Anyone who has lived through a flea infestation knows how miserable it can be. If fleas invade your yard, your pets won’t be the only ones scratching — fleas find you just as tasty as Fluffy and Mr. Bones. Learning how to get rid of fleas in your yard is just the first step.
To end a flea infestation in your yard (and prevent another one), follow an integrated pest management plan to knock down these tiny vampires. The four most effective options to get rid of fleas in your yard are yard maintenance, outdoor pesticides, insect growth regulators (IGRs), and natural pest control methods.
Check out this list of the best products to help rid your yard of fleas:
How to Get Rid of Fleas in the Yard
Getting rid of fleas in the yard takes diligence and patience. Effective flea control involves an integrated pest management plan, with multiple strategies: maintaining your yard, applying outdoor pesticides, using insect growth regulators, and employing natural methods. So, how to kill the fleas in your yard? Here’s where to start:
Maintain Your Yard
The best way to kill fleas in your yard is to start with a good maintenance routine. Because insects thrive in areas with tall grass, fallen leaves, and thatch, tidying things up in your lawn is how you keep fleas out of your yard:
Mow your lawn once a week during the growing season to prevent fleas in the grass, and dethatch once a year.
Water your lawn when it needs it, but avoid overwatering, as this creates a humid environment, which fleas in your backyard will love. When you see footprints that stay on the lawn or that the grass is wilting, turn on the hose. The best time to water your grass is between 4 a.m. – 8 a.m.
Remove the leaves, rake the leaves, or mulch them with a lawnmower every 3 to 4 days in the fall.
Clean up plant debris, such as dead limbs, brush piles, or shed flowers. Rodents and other animals burrow in debris and drop off fleas in the process.
Don’t give animals a buffet. Food scraps attract animals that carry fleas, so:
- Cover garbage cans with tight lids (and that includes your recycling bins) to prevent a rodent infestation. Don’t leave plastic bags of garbage or trash outside.
- Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
- Don’t leave food scraps atop your compost pile; bury them, or consider a compost bin with a lid.
- If the yard is fenced, repair any holes, and fence the vegetable garden to deter animals looking for a snack.
Wash pet bedding with soap and water regularly, and let it dry under direct sunlight. Both soap and sunlight kill fleas. Additionally, a dry, clean bed will not be attractive to these pests, as fleas love humidity.
Apply Outdoor Pesticides
Especially if you’re dealing with an active flea problem, you might wonder what can kill the fleas in your yard instantly. A handy solution is applying a flea treatment for the yard. These outdoor pesticides come in various forms, including:
Liquid spray: Some yard sprays come in ready-to-use form or a concentrate that’s mixed with water. Most of these yard flea treatments will attach to the end of your garden hose for easy broadcasting across the affected area.
Granules: Coarse particles (can be clay, corncobs, or walnut shells) that are coated with pesticide. This flea killer for the yard is released slowly, and some granules need moisture to activate.
Dusts: This chemical treatment combines pesticide with a dry inert carrier (talc, chalk, clay, nut hulls, or volcanic ash). Good for use in out-of-the-way spots or places that a spray could damage.
The good news is that you’ll seldom have to cover your entire outdoors with a flea yard treatment:
- Focus on areas where pets sleep and run, and apply along fences, under decks, and next to the foundation — these are typically flea breeding grounds.
- Hit the shady areas, but skip sunny ones; direct sunlight kills flea larvae and eggs.
Use Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs)
Insect growth regulators won’t take out yard fleas on impact, but they are extremely effective as a preventive lawn treatment for fleas. Here’s why: IGRs mimic hormones in larvae and eggs, so fleas never reach maturity or gain the ability to reproduce. They’re usually available in:
- Ready-to-use sprays
- Concentrates that mix with water
- In combination with pesticides that kill adult lawn fleas
The best thing about IGRs: The chemicals are virtually non-toxic to humans and pets. However, they cause skin and eye irritation on contact, so keep pets away when spraying. Even if you don’t suspect a flea infestation in your yard, you can apply an IGR in late spring or early summer to keep the flea population under control.
Employ Natural Methods
If you’re worried about pesticides, there is also the option of natural pest control for your lawn. Here are some natural ways in which you can eliminate fleas in your yard:
Essential oils. Essential oils can be found in store-bought yard sprays or in DIY concoctions and are often used as a natural pesticide alternative. However, their efficacy is still under debate. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting cedarwood oil and neem oil repel fleas in the yard, but further research is still needed to support this conclusion.
Other essential oils frequently used to repel fleas include citrus oil and citronella oil.
A note on topical use: The ASPCA does not advise using essential oils on a pet and advises against using a diffuser in your home or yard if your pet has respiratory issues. A 2020 paper by Michael K. Rust of the University of California-Riverside, cites adverse reactions to dogs and cats that received applications of tea tree oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, lemongrass oil, and clove oil.
It is also worth mentioning that there is no conclusive evidence that essential oils work against flea eggs or immature fleas, which is an important aspect of an effective flea control product.
Nematodes. Nematodes are part of a group of simple animals called roundworms. Some species are used to kill fleas in the yard. The beneficial nematodes invade the body of pests and release a fatal pathogen. Besides fleas, they can be used to treat other soil pests like cutworms and wireworms.
It takes time and experience to learn how to use beneficial nematodes effectively, so assistance from an experienced lawn care pro is recommended.
Cedar mulch. Fresh cedar chips, often used as bedding in dog houses and kennels, contain volatile oils that are toxic to fleas. They will work for a while, but unfortunately, the effect wears off quickly.
A Few Safety Precautions
Before using any yard treatment for fleas, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Keep children and pets away from the area until the spray dries.
- Remove toys, patio furniture, and anything else you don’t want to be sprayed.
- Wear gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Consider a mask and goggles.
- Don’t spray on windy or rainy days; take care that pesticide doesn’t drift into vegetable gardens or neighboring yards.
- Read directions carefully; be sure you have the right product for the job and use the correct amount.
- Change clothes and wash your hands when finished.
Why You May Need to Re-Treat Your Lawn
Unfortunately, using a chemical flea spray isn’t always a one-and-done process. For a successful lawn flea treatment, you’ll have to repeat the process. Blame this on the flea’s life cycle:
Fleas begin as eggs. Female fleas lay eggs that hatch in two to five days. One adult can lay eggs at a rate of up to 50 per day.
Flea eggs hatch into larvae. The worm-like larvae hide in carpet, bedding, or your pet’s fur.
Larvae become pupae, wrapping themselves in a silken cocoon. They can stay in the cocoon for weeks and in some cases, survive the winter. This cocoon also protects the pupae from insecticides.
They become adults. Adult fleas can live up to two weeks — and can lay 700 eggs each.
Many pesticides and flea treatments for grass only kill adult fleas, so you’ll have to reapply in seven to 10 days to head off a second wave.
Pro tip: Find a product that combines an adult flea killer and an insect growth regulator to successfully kill yard fleas.
Is Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Good for Killing Fleas?
Yes, DE kills fleas, and you can also use diatomaceous earth for lawn pest control. It abrades the waxy coating from the outer skeleton, so the insect dehydrates and dies. It is useful against adult fleas and larvae. It’s best to use diatomaceous earth in dry areas since it absorbs moisture; it won’t work in high-humidity areas according to the University of Florida.
Some sites suggest using food-grade DE indoors or on pets to kill fleas. Generally, it is not toxic to people, but DE can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Veterinarians don’t recommend using DE on pets, citing the possibility of lung damage if inhaled or gastrointestinal illness if the pet ingests it by licking.
How Can I Get Rid of Fleas on My Pet?
If you suspect your pet has fleas, here’s what you can do to get rid of fleas on dogs or cats:
- Use a flea comb. This non-chemical treatment works for fleas on cats and dogs. The fine-toothed comb will pull off adult fleas and eggs. Between passes, dunk the comb in a container of soapy water to kill the fleas.
- Bathe your pet. Use a flea shampoo that’s formulated for the species or a mild soap like Castile soap. Dish detergent can dry out your pet’s skin, causing more discomfort.
- Apply a topical flea treatment. There are many commercial flea killers available in various forms, either over-the-counter or via prescription from your veterinarian. Don’t apply a topical treatment immediately after using a flea shampoo. Unless the directions say the two are compatible, stick with one method.
- Buy a flea-repellent collar. Flea collars are a good way to prevent your pet from catching fleas when walking or exercising and bringing them into your yard.
If your yard is full of fleas, but you don’t have pets, they may have hitched a ride on your clothes or shoes. Another possibility is unwanted wildlife visitors. Raccoons, opossums, and squirrels can carry fleas and can camp out in the attic, crawl space, or other areas of your home. Check your house for critter-sized openings.
If you can’t scare them off, call a professional to remove them.
Do Yard Fleas Bite?
Unfortunately, yes. Flea bites can cause itchiness, irritation, allergic reactions, and even transmit diseases, such as tapeworms and flea-borne typhus (both can infect animals and humans).
When to Call in a Professional
Getting rid of fleas in your yard and home takes work and patience. If you don’t have the time to handle it, or you’re unsure about what to use, consider calling a local pest control company. A local exterminator can determine the best and safest options to banish fleas from your life.
If you need help with maintaining your yard to prevent another flea problem, consider calling a lawn care professional. A local lawn-care pro can take care of those areas that are attractive to fleas.
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