The Flea Circus in Your Home

You ever wonder how a flea in a flea circus is trained? How do they get those little insects to jump around and seemingly do tricks in a tiny little area without jumping up and out of there? Well, the ‘trainer’ simply puts a glass bowl over the fleas and conditions them to only jump so far. I guess you’d stop jumping as high as you could too if you kept hitting your head against an invisible wall. Eventually you’d only jump just so far and become so conditioned to your limits that even when the barrier was lifted you would still stay in your boundary.

When it comes to flea control many are still bound by years of limits, ideas and methods. Lets see if we can get you ‘past’ your limits and enjoy some flea free living.

Female fleas can lay up to 400 eggs per year;

Royalty of long ago use to wear full length fur coats not as a sign of status but as an attempt to keep the fleas off their skin;

The flea on the rat was the vector of “Black Death” (bubonic plague) which killed millions of people, not the rat itself;

Fleas can jump 17 inches vertically, the equivalent of a man jumping a sky scraper;

Flea pupae can remain dormant for up to two years only to emerge when conditions are ripe;

Fleas cause tapeworm;

Flea dips and shampoos are great for quick relief but they reduce the animals natural oils on the skin which in turn limits the effectiveness of treatments such as Advantage. Skin oils will build back up after a couple of days and at that time such treatments can be given for maximum effectiveness;

Flea Control Questions

For as long as there have been fleas, man has devised many ways to rid himself of the potentially deadly pest. Let’s begin our control program with a couple of questions. First what type of animal do you have? Or do you have any pets at all? With most pests this would not matter but when trying to rid yourself of fleas this can be paramount. If your answer was a dog then your control techniques will differ of that if you said a cat. You see flea eggs, larvae and pupae and indeed the adult fleas themselves will be centered around where they can get food. Dogs may sleep on the floor, maybe your couch, front porch, outside in a dog house, etc. However your cat may spend long afternoons snoozing on top of your dresser or on top of a kitchen counter top. Our cat disappears for days at a time under our bed up in the framework through a hole she created in the mattress backing. All of these areas need to be looked at for sure since thoroughness is a big part of any flea control program but you could eliminate treatment of the dresser tops if all you have is a 8 pound Schnauzer. Unless he’s quite the acrobat.

If you said no pets then you’ll need to put on the detective hat. Perhaps you have a mouse living behind the refrigerator that you haven’t got around to taking care of yet. Maybe you have squirrels in the attic but more than likely it’s that your home was recently visited by a neighbor and his dog or pet. Maybe a relative that came to visit with ‘Fluffy’ the cat that travels with them everywhere they go. Answering these questions FIRST will go a long way into dealing with ridding your home of fleas. Each household is different and no set program works in each situation.

Fight Back

Whether it’s kitty cats or big bruiser the Saint Bernard you should treat your animal first. There are many products on the marketplace that advertise flea free pets. From ticks and fleas to tape and heart worm.

As a Pest Control Technician it’s not my place or expertise to recommend any of them. However I can tell you what I don’t endorse. Off brand knock-offs that are 1/2 price or the dreaded double doses. snake oil salesman pestcemeterySuch treatments only double the chances of bad things happening to your pets. Not seeking your veterinarians advice may mean you may save a few bucks but it’s never a good idea. They are Doctors and know far more than you and I about your pets health and well being.

Well you get the idea but the point is you must treat your animal first or even better the same day as your home and or yard is being treated. Many pest companies (including mine) will not even take the work unless you agree to having your pets treated. Years of call backs and unhappy customers don’t lie. Fleas infest for a reason and that reason must be dealt with just as much as the places they will be hopping around. If you said no pets this rule still applies. If it’s mice in the home or squirrels in the attic you must rid your home of this source. This may take a professional but no matter it’s still essential because if the source is not dealt with the fleas will keep returning.

Next you need to prepare for the treatment. All surfaces where pets frequent need to be vacuumed, dusted, wiped down or laundered. You’ll have more work with a cat infestation. ahem, I mean having a lovely cat for a pet. Remember they can go just about anywhere and therefore so can the flea.

Where to Treat

Well the most obvious places to apply flea products is the carpet. Flea bodies are designed to move quite effectively in the thick hair of animals. Carpets are much the same. It provides good protection and ample chances that ‘Fluffy’ will be frequenting by offering up a ‘blood meal’ on a regular basis. Furniture is another good spot. Animals love the ‘Lazy Boy’ as much as you do. Not only will adult fleas be found reclining watching the game but flea eggs are often laid on the host but are not cemented in or attached so they roll off and will land on the cushion and end up down the edges under the padding and hatch later. Any favorite spot of your pets will be a place to pay special attention. Remember what we said about the difference between cats and dogs. Darkened areas such as under the edges of any throw rugs or under the first few inches of a couch, chair, bed etc. This is because flea larvae tend to wriggle to these darker areas for protection and seclusion. There they gather debris such as pet hair and begin to pupate. As a pupae they will lay in this protected area until they emerge a adult flea. A hungry adult flea.

We haven’t even begun to explore the outside yet. This is a major key if you have outside pets and may require a pest control company unless of course you have say a 100 gallon spray rig handy. Do it yourself or big box stores do sell bottles of ready to spray mixes for the lawns that simply hook to your garden hose if you don’t have a professional rig. Make sure to treat dog runs or paths your pets frequent and shady areas for reasons described above. Any dog houses or areas where the animals lay i.e.; under your work shed or in a hole dug near the side of the house. If the neighbors yard is the source of your infestation this makes it especially difficult. Physical barriers such as privacy fences may provide a little relief but I doubt much. If you are in good standing with your neighbor perhaps you can coordinate treating both yards at the same time. If not you’ll need to treat the area more frequently and perhaps try to limit your pets from getting to close to the property line until things have calmed down.

What to Use

There are a lot of  sprays that can be used to treat for fleas. The most important ingredient you need to look for however is ‘methroprene’. Its most common trade name is pre-cor. Fleas have a complete metamorphosis-egg,larva,pupae and adult. Pre cor cuts this life cycle and doesn’t allow for it’s completion. You can buy this product separately and add it to an adulticide or it can come pre package combing the igr( integrated growth regulator) and the chemical that will kill adults too.

Ready made flea mix

This usually comes in an aerosol form. Look for Pre Cor 2000 or 2000 plus as well as Ultracide in easy to use 16 ounce cans. I find this to be the quickest and most convenient to home owners. Mixing liquids is fine and just as effective but you need to be careful to stay off treated areas until dry. The aerosol allows for furniture treatment, carpets, flooring, etc. and dries very quickly. Most cans of this spray are held upside down to dispense so wear a glove when treating because your finger tip gets wet from the tip.

Treatment tips

Working backwards out of a room move briskly and make sure to treat under furniture as described above. Remove couch cushions,  and treat seams especially well. Close the doors as you go and move from room to room until getting to the exit. Any toys left on the floor or pet dishes that didn’t get picked up need to be washed thoroughly. If you are treated with a liquid sprayer simply follow these same rules. Most of the products available adhere to the surfaces sprayed so I would vacuum vigorously and often once the treatment has dried. This will get the fleas hopping and into more of the treatment thus dying quicker.
Some areas you may not think of but are very important; Your car, you took ‘Fluffy’ to the vet right? You may have a source of fleas right there with you in the mini-van and it causes re-infestation even if you’ve done everything else correctly. Window sills is another favorite spot of cats and many times a simple dusting or swipe with a damp cloth will pick up fallen flea eggs. Attics, if indeed you had squirrels or birds in the attic you’ll need to treat for the fleas they left behind. Usually this requires fogging and again a certified pest control professional is your best bet.

There are probably many more areas that could be listed whether your property is 1/4 acre or a 50 acre horse farm. Start with your basic questions and you’ll begin to see the areas needing treatment and the areas that could do without. You must be thorough when treating for fleas and a little bit of patients is needed for the treatment to work. So you now have some better idea on how to treat for fleas.

Now all you have to do is Hop To It!

 

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About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • An exceptionally well-written article.

    I do not have any pets or fleas but this article was recommended to me by a friend.

    Again, very well-written.

    Lynne

  • An exceptionally well-written article.

    I do not have any pets or fleas but this article was recommended to me by a friend.

    Again, very well-written.

    Lynne

  • admin

    Thanks Lynne,

    If you ever are unfortunate enough to experience a flea infestation hopefully this will help.

    Thanks for reading and the kind words.

    The Bug Doctor

  • wendy

    good afternoon, You list the Precor as a spray that can be used but is there something that could be poured into a sprayer and applied? I have a vacant house with no worries for animals or humans and I would simply apply and close up the house and leave. I have read a lot today as I have a rental house that was abused and now the place is infested with fleas. there is no concern for anything in the home as its empty. ANY help would be most appreciated.

  • Pre cor comes in a concentrate bottle that can be mixed with your tank sprayer as well as in an aerosol… It’s about 15$ an ounce and an ounce will do one gallon.