Flea Control: It’s All in the Details


May 15, 2014

On Feb. 2, more than 111 million viewers tuned in to watch the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Aside from being disappointed by the Broncos lackluster game, many people criticized the performance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ halftime performance. Flea, the Peppers’ energetic bass player confirmed he and guitar player Josh Klinghoffer mimed their performances to a prerecorded track during their brief onstage appearance. The cat was out of the bag when fans noticed a single tiny detail that gave away the secret: The guitars played onstage weren’t plugged in.

Sometimes the difference between a great performance and regrettable one depends on attention to detail. Like Flea’s bass guitar mishap, the attention a technician pays to details of a flea treatment can mean the difference between success and failure.

Client education and communication are key features in a flea management program. The vast majority of flea eggs and subsequent larvae will be located where pets spend time lounging and sleeping. Unlike other ectoparasites, such as bed bugs and lice, fleas don’t cement their eggs to surfaces, so they easily fall off the animal. Therefore, the volume of eggs and developing larvae at a location will be proportionate to the time the animal spends in the area. Focusing detailed treatment methods there is essential to control them. Sometimes, the location where an animal spends time isn’t the most obvious place to treat. Cats lounging under furniture or dogs sleeping underneath a back porch can provide clues for technicians. Asking clients where their animals spend time can expedite the inspection process.

Another flea control detail that might be overlooked by pest management professionals (PMPs) is the need for vacuuming carpets after treatment. Daily vacuuming following an application encourages adult fleas to emerge from their cocoons in search of a host. Pre-emergent adult fleas are stimulated by vibrations and movement in their environment. Vacuuming stimulates fleas to exit their cocoons and pick up a dose of residual insecticide that has been applied to carpets or other surfaces. This detail is especially important in unoccupied rooms or vacant buildings. Without the stimulation of the vacuum or frequent foot traffic, fleas will stay inside their cocoons for as long as four months waiting for a bloodmeal to arrive, easily outlasting the residual life of most products technicians apply. Educating the customer about this could mean the difference between success and failure.

Take a lesson from Flea: Pay attention to detail, and never try to fake it in front of 111 million customers.

You can reach Dr. Fredericks, technical director for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), at jfredericks@pestworld.org.

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