Matt Bochat

Matt Bochat

We have been getting plenty of calls at the Extension Office on how to get rid of fleas. Most people feel like packing up and moving when they experience a heavy flea infestation. It can be a difficult and itchy time.

Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals and people. Without control, these pests can multiply very quickly.

Even if you have a dog as a pet, chances are you have cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), as these are the most common species in Texas.

Cat fleas are about 1/8 inch long. They have six legs, with the rear legs being longer, allowing them to jump and propel themselves forward.

Flea larvae are about ¼ inch in length and look pale white in color. You will find larvae on your pet and on bedding, carpet, furniture or wherever your pet has been lying.

The female flea begins laying eggs within two days of her first blood meal. Four to nine days later, she produces an average of 27 eggs per day, consuming about 15 times her weight in blood daily. Much of this blood is excreted as partially digested feces.

Flea feces are a fine, reddish-black dust seen in pet fur and bedding. Now you can easily understand how quickly this can become a big problem.

Control of Fleas

Good sanitation is the key to a flea control program. Pick up all items on floors. Vacuum all carpets, furniture and floors in all infested areas. Wash the pet with some type of pet shampoo formulated for fleas.

Insect growth regulators, or IGRs, are a safe preventative treatment for fleas. These products work by disrupting the normal development of flea eggs and larvae. When exposed to IGRs, adult fleas are unable to reproduce; eggs fail to hatch and larvae die before they complete their development. Because most IGRs kill only eggs and larvae, they do not eliminate adult fleas quickly; therefore, some type of insecticide may be necessary. Insect growth regulators are available as sprays, spot-ons, pills and food additives.

For home treatment, there are various options. I suggest calling a professional exterminator if you have a serious problem. They will review sanitation management and pet flea control before they arrive to treat your home.

For those do-it-yourself folks, there are various products on the market from biological and chemical to mechanical control. Believe it or not, flea traps exist and can be quite effective.

Please note, this can be a tough problem to solve. Therefore, if you have a serious flea infestation, don’t expect the problem to go away overnight.

Continue to manage your pet(s) and sanitation. As always, you can call the Victoria County Extension Office to gather more specifics on flea control and management. In the meantime, take control of your flea situation, and don’t move.

Source: Texas A&M Agrilife Extension – Entomology Publication E-433

Matt Bochat is a County Extension Agent – Ag/Natural Resources Victoria County Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

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