Unless you completely enclose your yard, you can't prevent wild animals from travelling through it. Wandering stray cats, raccoons, squirrels and other critters carry fleas and ticks. These pests could choose your yard to disembark from their hosts, which creates a problem for you and your pets -- the new food sources for these bloodsucking parasites.
Pesticides can eradicate much of an outdoor flea-and-tick problem. Before you start your pesticide treatment, prep your yard. Mow the lawn, which will reduce the number of hiding places for fleas and ticks. Mowing also agitates the larvae, which perceive the vibrations as a cue to begin hatching. Give the lawn a thorough soak with your sprinkler system or a hose; this step alone will wash away a lot of flea eggs, larvae and the dried blood pellets adult fleas leave as food for their young. Spray only the shady and animal-frequented areas of your yard with an insect-growth regulator such as pyrioproxyfen or methoprene for fleas specifically, or use a diazinon-containing pesticide to kill off both flea and tick infestations. Avoid spraying the entire yard, since fleas and ticks are unlikely to venture away from shady, warm and moist areas.
Natural Yard Treatments
You might be hesitant to use pesticides in your yard because you have young children, a food garden, pets that spend a lot of time outdoors or general environmental concerns. A variety of more natural treatments exist to eradicate fleas and ticks. The book "Dear Dirt Doctor: Questions Answered the Natural Way" by Howard Garrett recommends covering the yard with fine-texture cedar, using a citrus yard spray or releasing beneficial nematodes. Nematodes will feed happily on any available flea larvae. You could also sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your yard, especially in dark and wet areas. The diatomaceous earth won't kill the fleas directly; instead, the fossilised algae shells scratch at the otherwise hard-to-kill flea larvae, which lose moisture through these scratches, and eventually dehydrate and die.
Hit Fleas and Ticks Where It Hurts: Their Diets
If you have a canine or feline companion, their health is probably one of your highest motivations for eliminating a flea-and-tick problem. A flourishing flea yard infestation can be especially hard on your pet, which may end up the parasites' main food source. Use their dependency on your furry friend against them. Treat your pet with a vet-approved flea-and-tick medication, such as Frontline or Advantage. After 24 to 48 hours, your pet will be a serious hazard to the fleas and ticks in your yard. Put your pet in the yard as you normally would. Not only will fleas or ticks that try to feed on your pet's blood die, but any eggs they produce won't hatch, which will break the flea reproductive cycle.
Some flea-and-tick treatments hurt more than just the pests you're targeting. Pesticides may harm your plants or kill beneficial insects, such as bees or spiders. Diatomaceous earth kills the hard-to-kill flea larvae but can also cause respiratory problems in overexposed mammals. Diatomaceous earth also loses its effectiveness in humid weather. If you're using your treated pet as part of your pest-reduction program, make sure your companion is up to date on all vaccinations; otherwise, a flea or tick can pass along disease to your pet.
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- "Dear Dirt Doctor: Questions Answered the Natural Way;" Howard Garrett; 2003
- "8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog"; Shawn Messonnier; 2003
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension; Frequently Asked Questions and Answers; Charlie Spencer; October 4, 2004
- University of Florida; Fleas: What They Are, What to Do; D.L. Richman and P.G. Koehler; 1997
- University of Delaware Cooperative Extension; Tick Control; Dewey M. Caron; April 1, 2004