By: Tom Nishimura
Once among the top reasons for calls to pest management professionals (PMPs), flea problems appeared to decline significantly toward the end of the 20th century. With improved flea control products, and new on-animal products introduced, homeowners began relying more on veterinarians than PMPs for flea control.
Compared to just a few years ago, however, flea business is up throughout the United States. Homeowner complacency in treating their pets and an increase in urbanization are possible factors in flea resurgence. Whatever the cause, fleas are a problem no PMP should be ill-prepared to control. Below are some tips to get you started:
1. Identify the species. Knowing which flea species you’re dealing with is necessary to develop an effective control strategy.
2. Determine and address the source. Common sources include house pets, pest animals, feral cats or dogs, and former occupants with flea-infested pets.
3. Identify larval development sites. These areas include pet resting or play spaces.
4. Assess sensitive situations and involve the homeowner. Take note of floor finishes, sensitive fabrics and sensitive pet areas, and communicate other preparations the homeowner should make prior to treatment.
5. Implement non-chemical controls. Vacuuming should include all floor surfaces, resting areas — including furniture, pet bedding and any other host — and associated articles that are not going to be laundered or discarded. Concrete floors in basements or garages where pets spend time should be vacuumed, too. These areas are often overlooked.
6. Apply insecticides. Factors to consider when choosing the right combination of flea control products include the need for quick knockdown, residual control, homeowner convenience and application time and labor.
7. Follow up with your customers. Several days to a week after treatment, some adult fleas emerge from their protective cocoon. A follow-up treatment with a contact insecticide might be necessary to treat these emerging adults.
When dealing with ticks, it’s important to use a product that provides residual control. This is because adult ticks can survive for months without feeding.
Depending on the species (more than 80 have been identified), adult female ticks can lay clusters of hundreds or thousands of eggs in protected cracks and crevices. These eggs soon develop into larvae, which will crawl onto a host animal and begin feeding on its blood. When the larva is fully engorged, it drops off the animal and, several weeks later, emerges as a nymph. The nymph repeats the process, and adult ticks repeat the process again.
Thorough residual surface applications should be made to structure perimeters and to areas on property most likely to harbor ticks. These harborages usually include foundation plantings, dense garden beds, bushes, weedy areas, leaf litter or debris, tall grass areas, foundations and fences. If animal hosts are present, treat places where they may encounter ticks as they rest or roam.