Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Blog Has Fleas

    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.


1 comment:

  1. Rant Back At Ya Fred,

    We use to get fleas every year in our lawn/landscape, in the house and even on our cats. That stopped years ago (probably 10) and now we never have flea problems. Yes we still have a cat, lawn and landscape. Plus our neighbors have cats, dogs, goats rabbits and Mother Nature provides possum, squirrels and other critters. And guess what, we don't use any pesticides and have had no problems with fleas for years!

    Years ago we used diatomaceous earth, flea combs, frequent vacuuming and occasional spraying of lawn with organic pesticides.

    Our first discovery towards less toxic flea control was the use of beneficial nematodes. If I recall correctly I likely made two or three applications to the lawn/landscape over a 2-4 year period (1 time per year). I have not had to apply any more since then and it is at least been ten years and more likely about 20 years. If I recall correctly, each time I used Heterohabditis bacteriophora. I suspect the population of these beneficial nematodes is now sustaining itself in my lawn and landscape controlling fleas and about 250 other soil borne pests!

    Then we learned about the IGR's and IDI's for pet flea control. I did research and discovered that those that you apply between the shoulders of your pets have some draw backs. They get all over the skin and hair of the animal, which then distributes it to where ever they sit (i.e., human furniture). This along with petting the animal provides direct human exposure to these products. They say it is safe but I still want to minimize human exposure.

    There is one product (less popular - but it shouldn't be) "Program" that is an IDI (Insect Development Inhibitor). It is a pill, so there will be much less human exposure! Plus it prevents eggs from hatching rather then preventing larvae from becoming adults. You don't even have the larvae!

    When we started giving our cats Program we vacuumed the house top to bottom a few times (years ago). Over the last 10 years or more, since we started on Program and applied the nematodes (a long time ago), we have done nothing for flea control other then to pill our cats once a month. And to pill the cat is easy. Put it in their food bowl with a little food. They will eat the pill before their regular food - yum! We no long need to apply nematodes and we only clean the house when company is visiting. Our current feline has her own bed (a pillow) which resides on our bed during the day. We do wash the pillow cover every week or two with the regular laundry, but other then that we do nothing. And we have not had fleas for years and years and years and years and....

    I highly recommend nematodes, Program and a little cleaning.

    Naturally Yours,
    Living Resources Company
    Steven M. Zien