Itchin' season is upon us, with the arrival of fleas to our yards and homes. Letters are coming in from many environmentally concerned gardeners and homeowners, all asking the same question: "Is there an organic product or home remedy to rid my home and yard of fleas?"
An organic chemical solution for a flea infestation problem may only provide partial control. But a combination of chemical, mechanical and cultural remedies can reduce a flea population.
The trick, though, is to attack the problem simultaneously on three fronts: indoors, outdoors and on your pets. Regular vacuuming, keeping a lawn watered regularly, and removing debris near pet sleeping areas outdoors can help.
Here are more flea control details from the UC Integrated Pest Management Program:
Inside the Home:
• Locate heavily infested areas and concentrate efforts on these areas.
• Wash throw rugs and the pet’s bedding once a week.
• Vacuum upholstered furniture. Remove and vacuum under cushions and in cracks and crevices of furniture.
• Vacuum carpets, especially beneath furniture and in areas frequented by pets. Use a hand sprayer to treat all carpets with an insecticide that contains an insect growth regulator. Insect growth regulators, however, are not organic; but they are effective. And, they are much safer than traditional insecticide dusts and sprays.
• Allow carpets to dry and vacuum a second time to remove additional fleas that were induced to emerge.
• Continue to vacuum for 10 days to 2 weeks to kill adult fleas that continue to emerge from pupal cocoons.
On the Pet:
• Use a spot-on treatment, which can be purchased in pet stores or from vets, or a systemic oral treatment, which is available from vets only. Ask your vet about organic flea control soaps. And, inquire about the effectiveness of Orange Guard, an organic botanical insecticide made from orange peel extract, that can be used to treat pet bedding. Also, consider products that contain insect growth regulators, available as flea collars and spot-on treatments.
• University of California research has shown that neither Vitamin B1 supplements nor brewer's yeast prevents fleas from feeding. Also, herbal collars and ultrasonic devices are not effective flea repellents.
• In our home, we spend quality time with our cat when we bring out the flea comb. This fine-toothed comb manages to pick off at least a couple of fleas from the cat each week.
Outside the Home:
• Sprays are only necessary outdoors if you detect lots of fleas. To locate heavy infestations, walk around pet resting areas wearing knee-high white socks. If fleas are present, they will jump onto the socks and be readily visible.
• Locate and remove debris in heavily infested areas, especially where pets rest. Open areas to sunlight by removing low hanging vegetation.
• Concentrate treatment in these areas with a spray containing a residual insecticide and the insect growth regulator pyriproxyfen (again, not organic...but effective). An organically accepted control, beneficial nematodes (especially the Steinernema feltiae nematode), are available for flea larvae control in lawns.
• Regular lawn watering will help destroy flea larvae.