Fleas… An ongoing battle for pet owners

September 5, 2013

Fleas are a common household pest for people with animals.  Though many consider them a nuisance, their disease carrying potential should not be ignored.  Fleas (transported by rodents) are responsible for Europe’s Black Plague.   Some estimates conclude that in four years (1346-1350), the Black Plague killed 25% of the world’s population – some 100 million people.  Other more conservative estimates have the death toll at 25 million.   I ask you to pause for a moment and read that again.  In four years … 25% of the World’s population died – 100 million people – as a result of fleas.   Fleas can transmit numerous diseases such as typhus but most are successfully treated with antibiotics.  Occasionally these diseases are more serious in nature for the disabled and elderly or infirmed.


Fleas can be a more serious problem for pets.  Fleas’ saliva is an allergen that can cause reactions in humans and pets.  Fleas are responsible for more than half of all dermatological conditions requiring veterinarian assistance.  In addition, fleas can spread tapeworms and cause anemia.


Understanding basic flea biology and habits can help attain excellent control of these insects, but it will require some diligence.  An adult flea will lay about 300 eggs in her short three week period as an adult.  And those 300 eggs can be biting, egg laying adults in as little as three weeks.


Fleas begin life as an egg that is attached to its mother’s host.  These eggs often fall off and can be seen in the pet’s bedding area.  From eggs, the fleas hatch into a larval stage.  In this stage they feed on dead insects, insect and mammal fecal material, and vegetable matter.  Fleas go through three larval stages and enter the pupa stage.  They generally stay in the pupa stage for a week or so and emerge into a biting adult.  However it is important to know that they may remain in the pupa stage for several months and even over winter.  External stimuli, such as heat, vibrations, and carbon dioxide emitted from mammals, trigger their emergence from the pupa stage into the adult stage.


There are various alternative control products such as boric acid, diatomaceous earth, table salt etc.  These materials rely on the product’s ability to damage the insect’s exoskeleton thereby causing it to die from dehydration.  They are generally not very effective.


Flea control is best achieved using a multistep process.  First, one should begin with the host or pet.  The pet needs to be bathed using a flea and tick control shampoo.  This will remove all stages of the flea as well as help relieve skin discomfort for the pet.  After the bath is complete, the pet should have a flea control ointment applied or be regularly treated with a flea IGR spray.   These products will help kill any future fleas that get on the pet.  The next step is to wash all of the pet’s bedding with hot water and detergent.  The third step is to mop the floors and vacuum all of the carpets and furnishings and dispose of the vacuum bag, It is also advisable to mow the grass and rake up any leaves or straw and dispose of these landscape products.  Once this is done, a general insecticide application should be made to the carpets, furnishings, flooring, pet bedding area, and exterior areas where the pet frequents.  The insecticide solution should contain a product which will kill the adults as well as an insect growth regulator which will keep the larval stages from developing into adults.


It is important to note that, at present time, there is really not an effective product that can keep the pupa stage from continuing into adulthood.  The pupa stage is highly resistant to insecticides.  For this reason it is often necessary for a secondary application within a couple of weeks.    During these two weeks daily vacuuming is necessary.  The vacuum cleaner provides heat and vibrations and will signal the pupa to evolve.  Once the adult flea evolves the adulticide insect solution should kill it.  However it can take a couple of days for this to happen.  For this reason regular inspection of the pet is necessary.  It is also important to understand and accept the fact that you will see occasional flea activity for a few weeks.

It is also important to inspect the yard for two reasons.  First, several factors such as the sun, rain, soil type, or fertilizer etc. can decrease the insecticide’s effectiveness.  Second, other animals (squirrels, neighbors’ pet) can be bringing new fleas in.  It is best to walk around in the yard with light colored clothing on and inspect for flea activity.  If activity is noted, a second application should be considered.


Horne’s Pest Control provides this service.  It generally cost about $150.00 – $200.00 for the house and yard and it is guaranteed for 4 months.  The price can vary depending upon the size of the area to be treated.  We can come out to your home, give you our recommendations and a price.  If you agree and accept the price we will be equipped to perform the service at that time.  If you do not want our service there is no charge for the estimate.  As with all extermination services – experience and training is the key.  At Horne’s we believe it is the aptitude of the applicator not the potency of the product.  We regularly send our technicians to schools and training programs offered by the University of Georgia and Clemson University and have them complete correspondence programs from Purdue University.  This training is backed by a 4 month warranty – there is not a better guarantee in the local area.

Click here for WRDW story on winter weather’s affect on summer bug infestations.

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