Fleas are the bane of pet owners! Not only do they make our pets, as well as us, uncomfortable, they are just plain gross. Did you know that fleas can carry diseases, and can cause secondary parasite infestation (namely tapeworms)? Fleas are bad enough under normal circumstances, but if you, or your pet, are allergic to their bite, the normally pesky pests become even more of a problem. My dog, Kitsune, is allergic to flea bites. Flea allergy dermatitis can cause severe itching, skin sores/hot spots, and hair loss.
Flea treatment, especially in severe cases, usually consists of a three pronged approach. Not only must you remove the pests that are already on your pet, but the pet's environment, both indoors and out, should be treated as well. You don't want to go through the hassle of removing fleas from your pet, only to have them go outside and catch them again!
This will come as no surprise to my regular readers, but I prefer using more natural means of pest control whenever possible. It's, at times, a delicate balance. I like to try to reduce the amount of chemicals/pesticides I use as much as possible, but because of Kitsune's flea allergies I have to make sure that what I use actually works. The longer it takes me to successfully eliminate fleas, the more my best buddy has to suffer. I already wrote a bit about what I use to eliminate insects, including fleas, inside my home. Diatomaceous Earth (food grade) is nontoxic to humans and pets, but deadly against insects. However, DE is a fine powder that, I feel, isn't as effective outdoors because of its tendency to, well, blow away.
So what are nematodes? If you remember anything from your high school science class, you might remember looking at nematodes under a microscope! Hookworms, pinworms, and whipworms are actually types of parasitic nematodes - but not all nematodes are bad. You probably already deduced this from the topic of today's post, but some species of nematodes can be beneficial as a form of natural insect control.
There are types of predatory nematodes that can live in the soil and help to control insect populations. Farmers/gardeners will sometimes use them to help fight against garden pests. Basically, you can purchase beneficial nematodes and apply them to your yard. The nematodes will be microscopic, so you can't actually see them, but once applied to soil they go to work killing insects, including preadult fleas. Nematodes attack fleas while they are still in their larval stage, killing them before they ever get the chance to grow into biting adults.
As the nematodes make meals out of larval fleas and other pesky insects, they will reproduce. Don't worry, nematodes sold for insect control are harmless to humans and pets. If they ever run out of insects to eat, they will simply die and fertilize the soil. Other than snacking on larval fleas, predatory nematodes sold for insect control can also help fight against gnats, grubs, rootworms, and other types of insects.
There is obviously no surefire way to 100% prevent your pet from coming into contact with fleas while outdoors, especially if you visit public parks or areas where other animals frequent. However, nematodes can be an effective, chemical free, way to arm your own yard against fleas.
Comment below! If you have any pets, what forms of flea control are you currently using? Have you ever added nematodes to your flea fighting arsenal?