The month of August normally brings with it a rash of phone calls and inquiries regarding flea control. This year is no exception. While we typically talk about late summer as being "flea season", in reality the fleas have been with us throughout the spring and summer. By this time of year, however, their populations have increased to the point that they cannot be ignored or overlooked.

To say the least, flea control can be very frustrating and at times somewhat discouraging. In order to effectively eliminate a flea problem, a step-wise program needs to be implemented. Since most flea problems originate from an infested cat or dog, elimination of fleas from these infested pets is the first and most important step. Insecticides approved for direct application to pets as dips, dusts, sprays, or shampoos are available at most discount stores. In addition, most veterinarians will also provide flea control services for your pet.

Once the pet has been taken car of, efforts should then focus on the indoor premises. Particular attention should be paid to areas of the home where the pet sleeps or spends the majority of its time. Blankets or rugs that may be used as pet bedding should be disposed of or laundered in hot, soapy water. All carpeted areas and upholstered furniture should be thoroughly vacuumed and the sweeper bag contents discarded.

If the flea infestation is light, frequent and thorough vacuuming may eventually eliminate the problem. Moderate to heavy infestations, however, will usually necessitate the application of a residual insecticide to carpets, baseboards, cracks and crevices, and other areas where fleas may be present. A number of ready-to- use products containing active ingredients such as chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and permethrin can be purchased at most discount and hardware stores. Good results have been achieved using products that contain a contact insecticide along with the insect growth regulator methoprene. Spray treatment can be performed by a professional pest control operator if the homeowner so desires. Flea traps using light bulbs and sticky paper do capture some fleas but it is unclear if they can eliminate an infestation.

Finally, outdoor areas that remain relatively moist and protected from direct sunlight can provide adequate conditions for flea development. If needed or desired, application of Dursban or diazinon sprays to these outdoor areas can provide control and minimize the possibility of reinfestation.

This article originally appeared in the August 26, 1992 issue, pp. 147-8.


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