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Local Pest Control for Summer: Dealing with Fleas

dog infested with fleasIt’s that time of year. The sun is finally out in the Northwest, along with warmer temperatures than we’ve experienced all year. These warm temps and decreased rainfall means local pest control companies are seeing an increase in calls about flea pest control. Eugene, Portland, Seattle and other Northwest cities are all dealing with these nasty biters. To help you manage your flea problems, the following is a look at how to deal with this local pest control problem.

The Flea Life Cycle

Fleas are external parasites that live off the blood of mammals, including dogs, cats, ferrets and humans. Fleas can transmit viruses and bacteria, cause allergic reactions, and in extreme instances can cause tapeworms. These pests thrive in warmer weather and are less common in cold, rainy months, but they can appear year-round in the Northwest’s mild climate.

The flea life cycle has four main stages: egg, larva, pupa and imago or adult. Eggs can hatch in as little as two days or in as long as two weeks. In the larva stage, fleas are developing and do not suck blood; they can remain in this stage anywhere from five to fourteen days before pupating. In the pupate stage, fleas are cocooned and develop into adult, bloodsucking pests. A flea may emerge from the pupae cocoon when the external temperature and humidity conditions are right and there is likely to be a host nearby (animal or human), which a flea can detect from movement, sound or carbon dioxide.

The complete life cycle of the flea can last from two weeks to eight months or even up to a year or more, depending on external factors such as temperature, humidity and food availability. Essentially, fleas can go into a type of stasis where they will remain without detection until conditions are right for them to emerge. This is one reason why local pest control for fleas, without professional involvement, can be difficult.

Fleas and Integrated Pest Management

Signs of a flea infestation include adult fleas, flea eggs in your animal’s coat, excessive scratching and flea “dirt,” or dark specks of material that you will find on your animals. Flea “dirt” is actually dried blood from the host passed by the fleas as feces and is one of the most telling signs of a flea infestation.

Because of their ability to enter into a type of stasis, fleas can be difficult to eradicate fully, and an Integrated Pest Management approach is best. To eradicate fleas, you need to target both the adult form and the immature forms. For the most effective pest control, Eugene and other Northwest residents should spot treat all pets, regardless of whether the animals show signs of infestation. There are many current flea treatments (either topical applications or tablets) available from your vet or local pet store that will help control adult-stage fleas on your pets for a month or more. Be diligent about continuing the treatment for at least eight months, although ongoing preventive treatment is advised as part of your Integrated Pest Management approach.

Some veterinarians may also recommend the use of an insect growth inhibitor (IGR) for your pets. An IGR will not kill adult fleas, but it will prevent eggs that may be on your pets from hatching. Discuss all veterinary applications with your pets’ vet.

On the same day that you treat your pets, target the other stages of the flea by treating your pets’ environment. Wash all bedding that your pet may have used, and vacuum and steam clean your home and living areas. Immediately dispose of the vacuum bag, as fleas can survive there. It is also recommended to treat your home with a fogger or spray that contains an IGR that is safe for animals. For continued control of fleas, vacuum frequently and use a dehumidifier and air conditioning to interrupt the flea life cycle. This Integrated Pest Management approach can help ensure that your local pest control problem is contained.

[ photo by: blackest_wings666 ]

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