Tips and Tricks: Fleas and Ticks


March 1, 2013

Environmental Science, a Division of Bayer CropScience, LP

By Joe Barile, Technical Services Support

Pest management professionals (PMPs) have recently been reporting increases in service requests for flea and tick management. Although the treatment processes for both pests are individually complex, PMPs must understand their commonality as blood-feeding parasites.

These public health pests must have access to suitable hosts to complete their life cycles and successfully reproduce. Although humans may be bitten (and infected by disease-carrying pests), they generally are not suitable hosts for fleas — and are not preferred hosts for ticks. PMPs should invest time in learning the biology and behavior of these pests, in addition to the association between the parasite and the preferred hosts that occur in, or around structures.

Fleas: Adult fleas require access to warm-blooded animals. On these hosts, adult male fleas live and mate, while the females oviposit. Humans are not suitable hosts for the most common flea (the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis), which causes structural infestation. Suitable hosts around structures include wild mammals; squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and skunks; commensal rodents; and most importantly, domestic dogs and cats. Because of the close proximity pets have to humans, flea infestations can quickly amplify.

Ticks: Ticks have a complex life cycle that might take years to complete. Immature ticks predominantly seek out small wild mammals such as field/deer mice, wood rats, chipmunks and ground squirrels. Adult ticks will seek (quest) out larger mammals, including deer, raccoons, skunks and opossums.

PMPs recognize that management of these pests begins where the pest/host exposure exists, whether directly on the host or in the environment where the pests find the hosts.

For fleas and ticks, management must begin with on-animal control. Infested wild animals must be excluded and/or eliminated. For pets, professional therapies must be prescribed and maintained for the structural infestation to be eliminated.

To eliminate environmental activity (both indoors and outdoors), management must be brought to where the pest and host interact. For fleas, this includes the indoor environment. For ticks, this is usually the natural outdoor habitat where immature ticks and small, wild mammals co-habit.

Modern formulations of insecticides  — and for ticks, acaracides — are effective when used according to label directions. PMPs must exercise care due to the sensitivity of treatment sites and exposure to non-targets (children and pets). Follow rate directions, site use patterns and re-entry requirements as directed on the label.

Rockwell Labs Ltd

By Dr. Cisse Spragins, Founder and CEO

While fleas and ticks can both be associated with pets, that isn’t necessarily the case in all structural pest control situations. Ticks are most commonly a problem outdoors, particularly around homes in wooded areas — regardless of whether the family has pets. Because certain ticks can carry Lyme disease, control can be particularly important.

Minimizing harborage by removing brush and overgrowth near structures can help, but certain areas are prone to infestation and will need to be sprayed. One of the most effective treatments is to spray with appropriately labeled, microencapsulated lambda-cyhalothrin. The residual should be mixed per the label. Areas frequented by pets, such as kennels and yards, should be treated with a broad fan spray. Vegetation, brush, rock walls, wood piles and other harborage areas should also be treated. Keep in mind that treatment should cover entire areas, not just spots. Spray must be dry before reintroducing pets and people to the area. Retreatments may be necessary to gain lasting control.

Fleas can be introduced to yards from wild animals, but most commonly occur with pets. They will likely be a problem indoors as well if the pets come inside. Esfenvalerate is one of the most effective active ingredients against fleas that still has broadcast carpet spray applications on the label. Encapsulated (EC) and microcap formulas are available for both indoor carpet spray and also for spraying yards. It’s recommended to blend an insect growth regulator (IGR) with the product to control immature stages that will emerge later.

Instruct homeowners to vacuum prior to treatment, as the vibration will encourage pupation. Again, it is important to thoroughly treat all pet areas, harborage areas, yards, etc., and to let the spray dry before pets and people are reintroduced to the area. For extended residual protection around pet beds and under seat cushions, cracks and crevices, edges of carpets and other areas where it won’t be disturbed, silica-based dust is an excellent option. If pets are present, when treating for fleas or ticks, they should be treated at the same time with a registered on-animal product to ensure that treated areas aren’t rapidly reinfested.

Central Life Sciences

By Doug VanGundy, Senior Director, Research and Development

Pet owners dislike fleas as much as their pets do. Fleas can be harmful to pets, causing scratching, fur loss, tapeworms and bites that lead to anemia and trips to the vet. Fleas attack a wide variety of warm-blooded vertebrates — including humans, where their bites cause intense skin irritation. Flea control is a challenge, but pet owners and the public alike can rely on pest management professionals (PMPs) to recommend the best management strategies and product solutions.

Pre-adult fleas make up 95 percent of the total flea population. Flea eggs hatch and larvae develop in the nap of carpet, furniture, pet bedding and even the cracks in hardwood floors. When the larvae pupate and emerge as adults, the lifecycle continues, creating further frustrations for both people and animals.

PMPs must stress to customers how important it is for them to properly prepare before flea treatment. The outcome of treatment is dependent on the prep work customers do before any flea products are applied. If they are diligent with the following, the likelihood of success increases:
■ Remove loose items from floors.
■ Vacuum all areas of the home.
■ Thoroughly mop all tile and wood floors.
■ Wash all pet bedding in hot water.
■ Bathe pets.
■ Cover fish tanks and unplug pumps.
■ Keep lawns mowed.
■ Clear outside areas of clutter.

Once the customer prep work is completed, PMPs can step in with product solutions. Many flea control products contain an insect growth regulator (IGR), and are available in a variety of formulations to fit customer needs.

Fleas are tough, but proper preparation and thorough treatment with effective products are the keys to beating them.

Syngenta Professional Pest Management

By Dr. ElRay Roper, Senior Technical Representative

Fleas and ticks are not only a nuisance to your customers and their pets, but they can also pose serious health risks. Because fleas and ticks feed on the blood of humans, dogs, cats and other animals, they can cause irritation to the skin and can transfer disease. Below are tips to keep your customers and their beloved pets free of fleas and ticks — and of the risks that accompany them.

■ Identify the pest. There are different kinds and fleas and ticks, and each needs to be controlled in a specific way. To develop a sound control strategy, identification is essential.
■ Find the original source. The true source of these pests must also be determined, once they are correctly identified. Fleas typically do not originate
from the location where people notice them. Without finding the original source,
it will be difficult to provide long-term control.
■ Keep it clean. Ensure that the residence or building you are servicing has been thoroughly vacuumed and steam cleaned, which will help control the pests and remove the dust and dirt they leave behind.
■ Vets know best. Encourage your customers to work with their veterinarian to determine the best treatment for their pets. This treatment can prevent their furry friends from becoming hosts to fleas and ticks.
■ Control pests at all stages. If a high population of fleas and ticks is present, chemical control measures will be needed. A combination treatment of an appropriately labeled insecticide and insect growth regulator (IGR) will help control fleas and ticks at all stages of life, and interfere with their reproductive cycle.
For homeowners, dogs and cats are welcome additions to their family, but not the fleas and ticks that might live alongside them. By using a combination of these strategies, you’ll be able to help prevent and eliminate the pesky problem of fleas and ticks.

FMC Professional Solutions

By Dr. Dina Richman, Product Development Manager

Let’s hope the 2013 tick population isn’t as bad as last year — but just in case, now is a good time to brush up on tick biology and control:

Tick facts

Ticks have four life stages:  egg, larva, nymph and adult. Eggs develop into larvae, which will crawl onto a host animal and begin feeding on its blood. After the larva is engorged, it drops off the animal and emerges as a nymph in a few weeks. The nymph repeats the process — adult ticks repeat the process, as well.

When not attached to a host, ticks spend most of their lives in the environment, living under leaves or rocks, inside rodent burrows or within crevices. Adult female ticks can lay clusters of hundreds, or even thousands of eggs in protected cracks and crevices.

Tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, pose serious health threats to humans. More than 20,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year in the U.S., with most in the Northeast and upper Midwest.

Control options
In treating a tick infestation, treatment time is critical as nymphs are most abundant from June to August, when people frequently are outdoors enjoying their yards. Mid-May to early June is optimal for treatments, although last year’s warm winter meant some pest management professionals (PMPs) were treating as early as April. In areas where tick and/or disease prevalence is high, PMPs should consider treating in the fall as well, targeting questing ticks.

If ticks have already been found on the property, it is best to treat the entire yard with a spray to knock down the infestation. Follow that with a long residual granule application to prevent reinfestation. Be sure to treat buffer areas next to woods, and spray fences and building siding where ticks are known to hide. If treating in the fall, also target potential overwintering sites such as under siding and landscaping. Note that most tick products are labeled for fleas as well.

For indoor tick control, try a broad label liquid insecticide that is approved for use in and around residential and commercial structures.

Check yourself
Last but not least, don’t forget about you! Apply tick repellents to clothing (preferably long pants and long-sleeved shirts), and wear light colored clothing to make inspection easier.

Nisus Corp.

By Ron Schwalb, A.C.E., National Technical Manager

Fleas and ticks are again a growing concern in residential structures. In the past few years, fleas seem to be making a strong comeback in many parts of the country. Pest management professionals (PMPs) are getting more calls for control of this pest.

A thorough and integrated pest management (IPM) program is essential for flea control. An initial inspection is required to locate hot spots in the structure where flea populations can propagate. Of course, we know the adult fleas are on the animal, but we need to determine the common and “uncommon” areas where the flea can complete its life cycle.

Inspect areas where the animal normally spends most of its time resting, sleeping or just plain sitting, such as on the floor at the foot of a bed, in front of a door or window, on a favorite couch or chair, or in the pet bed. This is where the eggs will drop off the animal from the adult flea and hatch into larvae. The undigested blood will also drop from the adult to feed the larvae until they pupate. This is why a good inspection is so important.

Control measures include a thorough vacuuming of carpet and all areas where the animal spends time. Washing, cleaning or discarding pet beds is also important. Application of a contact insecticide with an insect growth regulator (IGR) is usually recommended for indoor control. Outdoor applications may be made to yard areas, with an insecticide labeled for that application. The use of on-animal products is also recommended, especially if the animal can travel out of treated areas. This will help prevent callbacks.

Tick management includes first identifying the tick species, especially if tick populations are found moving inside the structure, to determine whether treatment is required indoors (for the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, for example). Most tick populations will develop outdoors, so good yard maintenance and treating the outdoor area with an insecticide labeled for that application will help control tick populations. There are some on-animal products available that can be used, especially if the pet travels outside the treated area.

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