Microclimate’s role in flea control


November 13, 2019



The difference between what customers “want” in an outdoor flea treatment and what they “need” can be big. Outdoor flea treatments have a distinct place as part of an integrated flea management program.

Pest management professionals (PMP), however, face a challenge when it comes to educating the client about the difference between their wants and needs — and it all
comes down to small variances in microclimate.

Customers need a way to protect their pets and homes from reinfestation. Because the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), the most common flea found on cats and dogs in the United States, is commonly found on backyard wildlife species like raccoons, foxes, opossums and skunks, there is a good chance that cat flea eggs may be left behind by visiting animals.

Unfortunately, what most customers want is a broadcast application to the lawn, which is unnecessary because most flea larvae (and hence the resulting adult fleas) are simply not present in a sunny, well kept, suburban lawn. Flea larvae require a relative humidity of 53 percent or higher for development and survival. These conditions typically don’t exist in the middle of a suburban lawn.

Instead, what most customers need is a targeted application of appropriately labeled insecticide and insect growth regulator (IGR) to specific microhabitats on their property where fleas are present. Shady spots under trees or shrubs, beneath porches, inside open crawlspaces, and other shady areas are microhabitats that are conducive to the higher humidity levels needed for fleas. Coincidentally, these also are areas that might be skipped when broadcast treating a lawn. These areas are the places that pets may prefer to rest during hot summer and early autumn days.

Keep in mind that although less spraying is involved, this doesn’t necessarily mean less work for you.

Understanding the biological needs of flea populations and seeking them out in a backyard takes effort, but this targeted approach is fundamental to protecting a property from re-infestation by cat fleas. Take the time to explain the biology behind your outdoor flea treatments: Your clients will thank you for it in the long run.


About the Author

Dr. Jim Fredericks, PHOTO: National Pest Management Association

You can reach Dr. Fredericks, BCE, executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA), at jfredericks@pestworld.org

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