Using nematodes for flea control: Fleas are the bane of pet owners! Not only do they make our pets, as well as us, uncomfortable, but they are also just plain gross. Did you know that fleas can carry diseases? They can also cause secondary parasite infestation (tapeworms). Fleas are bad enough under normal circumstances, but if you, or your pet, are allergic to their bite, like my papillon, Kitsune, is, the normally pesky pests become even more of a problem. 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!
Natural Flea Control Options?
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 number 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.
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, chemical-free, insect control.
Using Nematodes as Flea Control
There are types of predatory nematodes that 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 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.
Do Nematodes Harm Native Insects?
Not all nematodes are created equal. In fact, there are types of nematodes that will damage plant roots. No gardener would want those around if they could help it! The type of nematodes that can help eliminate fleas are often sold as “beneficial” or “predatory” nematodes. They feed on insects rather than plants.
If your environmentally minded, like I am, you may wonder whether or not predatory nematodes will harm beneficial, native insects. There are actually different types of predatory nematodes, and the types of insects they prey upon will vary by species. Knowing this, you can select the type of predatory nematode that would work best for the species of insects you are trying to eliminate.
A Safer Alterative
Also keep in mind that nematodes are already present in your soil. To quote the UCR Department of Nematology, “Nematodes have been reported from every continent on earth and occur in deserts, swamps, the oceans, the tropics and Antarctica”. Using targeted species of predatory nematodes to combat common pest insects, such as fleas, is safer for the environment, as well as people, pets, and beneficial insects, than using pesticides.
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?
As a qualified Veterinary Nurse I’m well aware of the pain of flea allergy dermatitis. However, I’m more used to using the tried and tested chemicals, especially when treating FAD animals. I’ve looked into natural pest control before but my concern has always been the potential risk to the natural balance of microscopic critters in the soil and the natural food chain from there. My house cats don’t need does treatment currently, but this something I’ll look into further when the outdoor pen is complete.
A to Z participant
Thanks for your comment! Pest control can certainly be frustrating. I share your concern for the environment, but at the same time want to keep my pup comfortable. It can, at times, be a delicate balance. I know not everyone treats outside for fleas – just eliminating them on your pet and in your home can be enough in some situations. But if you do have to treat outside, I’d much prefer using a more natural treatment than spraying pesticides.
Thanks again for stopping by! I’ll check out your blog too. Good luck with the rest of the A to Z challenge.
Interesting, in all the years of working at vet hospitals I’ve never have heard of this. Where would one get these nematodes? At a local lawn and garden supplier? Home Depot? How often do you have to reapply it to your lawn?
Home Depot has them near me. I’d assume you could probably find them at other home improvement/garden supply stores as well, or online. I’ve seen it recommend to apply them every couple of weeks or so through the warmer months. Or you can just keep an eye on your insect population and apply as needed.