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Prevent Fleas on Your Property

The warmest months of the year in Chicagoland bring flea season along with it. That means it’s time to be prepared for the itching they cause for your pet, the diseases they can carry, and the distress an infestation can cause any homeowner.

These are just a few tips that will help prevent flea infestations in your Chicagoland home. Learn self-defense against fleas to enjoy a more flea-free summer this year

How to Identify Fleas

Adult fleas are typically between 1/16 and 1/8 inch long, which is pretty tiny but still large enough to see without a microscope. Their bodies are thin enough to squeeze between the hairs of a host. Fleas range in color from brown or tan to dark reddish-brown.

Flea eggs are difficult to spot, as the tiny white flecks can be mistaken for dandruff or oval grains of salt.

After hatching from the egg, the white, wormlike flea larvae eat dried blood adult fleas leave behind after feeding on blood — gross!

Eventually, the flea larvae look for a good hiding spot to spin a cocoon and pupate into adults. Before emerging, a newly developed adult will stay dormant — sometimes for months — until conditions are right and it senses a host nearby.

Flea life cycles can take place almost anywhere, like your backyard or your living room. Fleas try to stay in low-traffic areas, like under furniture or in cushions. Since the flea life cycle only takes about 15-20 days to go from egg to adult, it’s important to interrupt that cycle quickly to end an infestation.

3 Methods to Get Rid of Fleas — DIY Flea Control

Your efforts to prevent fleas can go a long way to preventing the problems fleas cause, including flea allergy dermatitis on your pet’s skin, and other diseases like tapeworm, Cat Scratch Disease, Flea-borne Typhus, and, though not as common, the bubonic plague.

Flea prevention has to take adults and juveniles into account. According to estimations, only about 5% of the flea population are adults, and the other 95% are eggs, larvae, and pupae on the ground. This means all your efforts to control fleas have to target both adult and juvenile fleas and be rigorous enough to catch the tiniest eggs and the most well-hidden pupae cocoons.

The most common places fleas like to stick around are in the grass, on pets, and in your carpet. The following tips will help you target these areas and do what you must to fight them off.

1. Yard Upkeep

Most of the time, fleas will set up shop on your lawn before they make their way into the house and on the carpet. Fleas won’t want to stick around if you make your property as uncomfortable for them as possible, though. Follow these directions to help your efforts for flea treatment and prevention.

Common Flea Hangouts

Fleas thrive in shady, humid, warm places away from the hot sun. Spots where your cat or dog rests will likely attract fleas as well. While you maintain other areas of the yard, take special care of these problem locations.

Yardwork for Flea Prevention

  • Keep the Grass Short
  • While long grass traps humidity, creates shade, and provides convenient flea hiding places, short grass exposes fleas to the elements and predators like birds.

    If you have already found fleas in the grass, bag the clippings instead of composting them after mowing. Dispose of the bag to keep the fleas from getting out and causing more infestation problems.

  • Clear Away Debris
  • This step is important for more than one reason, more of which we’ll discuss below. One reason to clear away debris is that fleas are small enough to use almost any object for shelter. Gather and dispose of fallen fruit, branches, and leaves, and remove yard equipment, lawn toys, hardware, parked vehicles and trailers, and all other items.

  • Outdoor OTC Flea Treatments
  • Plenty of flea products will help control flea infestations in the yard. Always check whether the product is EPA-approved, and always read the label thoroughly and follow the usage directions properly.

  • What About Beneficial Nematodes?
  • If you don’t want to use standard flea control products, beneficial nematodes may be something to consider.

    Beneficial nematodes are a kind of microscopic roundworm that preys only on insects like fleas. In theory, they should be able to get rid of flea problems within a couple of months after being introduced to your yard. Research suggests that they don’t cause problems for humans, pets, or plants.

    Be cautious about this option. Talk to your local gardening center about nematodes and whether they could be right for you in your situation. Before you make a purchase, make sure you are completely certain that you got the right type of nematodes because other kinds of roundworms can be a serious hazard, either for you, your pets, or your plants.

    Keep in mind that standard flea treatments for outdoors are likely to kill nematodes as well as fleas, so you may have to choose between the two methods.

Keep Wildlife Away

Fleas often find their way onto your yard by hitching a ride onto wildlife like opossums, feral cats or dogs, rats or mice, squirrels, and raccoons. While looking for food or shelter, an animal infested with fleas could unwittingly drop eggs or live fleas on your grass.

Effective efforts to keep away wildlife could reduce the likelihood of a flea infestation in your yard. Without an incentive to stick around, wild animals will most likely leave and, hopefully, take their fleas with them.

  • Trim Tall Shrubs and Trees
  • Tree branches or bushes that could help an animal climb on your roof can be a big problem. As appropriate, keep all the plants on your property short and thin enough to keep wildlife from sheltering in them.

  • Care for Garbage Cans and Wood Piles
  • Animals like rodents and raccoons see garbage as a source of food and are likely to try to knock it over and tear off the lid. Ideally, your bins should have a tight lid, but you can also use rope or bungee cords to secure the lid and prevent it from being knocked over. Even if the animals manage to knock it down, the lid should stay firmly shut.

    Wood piles are a magnet for all sorts of problems with both wildlife and bugs. If you choose to have a woodpile, keep it on a platform raised at least 1 foot off the ground and placed at least 20-50 feet away from your home. If possible, cover the woodpile to protect it from pests.

  • Remove Yard Debris
  • Wildlife is the second reason why it’s a good idea to remove debris around the yard. Wild animals will take advantage of fallen fruits, vegetables, leaves, branches, and other debris as food or shelter.

    It’s essential to remove everything from the yard, including vehicles, old refrigerators, yard equipment, hardware, old tires, trailers, and all other debris.

    Less debris means fewer visits from wildlife, which means smaller changes for fleas to get in the yard.

  • Never Leave Food Outside
  • Since animals love our food as much as we do, and they can smell it from long distances away, anything edible in the yard is like a beacon for flea-ridden wildlife. Wildlife especially love pet food because it usually contains all the nutrients needed for survival, including proteins. Rats, raccoons, and similar animals aren’t embarrassed about finishing off your pet’s food or water dish, so take them inside at night.

    After a party in the back yard, don’t be tempted to think that the animals will “take care” of any scraps you might have missed during cleanup. As innocent as the thought might seem, the risks it can bring to your home aren’t worth it.

  • Set Up Motion-detection Sprinklers
  • Automatic sprinkler systems could be an effective way to deter wildlife invaders, including bold animals like raccoons. Many of these systems are fairly easy to use. Simply attach a hose, select the range you want to protect, and let the sprinkler do the work.

2. Treat and Prevent Fleas on Your Pets

These items can help keep your pet healthy and prevent flea problems. If you have seen fleas on your pet, apply these tips more frequently, as appropriate. Talk to your veterinarian to resolve specific questions and concerns.

  • Wash Your Pet’s Bedding and Toys
  • When they’re on your pet, fleas drop eggs and larvae in your pet’s bedding where they can form into pupae that spin protective cocoons. Get rid of any juvenile fleas by washing bedding with hot water and drying on high heat at least once every week. If you’ve seen fleas on your pet, do this more frequently — every other day if possible. Try washing without soap if your pet is sensitive to cleaning chemicals.

    Alternatively, you can also consider taking the bedding to be dry cleaned. Just make sure the cleaning products they use are pet-friendly.

    Wash other places your pet likes to rest, including crates, kennels, furniture, and other places your pet hangs out.

    Wash all your pet’s toys in hot water with grease-fighting dish soap, and rinse thoroughly to make sure no soap is left. If your pet has any plush toys, it may be a good idea to wash them with the bedding or dry clean them. Otherwise, you might consider getting rid of plush toys altogether.

  • Bathe Your Pet Regularly
  • Some pets can’t be bathed often, so bathe your pet as often as they need. Talk to your veterinarian about flea shampoo for pets that contain permethrin, which was developed from a naturally-occurring pesticide in chrysanthemum flowers.

  • Flea combs
  • Flea combs are specifically designed to help you find fleas in your pet’s fur, and those with finer tines tend to be more effective. Run the comb all over your pet’s body, especially near the neck and around the tail.

  • Pet Shaving for the Summer
  • Shorter fur during the summer may reduce your pet’s chances of catching fleas. It will make it easier for you to spot fleas as well as make bathing and combing for fleas less difficult.

  • Vet Checkups and OTC Flea Treatments for Pets
  • Many flea treatment products for pets could be right for your pet and your situation. Some treatments are taken orally, as drops on the skin, or as sprays. Some flea collars are effective as well, but others could cause irritation and other complications.

    Especially if you are in an area that is at high risk of flea infestations, talk to your veterinarian about flea treatments that will work best for your pet. The vet may recommend a prescription-strength medication that works better for your situation.

3. Anti-Flea Measures For Your Home

In addition to the other items, these things will help prevent and treat a flea infestation.

Keep in mind that flea infestations are often impossible to completely eradicate without calling the professionals.

Flea Prevention

Many of these housekeeping tips might be something you’re already doing, but these tips also have a twist to them that you might not have thought to do before. These steps are intended prevention before fleas come into the house and could help stave off a major infestation.

Some people are embarrassed to think that they have fleas, but just remember that your home isn’t infested because it’s dirty. In order to find food and shelter, fleas will infest even the cleanest, most sanitary places they can find. The act of cleaning will drive them out of their hiding spots and make your home harder for them to live in.

  • Vacuum Regularly
  • At least once a week, vacuum the carpet for any fallen flea eggs, pupae, or larvae. Freeze the vacuum’s contents afterward overnight by placing it in a sealed plastic freezer bag.

  • Wash Your Bedding
  • In addition to washing your pet’s bedding at least once a week, it’s also important to wash your own using hot water and dry everything on high heat

  • Perform Your Own Flea Inspection
  • While you are cleaning, check common places they might be hiding, even if you think you don’t have fleas. Usual hiding places include along the baseboards, under furniture, in upholstery, on or under cushions, in pet bedding, and all the areas your pet rests.

    Common signs of fleas include live fleas, flea larvae, and unusual pet scratching. You could also see eggs and pupae cocoons, but these are more difficult to find.

Responding to a Flea Infestation

Once you’ve seen fleas in the house, these things will help you keep the population under control. These steps involve deep cleanings at least 2 times a week, but 4 times per week is even better.

Again, adult fleas only represent about 5% of the total population, so if you see 10 fleas in the house, there could be around 200 eggs, pupae, and larvae already developing in the carpet.

Just remember that almost all flea infestations require a call to the professionals to completely get rid of them. Research to find a reliable company that provides excellent service. Even when you call the professionals, these housekeeping tips will help you get rid of fleas. Fox’s Pest Pros will provide you with tips specific to your situation that will aid the treatment process.

Extensive Vacuum Cleaning

The vacuum is your best tool against fleas. Vacuuming thoroughly 3-4 times a week for fleas is crucial when you have an infestation, and be sure to freeze the vacuum contents before disposal.

Move furniture, remove cushions, and thoroughly vacuum the upholstery. Vacuum your mattress as well, including the mattress lining, the bed frame, and other cracks and gaps.

Pay particular attention to places your pet rests. Fleas typically don’t like high-traffic areas and are small enough to fit in tiny spaces, so be especially thorough.

Wash the Carpet with Steam and Shampoo

Although vacuuming can get rid of most juvenile and adult fleas, most pupae and many eggs will most likely escape the vacuum. Pupae and eggs aren’t likely to survive thorough carpet steaming and shampooing.

This step will help flea treatment products to sink deeply into the carpet and kill anything the heat and soap missed.

OTC Indoor Flea Treatments

Most professional companies will ask you not to use your own chemicals during their treatment programs because store-bought treatments can interfere with the company’s professional product.

Even if you decide not to call the professionals for help, there are plenty of products out there that can help you fight fleas on your own. Effective over-the-counter options may include ingredients like pyrethrins and pyrethroids, which are developed from a natural pesticide in chrysanthemum flower extracts. Insect growth regulators (IGRs) prevent eggs from hatching, halt larvae development, and stop adult fleas from reproducing. Methoprene and pyriproxyfen are IGRs that act like insect hormones and are considered very safe.

Always read the product label to make sure it’s registered with the EPA. The registration number will be located on the label, usually next to the list of active ingredients. Some may also include a CAS number in addition to the registration number.

You can look up an EPA registration number for more information about the pesticide.

Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a flour-like powder that is organic and very effective against insects, including fleas. This natural product can be very damaging to the lungs if inhaled, so use it according to the label’s usage direction. Light sprinkles are all that’s necessary, instead of heavy piles.

Apply a light amount of Diatomaceous Earth under furniture, along the baseboards, in your pet’s bed, beneath cushions, and into cracks and crevices in wooden floors.

When to Call the Professionals

After you’ve followed all these steps and found nothing that works, the professionals are here to help.

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 products 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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