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Flea Control Without Chemicals

Summary: Fleas can be controlled without insecticides or other dangerous chemicals if you are willing spend the time and effort.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Flea control w/out expensive meds

There is a way to control fleas that uses only a small amount of insecticide but it requires a lot of time and work. This method is much less expensive than the new flea and tick medications. In other words, you trade time and convenience for a little elbow grease.

You'll need a vacuum cleaner, flea comb, flea shampoo (see below) and a bottle of flea spray that contains the insect growth regulator methoprene (see below). If methoprene, or Precor, is not available you can use any premise spray that contains an insect growth regulator that states on the label that it "breaks the flea's life cycle".

Adult cat flea (original photo by Ken Gray)

Adult cat fleas (1/5"-1/10") move between the host animal and "nest".

What to do

Start by thoroughly vacuuming anywhere your pet spends time paying particular attention to areas where it sleeps. Be sure to vacumn all fabrics such as drapes, rugs, furniture -- anywhere fleas and flea larvae might hide (dispose of dust bag outside). Next, carefully comb your pet with a flea comb and place combed-out fleas and flea dirt into soapy water to drown fleas. Next, shampoo your pet with a good quality flea and tick shampoo (see below).

And last, spray areas where your pet sleeps with the flea and tick spray that contains methoprene (see Using Methoprene for Flea Control). Methoprene is an insect growth regulator that prevents larval fleas from becoming adults. This spray will last about 6 months so you don't need to re-apply it often but you will need to repeat the other steps every 2-3 weeks until the fleas are gone.


What about flea collars, traps & shampoos?

Regardless of which method you use to control fleas and ticks on your pets you should also consider using a good quality flea and tick shampoo. These shampoos are generally no more expensive than regular shampoos and have the added benefit of a little extra protection. Regular (at least once a month) use of flea and tick shampoo is especially important if you opt to stay with this minimal-insecticide approach.

Flea traps (see Do Flea Traps Work?) may be useful as an early warning system in facilities like kennels where large numbers of animals are housed but they are generally not useful for homeowners. Flea & tick collars (see Do Flea & Tick Collars Protect Pets From Bites?) were once the best approach to flea and tick control but today's flea medications are much more effective. They are still useful as protection against ticks on animals that don't get flea & tick medications.

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Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D.

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