful to the lungs if inhaled. Very light amounts are all that is necessary. Sprinkle a light amount under furniture, along baseboards, in your pet’s bed, beneath cushions, and along cracks and crevices in wooden floors.

Flea Professionals

If you follow these directions and the fleas keep coming back, it’s time to get to know the professionals. Look into the company thoroughly to make sure you share the same core values, and that they know how to deal with fleas.

You’ll know that when you call Fox, we’ve got your infestation in hand. Our Pest Pros will walk you through the process and make sure that you receive excellent service.

You can sleep with confidence because all our EPA-approved products are working 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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