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Fleas are some of the most annoying biting pests known to man and pets.
In Alabama, there are two common flea specie, the dog flea and cat flea. Of the two flea species, the cat flea is the most abundant species with the ability to survive longer and reproduce better on human blood than dog flea. Both flea species make their way into the homes of unaware pet owners. Life becomes miserable as they make their presence known through irritating bites and sometimes more disturbing symptoms such a tapeworms.
Fleas occurs all year round, but may go dormant during extreme hot summer or cold winter. Fall is the worst season for fleas. This is because fleas thrive with an increase in precipitation, the temperature staying around 70 degree, and the leaf piles that are humid and dark.
Outdoors, fleas typically take up residence in shaded, humid areas away from bright sunlight, where your pets are more likely to play and rest. It just takes is a few fleas to get established in your yard before you have a full blown flea infestation on your hands.
Fleas get into homes mostly by hitching a ride on pet, and are also able to attach themselves onto humans. Inside, fleas can live quite comfortably where pets play/feed and sleep. Common sites include pet sleeping mats, carpet and rug, upholstered furniture, floor cracks and tile joints.
Fleas reproduce very efficiently. Adult flea blood-feed within minutes of jumping on animal. Mating and subsequent egg laying occurs within 24 hours. A female flea lay 25-50 eggs per day, and can produce up to 5,000 eggs during lite time. The eggs are laid in pet fur, but soon fall off into carpeting, beneath the cushions of furniture, and wherever else the pet rests, sleeps, or spends time.
Flea control includes treating the environment (indoor and outdoor) as well as the pet. It is desirable to treat the premises along with the pet.
If flea infestation is confirmed, pet owners should first consider cleaning the pets and the infested areas where pets spend most of their time and remove pet from infested areas.
Treatment of pets: Adult fleas spend most of their time on animal, not in the carpet. This is why treatment of the pet is an essential step in ridding a home of fleas. Pets can be treated either by a veterinarian or the pet owner. Products for treating pest are available in the forms of oral medications and topical "spot-on" solutions, as well as sprays, collars and shampoos. Topical solutions (spot-ons) involves applying a few drops of pesticide along the pet's back or between the shoulder blades. Oral/chewable tablets work systemically within hours of ingestion. ) Be sure to read the product label to ensure you are purchasing the correct formulation and dosage for your pet. It is usually prudent to consult a veterinarian for the most appropriate treatment for your pet.
Rid your home of fleas: The first step should be removal of pet bed, toys, and other items from floors and under beds so that all areas will be accessible for treatment. The pet bedding should be washed or dry-cleaned and all carpet, upholstery, rugs and mats should be vacuumed daily. Many different products are available for home flea treatment. These products are in the formulations of powder, liquid or aerosols. The most effective formulations contain both an adulticide (e.g., permethrin) effective against the biting adult stage, and an IGR (methoprene or pyriproxyfen), necessary to provide long-term suppression of the eggs, larvae and pupae .IGR products are the most used for indoor treatment because of their safety and high efficacy. IGR stands for Insect Growth Regulator, works specifically on insects and stop the development of flea egg and larvae. Application should be thorough and re-treatment is often necessary.
Treatment of yard: Rake up fallen leaves regularly and immediately bag and dispose of them in a secure trash receptacle. Regularly clean out pet playing/resting/sleeping areas, and, when necessary, treat these sites with pesticides. Similar to indoor treatments, outdoor treatments should focus on areas where pets rest, sleep, and run, e.g., doghouse and kennel areas, along fences, under decks, and next to the foundation, rather than treat the entire yard or areas esposed to full sun. Insecticide formulations containing an IGR such as pyriproxyfen (Archer® Insect Growth Regulator, NyGuard® IGR Concentrate) prevent hatching/development of flea eggs and larvae for several months.
Fleas can be successfully controlled by diligently following the steps outlined above. Homeowners who lack the time to control fleas themselves or who are uncomfortable applying pesticides may wish to enlist the services of a professional pest control firm.
Xing Ping Hu and Arthur Appel
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
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