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Got fleas? Here’s what to do

Published: Thu, November 21, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Q. What is this insect? I am getting bites all over me inside the house.

David from Youngstown

A. First, it is not a bed bug.

Thankfully, David brought a couple of bags of what he thought might be the insects to our office. After carefully sifting through the bags and looking at the contents under the microscope, we were able to identify the problem. Fleas.

Most people are surprised by finding fleas. Sometimes they do not even have a pet. But once they think about it, a neighbor has a pet or there is one which hangs out in their neighborhood.

Fleas are rather small. They are usually 1/8-inch long. They are reddish-brown in color, are without wings and have strong, large hind legs which they use to jump around. They complete their life cycle in just two weeks, depending on their food source and conditions. Females can lay 15-20 eggs per day. They will use your pets, but also rodents, raccoons, chipmunks and other wildlife as hosts.

When fleas are suspected inside, it is most important to get a confirmation of the pest. A sample can be brought to our office for confirmation. Sanitation is important in areas where pets are allowed inside the home.

Our state entomologist, Dr. David Shetlar, tells us, “Total release aerosols [often called ‘bug-bombs’] are not recommended as the vapors rarely get to the location of flea larvae or pupae.” So, letting off a bug bomb simply will not work.

Check your local garden center or home improvement store for a product that will control fleas. Dr. Shetlar suggests an insect growth-regulator. Be sure to follow the label directions when using a pesticide. The label may require you to spray more than one time to completely eliminate the problem. Complete control options are available on our OSU Extension Factsheet, “Fleas,” by Dr. Shetlar and Jennifer Andon. For more information, visit go.osu.edu/fleas.

Eric Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Mahoning County. Call the hotline at the office on Mondays at Thursdays from 9am to Noon to submit your questions at 330-533-5538.

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