Anyone who has lived through a flea infestation knows how miserable it can become. When fleas invade your yard, your pets won’t be the only ones scratching. You will be itching, too — fleas find you just as tasty as Fluffy and Mr. Bones.
Fleas will take over your whole life if given the chance. If you suspect a flea infestation in your yard, end it now before your pets unknowingly carry these annoying bugs inside. In this guide, we’ll explain how to get rid of fleas in your yard, which will help keep fleas out of your life altogether.
Flea Control for the Yard
Most of the time, you won’t have enough fleas in the yard to warrant treatments, but outdoor infestations can happen.
If you do find yourself with a large flea infestation in your yard, you can treat it with:
When using pest control treatments for fleas (whether pesticides or IGRs), you only need to treat the shady areas of your yard. Fleas won’t hang out in sunny areas, so spreading treatments in those spots will only waste product.
Plus, your pets are most likely to lay down and rest in shady areas, picking up any fleas lurking in the grass.
Outdoor pesticides come in liquid spray form (sometimes called “concentrate”) and spreadable granules.
According to Mississippi State University, liquid sprays are the more effective outdoor flea pesticide option, but granules are easier to apply. Most of these products will attach to the end of your garden hose for easy broadcasting across the affected area.
Whichever type of outdoor pesticide you choose, follow the instructions on the package carefully. Otherwise, the treatments might not work on the flea population and can harm you or your pets instead.
It’s a good idea to apply pesticides again 7 to 10 days after the first treatment, even if you haven’t seen any more fleas in your yard. An extra application will kill off any larvae or pupae that survived the first treatment. This is how you prevent a second wave of fleas from attacking your yard right after you deal with the first bunch.
* Note: Before you purchase a general outdoor pesticide, check the label to make sure it works on fleas.
Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs)
Insect growth regulators won’t take out an existing flea infestation on impact as pesticides will, but IGRs are extremely effective for preventing more fleas in the long run.
Here’s why: IGRs halt growth in young fleas so they never reach maturity or gain the ability to reproduce. So, once the current adult flea population dies out, you’re done.
The best thing about IGRs: The chemicals contained in IGRs won’t harm you or your pets beyond some irritation if you get the product on your skin. Low toxicity is one of the primary reasons some people prefer IGR treatments over conventional pesticides.
Think of IGRs like getting your pet fixed before they can have babies instead of waiting until the babies are born and you have to figure out what to do with them.
Even if you don’t suspect a flea infestation in your yard, you can apply an IGR every year in late spring or early summer to keep the flea population under control before it becomes a problem.
For best results during an infestation, use a pesticide that kills adult fleas in tandem with an IGR to get rid of fleas in your yard now and keep more from being born in the future. If you choose two compatible products, you can apply them both at the same time.
WARNING: When using multiple pest control products together, do your research to ensure their ingredients are compatible. Mixing some chemicals can be dangerous, or the ingredients in the two different products could cancel each other out.
Proper Lawn Maintenance
Did you know regularly maintaining your lawn is the best way to keep fleas (and other pests) out of your yard? Insects like fleas thrive in yards with long grass and lots of debris like fallen leaves and thatch.
Even if you already have some fleas in your yard, disturbing their resting grounds with regular lawn mowing and raking is a great way to get rid of them.
Here are some lawn care tips for preventing fleas in your yard:
- Mow your lawn once a week during your grass’s growing season
- Water your lawn just enough that it doesn’t dry out, but don’t overwater (about 1 inch of water per week is usually recommended)
- Rake and remove fallen leaves every 3 to 4 days in fall
- Clean up plant debris (such as dead limbs or shed flowers) year-round
- Dethatch your lawn once a year
If all that looks like more effort than you’re prepared to put into your lawn, you always have the option to hire a local lawn care company to handle it all for you. Proper lawn care is an effective means of flea control no matter who’s behind the lawn mower.
Flea Control for Your Pet and Home
Unfortunately, fleas don’t stay in one spot. If you have a ton of fleas in your yard, some of them will inevitably latch onto you or your pet and follow you inside. You’ll soon have an indoor flea infestation on your hands, which is much more of a pain than an outdoor one. Plus, some of those inside fleas will follow you back out to the yard, and the cycle will repeat over and over.
To get fleas out of your life for good, you can’t just treat the yard. You have to treat your pets and your home, too.
Flea Control Products for Your Pet
Your pet’s back is the absolute last place you want fleas to remain. With an endless supply of blood and plenty of shelter in your pet’s fur, the fleas will go on living and reproducing. More importantly, the fleas will torture your poor pet with constant bites and irritation.
Step one to getting rid of fleas living on your pet is a thorough bath. Bathing your animal will remove any dead flea bodies littering their fur and can knock off a good portion of the live fleas.
As soon as your pet’s fur dries after their bath, apply a topical flea treatment. Flea treatments for pets are completely safe and will not hurt your animal as long as you follow the instructions on the package and use the correct dosage for your pet’s breed and weight class.
These medications kill all the fleas on your pet, including adults, larvae, and eggs. Many flea treatments also prevent ticks, and some even work on heartworms and other parasites. You’ll need to reapply the medicine once a month in most cases.
Some pets may struggle while you apply the treatment (which usually takes no more than a few seconds) and act irritated right after, but don’t take this to mean they’re in pain. Your pet is just annoyed and maybe a little scared because your furry friend doesn’t understand what’s going on, but this will pass in a matter of minutes. And your pet be much happier with life when all the fleas die off!
Flea Control Products for Your Home
Fleas in your home are a problem even if your pets are on flea medication. Remember, fleas will bite you and your family, too!
If you have a flea infestation inside your home, there are many over-the-counter indoor pesticides and insect growth regulators that should help you solve your problem. Using pesticides indoors is a little trickier and more dangerous than outdoors because you’re spraying potentially harmful chemicals in your living space.
Here are some safety precautions to take before you apply pesticides inside your home:
- Put pet food and water dishes away until after the pesticides have dried
- Cover aquariums and disconnect their air pumps
- Pick up all items (toys, clothing, blankets, etc) from the floor and from underneath furniture
- Put away any food left out around the house
Pesticides will kill any fleas that come in contact with them and help prevent more fleas from getting inside in the future, but they can’t cover the whole house. You’ll have to do a little deep-cleaning to make sure you get every last flea, larvae, pupae, and egg that already exists in your home.
Deep cleaning to get rid of fleas in your home should include these tasks:
- Wash or discard pet bedding
- Wash all sheets and blankets in hot water
- Vacuum or wash all carpets, rugs, and upholstery
- Mop areas with hard flooring (wood, tile, linoleum, etc)
IMPORTANT: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using pesticides indoors. Don’t risk harming yourself, your family, or your pets because of an oversight.
The more you know about fleas, the better you’ll be at preventing and killing them. Think of this as getting to know your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses before you attack.
Here are some basics about fleas that any pet owner or person living in a flea-prone area should know:
- Fleas are tiny (about 1/16-inch long) and wingless.
- Some fleas can jump up to a foot high.
- Adult fleas feed on blood and can consume up to 15 times their body weight daily.
- Infected fleas can transmit parasitic tapeworms in dogs and other diseases in humans and cats.
- There are more than 2,000 species of fleas.
- The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) are the most common types you’ll find on your pets, in your yard, and in your home. Don’t be fooled by their species names: Both types will bite dogs, cats, humans, and wild animals.
- Fleas are active year-round.
Life Cycle of a Flea
Understanding a flea’s life cycle will help you understand when you should expect fleas and why one pest control treatment isn’t enough to kill them off for good.
The four stages of a flea’s life cycle are:
- Egg: Flea eggs hatch two to five days after being laid. One adult can lay up to 50 eggs per day.
- Larvae: After hatching, fleas take the form of tiny, worm-like larvae. They stay hidden in carpet, bedding, or your pet’s fur. They develop by eating adult flea feces, which consists of dried blood and flea eggs. Insect Growth Regulators keep fleas from advancing past this stage.
- Pupae: Fleas become pupae when they wrap themselves in a silken cocoon (like the grossest butterfly you’ve ever seen). Pupae stay in their cocoons for two to four weeks, and they’re resistant to many pesticides while inside. This is why it’s important to treat your yard and home for fleas more than once even if you think you’ve gotten rid of them all.
- Adult: When fleas become adults, they start feeding on blood and reproducing. The adult stage is also known as the biting stage because these are the fully-formed fleas that bite you and your pets. Unless you kill them first, adult fleas can live up to two weeks. That gives them time to lay about 700 eggs per adult.
FAQ About Fleas
Short answer: Dawn and other dish soaps are NOT effective as flea control.
You’ll sometimes see people recommend putting Dawn and water in a spray bottle to use on fleas, but no scientific data substantiates that Dawn or any dishwashing soap kills fleas in your lawn or home.
Bathing an animal with dish soap, as with any soap, will knock down the flea population that resides on the animal. But since many fleas live in the environment, not on your animal, they’ll jump right back on, starting the infestation over again. Not to mention, dish soap will dry out your pet’s skin and can cause irritation.
Again, no, this home remedy is not a viable solution to a flea problem.
According to the University of Florida, DE won’t work at all in areas with high humidity. Plus, the silica it contains can be harmful to you or your pets if you inhale too much of it. There are safer and more reliable ways to treat your yard and home for fleas.
Flea collars are safe in small increments of time. Don’t leave a flea collar on your pet any longer than five days. These tools are short-term solutions as opposed to the flea treatments we previously listed, which are long-term solutions.
Don’t waste your time on homemade flea sprays that have about a 50/50 shot at working. You can find reliable flea prevention treatments (like pesticides or Insect Growth Regulators) for around $20 or less, and you can be sure they’ll work.
If you’re worried about the impact of pesticides on the environment, you can find many eco-friendly and natural flea prevention products, a few of which we’ve listed in this guide.
Flea control in a nutshell (or bug shell)
The main takeaway here is that you can’t get rid of fleas in your yard just by treating your yard. Fleas are as mobile as you and your pets, and they will get everywhere if you let them. If you really want to end or prevent a flea infestation, you have to treat:
- Your yard
- Your pet
- Your home
Cutting corners will only result in another infestation later.
If using your own pesticides makes you nervous, that’s completely understandable, but it’s no excuse to let fleas run rampant. Find a local pest control pro to get rid of the fleas for you — at least in your home and yard.
You’ll have to take care of Fluffy and Mr. Bones yourself (and we’re sure you wouldn’t have it any other way).
Main Photo Credit: Pixabay