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FLEA TREATMENTS UP TO SCRATCH?

When it comes to flea treatments, using an IGR alongside an adulticide is a surefire way to break the flea life cycle and ensure that customers are left satisfied.

With the warmth and humidity of summer, peak flea season arrives and the debates over the best treatment begin. Whilst there may be some flexibility in product choice, there are clear, established steps required to deliver a best practice flea treatment. Here we review this process and suggest some tips for a successful treatment, avoiding the dreaded callback!

Flea treatments are one of the pest services that definitely requires customer involvement. Before arriving to carry out the treatment, the owner needs to make sure the pet’s flea treatment is up to date, all pet bedding needs to be washed and the house needs to thoroughly vacuumed and cleaned.

Pet bedding needs to be washed in hot water. Ideally this should be done regularly – once a week is recommended.

Vacuuming is critical. Not only will it pick up a large number of the fleas at various life stages, it raises carpet fibres making any chemical application more effective, as it can more easily penetrate the carpet. Although the cocoons tend to be sticky and difficult to lift, the vibrations from the vacuuming will cause any developed adults to hatch, ensuring they are exposed to the treatment. It’s important to also vacuum any chairs that are favourite pet resting places and under all furniture. It’s also worth vacuuming the cracks between floorboards. The contents of the vacuum need to be removed, sealed and disposed of immediately afterwards.

Figure 1: Residual control of fleas in carpet

A comprehensive flea treatment also requires outdoor areas to be treated, especially those areas where the pet rests. Some pre-treatment preparation by the customer helps here as well. Make sure subfloor and under deck areas are free from stored items. Raking the lawn and garden beds in areas to be treated, to remove organic material, will allow any treatment to reach the soil more effectively.

Hopefully the homeowner has carried out the pre-treatment actions and you can then perform a treatment. In terms of product choice, a range of adulticides is available, including pyrethroid products (such as Sumiguard) and pyrethroid/non-pyrethroid combination products. Whilst they all work, their performance is significantly enhanced by the inclusion of an insect growth regulator such as Sumilarv, which also provides significant benefits to customers.

Sumilarv contains the insect growth regulator (IGR) pyriproxyfen, which lasts at least nine months in carpets and is active at very low concentrations (Figure 1). It doesn’t kill adult fleas (that’s the job of the adulticide) but it does control the immature stages. Sumilarv not only kills larvae (main picture, above), but eggs already laid will not hatch and eggs laid by treated adults will be sterile. Long after the adulticide has degraded, Sumilarv will continue to work, preventing the development of a flea population. The inclusion of Sumilarv in your tank mix not only ensures the effectiveness of your treatment but also gives long-lasting protection, providing real value to your customers.

No matter how comprehensive the treatment, gaining complete control in a single application is nigh on impossible – an adulticide/IGR combination will take care of all life stages, except the flea pupa, which is highly resistance to the penetration of insecticides. As such, developing adults inside cocoons will survive the initial treatment, hatching one to two weeks after the application. These adults may well emerge; some will pick up residual insecticide and die within a couple of hours, other may jump on a host and bite without picking up a lethal dose of insecticide. Fleas on the pet will subsequently die (assuming the pet flea treatment has been updated).

Make sure your customers are aware of this phenomenon. Whilst pest managers love a job completed in a single treatment, with fleas (especially with heavy infestations) it can be a good idea to factor in a second visit/application.

Don’t forget to treat the outdoor areas – the areas where the pets love to rest. The long-lasting performance of Sumilarv is particularly useful in outdoor areas, which can be prone to continued re-infestation from other pets in the neighbourhood and native animals.

The use of Sumilarv also provides an easy upselling opportunity during general pest treatments. Treating the carpets of pet owners with an insect growth regulator on its own (no adulticide) prevents a flea problem establishing in the first place. With its favourable safety profile it can be an easy sell to homeowners concerned about insecticide use around their pets and families.

Charles McClintock, Professional Products Business Manager, Sumitomo Chemical Australia