October 16, 2011

Life's an itch?

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Fleas can cause many problems – some serious – in house pets. And homeowners may find it maddeningly hard to get rid of an indoor infestation, which usually requires an integrated attack targeting the ones on your pet and the ones on your stuff.

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FLEA FACTS

SIZE: 1/12-inch to 1/6-inch

SHAPE: Flat

LEGS: Six

COLOR: Dark-reddish

MODE OF TRANSPORT: Jumping onto a host

FOOD: Blood

LIFE CYCLE: From egg to adult can range from 16 days to a year

FAVORITE CONDITIONS: Moist and warm, but not hot

OFFSPRING: A pair of fleas can produce 400 to 500 offspring in their lives.

DID YOU KNOW? A flea can jump about eight inches, or more than 100 times its own height. That would be like a 6-foot-tall man jumping more than 600 feet in the air.

A dose of six pills might cost about $25, while a topical medicine might be about $16 a treatment. O'Grady said it's important for people to think of flea prevention as a habit, not a one-time event. "It's something people have to stay on top of."

Blumenthal said that if you're treating your home with pesticides, tell your veterinarian so the pet doesn't "overdose" on a combination of chemicals and medicines.

CONTROLLED TREATMENT

In conjunction with vacuuming and washing bedding or cushions that pets have contact with, Blumenthal recommends treating fleas in the home in a controlled way. He doesn't like to use flea "bombs," which are basically chemical fogs that waft through the home and settle on things. They often don't settle where the fleas are, like under furniture or in cracks.

So Blumenthal's company will spray the chemicals -- mixed with water -- on specific areas.

There are basically two general classes of pesticides used on fleas, indoors and out, Dill said. One is an "adulticide" that kills adult fleas. These are categorized as "broad spectrum" pesticides, and could have an adverse impact on other animals or even children especially if used improperly, Dill said. But if it's used according to directions, you shouldn't run into problems.

The other kind of compound used for flea control is known as an IGR, or "insect growth regulator." This very specifically targets arthropods by interfering with the molting process, and therefore stopping young fleas from reaching adulthood.

Blumenthal said that after his company sprays in a house, he generally recommends that people stay out for at least four hours. He says he'll tell people where the last area of the home to be sprayed will be, so that the homeowner can test that area by dabbing it with a tissue. If it's a damp or muggy day, it may take longer to dry.

Blumenthal said the average cost for treating a home with fleas this way is probably $200 to $450, on average.

If you don't want to use substances to kill the fleas or control growth, then your main option is probably to be really vigilant in removing and preventing fleas, Dill says. Vacuum, steam-clean your rugs, wash dog beds and linens frequently, and even walk around in white socks to attract the little pests.

But you have to be persistent, Dill said. Flea larvae can stay dormant in your house for a long time, and then emerge months later as adult fleas. So you might think the fleas are gone, than all of a sudden, they're not.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: rrouthier@pressherald.com

 

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