There are many species of fleas throughout North America, but the ones considered pests most often are dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) and cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), as these species will infest homes. Other species carry plague and other diseases, but they will not infest a home in large numbers. Dog and cat fleas prefer parts of the country that are humid. They are not established in the arid southwest, although they occasionally turn up when brought in on a dog that moved here from somewhere else.
If you have fleas infesting your home, here is what you need to do: Steam clean the carpets and all upholstered furniture. This will remove dried blood, carpet fibers and other debris, diluted excrement, some flea larvae, eggs, pupal cocoons, adults flea feces.
Put a goose-neck lamp 8” – 10” over a pan of “fizzy” seltzer water with a few drops of dish soap at night. The fleas are attracted to the heat and carbon dioxide and drown. Sprinkle salt where animals lie; salt dehydrates the fleas and they die.
To monitor infestations, slowly walk through suspected areas wearing white knee socks. When the fleas jump on you, you should clearly be able to see them on the socks. Or you can put some white pieces of fabric on the floor and the fleas will jump on them.
You can also dust the carpet with food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Also dust bedding, furniture and other areas your pet frequents. Let the DE set for five days and then vacuum it up.
Outside you can apply nematodes to your yard. You can get nematodes at garden shops where fleas are prevalent. They can reduce the flea population outside by up to 90%.
Flea beetles are small dark brown or black beetles in the leaf beetle family. They have large hind legs which enables them to jump. They prefer to feed on hot, sunny days and feed on a variety of plants.
It will help to control them by putting diatomaceous earth on the soil around the plants as the beetle larvae live in the soil. Also mist all the plants and then dust them with diatomaceous earth. That will help prevent the beetles from eating the plants. Yellow sticky traps in the area will help catch the adult beetles.
(Tenebrionidae – Tribolium spp.)
Flour beetles are small, brownish in color and elongate in shape. There are several species that are potential pests in stored food products. Two species are very common. The confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum) is common in northern regions and the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) is more common in southern areas. They feed on barley, beet pulp, breakfast cereals, grains, nuts, wheat, wheat bran, milk chocolate and dried milk. Good sanitation is key to controlling these beetles. Throw away any food you find that is infested with the beeltes. There are other types of beetles that will infest food products, but the control methods are the same for all of them.
Fruit flies are usually found in the kitchen where they feed and breed on food spilled in out of the way places such as behind or under appliances or similar areas. These small flies have distinctive red eyes, which you can see with a hand lens. They are tan or brown in color and about 1/8” long. They are also known as pomace flies and vinegar flies. They can be serious pests when found in food handling establishments as they breed in and feed on fruits, vegetables and any moist, decaying organic material. They have been known to cause intestinal problems and diarrhea when fruit containing their larvae are eaten. They will also breed in discarded fruit juice and soft drink cans and in unsecured bottles of wine. They are also very prolific as the female can lay about 500 eggs which will hatch and reach adulthood in as little as eight days.
In your home you can control fruit flies by totally eliminating all breeding material. They are attracted to acetic acid (vinegar), so put some drops on duct tape or glue boards. Or you can just fill a small paper cup with vinegar and the flies will dive in. You can also put a piece of banana or other fruit in a jar and then put a funnel in the opening. The fruit flies will enter the funnel and be unable to get out.
Fungus gnats are very small flies with long legs and long antennae and distinctly patterned wings. They are dark brown or black in color. They are generally found in over-watered house plants where the larvae feed on fungus in the potting soil and moist organic material. The best way to control them is to let the plants dry out almost to the point of wilting before re-watering. That will kill the larvae in the soil. Then put an inch of aquarium gravel on the soil to prevent female fungus gnats from laying anymore eggs in the potting soil. You can also place a yellow sticky trap on a stick in the soil to catch the adult gnats.
(Rodentia – Geomyidae)
Pocket gophers construct burrows under the ground using their strong forelegs, enlarged claws and even their teeth. Their vision is poor because of their habitat as is their hearing. When the gopher digs, it kicks the dirt behind it with its hind feet. When a lot of loose dirt has accumulated, it turns around and pushes the dirt to the surface using its forepaws and face. The resulting mounds are an indication of their presence in your yard.
Gophers feed on the underground portions of plants, but will occasionally come to the surface and pull green vegetation underground. They live alone in their tunnel system, but males will enter female tunnels during mating season, usually early in the year. Female gophers will have one to seven young at a time. The baby gophers will disperse on the ground when they are mature enough to leave their mother and often fall victim to predators at this time. They usually have only one litter per year.
I have found that the best method of gopher control is simply asking them to move. You can do this by pouring a foul smelling liquid into their tunnel system. Fish oil emulsion works well and castor oil is also effective. Since gophers generally live alone, once they move, they are not likely to return unless they are forced to move again, so a repellant can be very effective.
When using a repellant, you will have to probe the dirt to find their tunnels. Generally a tunnel will run straight between two mounds and they are normally about 18” below the surface. You can use a metal rod or even a pool cue to probe the dirt. Once you hit the tunnel, the probe will fall through. Then take a long-stem funnel and place it in the hole created by the probe. Pour the repellant into the funnel and move on to the next tunnel.
Grasshoppers are very common and there are numerous species, many of which will get into gardens. They are most troublesome in semiarid areas as they are attracted to the watering of gardens and lawns.
If you have grasshoppers you can spray your plants with the following recipe. Mix ½ cup of Tabasco sauce with one onion and a half dozen cloves of garlic in a blender with 2 cups of water. Blend the material and let it stand for 24 hours. Then add two more cups of water and a tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap. You can also mix 2 cups of DE with a gallon of water and spray the plants. Put dry DE on the ground under and around all plants. If you prefer, you can bury a large can to the top, fill it about a quarter way with water and molasses. The grasshoppers will go in and be unable to get out.
(Muscidae – Musca domestica)
House flies have a gray thorax (part where head is connected and wings are attached) with four dark stripes, and a mottled abdomen (posterior portion). These flies are considered “filth flies” and will feed on excrement, garbage, carcasses, and even human secretions from wounds and mucous membranes. If you accidentally eat the larvae (maggots) in contaminated food, they can survive in your intestine.
When you swat a fly remember that is has an unblurred range of vision of only abut 1½ feet. You should aim your flyswatter about 1½” behind the fly, because when houseflies take off from a horizontal surface, they jump upward and backward.
I have frequently written about hanging Ziploc bags filled with water around doors and windows. The sun’s refractive light is said to disorient flies when the sun’s rays are shining through the bags and the flies won’t come in the building. From the mail I have received, these bags work very well.