Spring brings a double edged sword – winter’s end and flea season.
2009 saw an increased number of adverse incidents reported from using over-the-counter and prescription flea and tick products. After first blush, it appears a percentage were due to improperly applying those products.
But pet owners are looking for alternatives.
After researching and testing, I’ve narrowed the field to three easy, effective flea remedies.
Diatomaceous Earth is used regularly by veterinarians, farmers and ranchers. There are two distinct grades or types of DE – the kind for swimming pools and the food or human grade power kind. Look for the ground-up, Food or Human Grade powder.
What makes DE effective, says Steve Bessette, founder and President of EcoSmart Technoligies, is it dries insects exoskeletons, killing them within 72 hours.
Like any pest control product, spread this powder around the floorboards and outside the house foundation and any barriers to your home. Use a mask as inhaling it can cause serious breathing problems.
You can carefully dust your dog or cat with diatomaceous earth. But, says Steve Chaplin, a science writer and journalist who works with researchers at Indiana University, don’t create a dust cloud in front of the pet’s face.
To control pests, Chaplin fills a metal kitchen sieve with DE. Then, like sifting flour. tap it all over your pet, work it into their coat and leave it in.
Keep your pet dry afterwords to maintain the DE’s effectiveness. It fails when it gets wet. Dry times of year (when fleas are worst) are the best times to use DE, Chaplin says.
DE’s a safe bet for indoor use, but test beforehand to protect the colors of your furniture. Chaplin sprinkles DE on their middle Eastern rugs, couches and chairs.
With indoor use, keep pets away from it, especially at night, as DE is toxic for pets to breathe in. Vacuum thoroughly the next morning before letting them come in.
One other effective use of DE is to add it into your pet’s food. Carefully follow instructions for this to avoid overdosing.
20 Mule Team Borax
We all know the next remedy – 20 Mule Team Borax. This white powder destroys fleas reproductive systems.
“There’s silicate in borax,” says Chaplin, just like in DE, which is why it works well.
Sprinkle borax lightly throughout the house and gently work it in with a broom. Keep pets away from this as much as possible. Leave it for 24 hours, then vacuum thoroughly.
As when using DE, if your vacuum uses a bag, dispose of it immediately after vacuuming. Spray the bag and your vacuum cleaner’s insides with a flea spray. Or buy cheap flea collars, cut them up and put pieces inside each bag before you vacuum. Remove them each time you toss the bag.
A word of caution. Vacuuming causes any eggs in your carpet to hatch. You’ll want to vacuum again in a few hours, to ensure you got this new infestation. Do NOT put borax directly on your pet.
EcoSmart products, the third choice use essential oils from plants that mimic a nerve receptor only insects have. They won’t have any adverse impact on people, pets or the environment.
I’ve successfully used a number of EcoSmart products, many of which are effective in repelling or eliminating fleas.
Their Lawn & Landscape attaches to a garden hose, mixing with water as it sprays the yard. Using this on my backyard, the fragrance wasn’t overpowering, unlike traditional pesticides, and one bottle covered the entire area.
Their Organic Insect Killer Granules for Lawn and Landscape also does the trick. It comes in two sizes: a 10 pound bag you put in the spreader and spread across the lawn and a 2 pound shaker package for perimeter treatments.
Like DE or borax, EcoSmart’s Lawn and Landscape fails when wet. Their granular product releases its active ingredients into the soil when wet, providing protection against fleas, ticks, ants and many common pests.
“It kills on contact and repels for residual on-going (effect),” said Bessette.
It’s the oils that kill the insects, Bessette said.
EcoSmart products are designed in a water solution to settle down, eliminating airborne drift. And they’re around 1,000 times less toxic than malathian, Bessette said.
Being plant-based, the company recommends applying them at least once a month.
Russell Phillips of Clark in Redding, California said you have to have a little more patience when using “green” products like EcoSmart for fleas.
EcoSmart products are safe because they don’t persist. But, says Bessette, because they don’t persist, you have to apply it more frequently.
Depending upon the flea infestation, apply every 2 to 4 weeks and you probably won’t have to worry about infestations from the yard.
With summer and frequent watering, change your approach.
Apply the product in early morning or early evening so it doesn’t evaporate right away. For the best effect when using the Lawn spray, Besset said to water first, then spray afterwords.
There’s no magic bullet. To really be effective, combine some of these. And don’t forget to wash and brush your pet regularly during high flea months.
“Flea combing your animals is just as important as using DE,” says Chaplin.
These effective choices are safe around pets and children.