Fleas are hilarious in the old cartoons.
In a famous Pink Panther episode, he walks through a carwash to try and get rid of one that is driving him crazy. Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island (1983) featured a fully functional flea circus, complete with roller coaster and Ferris wheel.
But in real life, there’s nothing funny about a flea infestation. The problem is especially severe in North Texas this year, exterminators say. Because of the mild winter we enjoyed months ago, we did not have extended days of freezing temperatures that can annihilate mature fleas, as well as their eggs, larvae and pupae, they say.
“We’ve never treated for fleas in February until this year,” says Todd Arnold, president of Goliath Pest Control in North Richland Hills. “It’s usually too cold.”
It’s not hard to tell if your home has fleas, especially if you walk around barefoot and in shorts. The little black pests tend to jump on your feet and legs and bite your skin, leaving red, itchy spots. You can also find them crawling around on your pets.
“Pets scratching more than usual is a sure sign, especially with the front part of their teeth,” Arnold says. “To test your pet, check their belly and groin area — the fleas are easier to see down there.”
If you do detect a flea problem, you’ll likely need to treat your pets, yard and home.
For the yard and home, you basically have two options: You can call an exterminator, or you can try to save money by taking care of the problem yourself.
Since the latter option can be a time-consuming, difficult endeavor, we’ll discuss hiring an expert first.
Making the call
“We use professional-grade insecticide on your furniture and carpets,” Arnold says, explaining a typical service call to rid a home of fleas. “This takes care of the developed insect that is ready to find a host as soon as it comes out of the pupae. It also kills at the larvae stage.”
Arnold uses an insect growth regulator as well.
“The IGR blocks the fleas’ developmental process,” he says. “It blocks their ability to produce chitin. Without chitin, fleas can’t produce an exoskeleton, which is crucial to their development and growth. IGRs also block fleas’ ability to mature sexually, so they can’t lay eggs.”
To ensure that the insecticide is effective, Arnold uses plant oils to get the fleas active.
“The oil gets fleas excited,” he says. “It gets their respiratory system jacked up, and they will move around and touch the insecticide.”
To help the process and keep the fleas from returning, Arnold advises his customers to clean and mop floors, vacuum frequently (after a set amount of time for the insecticide to work) and in general keep your house clean.