Flea Season Starts Again

The few calls and samples alreadyreceived at the ISU Insect Diagnostic Clinic indicate our typicallate summer flea season has already started, though it is still too early to tell how bad the fleas will be this year. Through the late 1980s we saw increasingly severe flea problems almost annually. Fortunately, that trend did not continue in the early 1990s and flea populations have been highly variable from year to year and place to place.

What follows is an update of the Horticulture and Home Pest Newsletter article that appeared last year. Now is time to reviewthe basic three-step control procedure used for relief from these nasty blood suckers.

Flea control can be very frustrating and at times somewhat discouraging. In order to effectively eliminate a flea problem, a step-wise program needs to be implemented. The three steps to effective flea management are treatment of infested pets, vacuuming and cleaning of infested premises and spraying or dusting infested premises.

Since most flea problems originate from an infested cat or dog, elimination of fleas from the pets is the first and most important step. Insecticides approved for direct application to pets as dips, dusts, sprays, or shampoos are available at mostdiscount stores. In addition, most veterinarians will also provide flea control services for your pet.

Once the pet has been treated, efforts should then focus on the indoor premises. Particular attention should be paid to areas of the home where the pet sleeps or spends the majority of its time. Blankets or rugs that may be used as pet bedding should be discarded or laundered in hot, soapy water. All carpeted areas and upholstered furniture should be thoroughly vacuumed and the sweeper bag contents discarded.

If the flea infestation is light, frequent and thorough vacuuming may eventually eliminate the problem. Moderate to heavy infestations, however, will usually necessitate the application ofa residual insecticide to carpets, baseboards, cracks and crevices,and other areas where fleas may be present. A number of ready-to-use products containing active ingredients such as chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and permethrin can be purchased at most discount and hardware stores. Good results have been achieved using products that contain a contact insecticide along with the insect growth regulator methoprene. Spray treatment can be performed by a professional pest control operator if the homeowner so desires. Flea traps using light bulbs and sticky paper do capture some fleas but it is unclear if they can eliminate an infestation.

Finally, outdoor areas that remain relatively moist and protected from direct sunlight can provide adequate conditions for flea development. If needed or desired, application of Dursban or diazinon sprays to these outdoor areas can provide control and minimize the possibility of reinfestation.

This article originally appeared in the August 25, 1993 issue, p. 142.


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