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Outdoor Fleas: How to Treat Your Yard

Girl chasing dog in yard
Stefan Cristian Cioata / Getty Images

Flea infestations are a major inconvenience. Fleas can bite, carry diseases and generally just cause chaos. Your yard and lawn create a comfy environment for fleas to feed, breed, and lay their eggs – and gives them easy access to hitch a ride inside on you or your pets. To learn how to know if you have fleas in your yard and how to get rid of them, read on and follow our comprehensive guide.

How to know if you have fleas in your yard

Fleas are tiny, wingless pests that live off of the blood of cats, dogs, and humans. They are about 3 millimeters long with flat bodies that are either brown or reddish-brown. While they are wingless, they have an incredible jumping ability due to their hind legs and can easily jump as high as 11 inches. Flea infestations can quickly get out of hand because one female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs throughout her 100-day lifetime.

Fleas have to be brought into your yard warm-blooded animals and you can tell there are fleas in your yard if your pets are constantly scratching or if they are restless. Sometimes you can see insects moving between your pet’s hairs – these might be fleas. If you are still not sure, walk around your yard with a pair of white socks and you’ll easily spot fleas against the bright color of your socks.

Fleas are not just irritating, they’re also a source of diseases like murine typhus and the plague. Heavy infestations can lead to your pet constantly scratching, which leads to a roughened coat and, in some instances, nervous conditions. Fleas can also spread tapeworms.

How long can outdoor flea infestations last?

Getting rid of fleas is not a one-time project. Unfortunately, it is a process that could take weeks or even months due to a flea’s life cycle. The life cycle of a flea begins when a female flea feeds for the first time on a host. Once this happens, she instinctively lays up to 20 eggs on the animal’s fur.

The eggs get into the fibers of your carpet or in the yard where your pets spend most of their time. The eggs hatch into legless embryos or larvae which live on pre-digested blood from the mother, meaning they do not need a host to survive. The larvae then develop into cocooned pupae, a stage that can last for weeks or even months because the flea does not emerge unless they sense a potential host through a change in thermal energy, vibrations, or a rise in carbon dioxide levels.

Because fleas don’t emerge fully-grown until they have a host to feed on, flea infestations can last for several months while the fleas in your yard go through their life cycle. And because female fleas automatically lay eggs when they feed, it’s easy for the cycle to continuously repeat itself.

How to get rid of fleas in the yard, step by step

Step 1: Mow your lawn 

You want to make sure that your lawn is unwelcoming to fleas while allowing their natural predators to thrive. Grass that is too long will give fleas an easy and ideal place to hide while grass that is too short (less than two inches) will deter spiders and ants – both of which prey on fleas.

Step 2: Clean your yard 

Creating a natural barrier around the edges of your yard and home will help keep fleas away. Remove brush, plantings, leaves, and trash from around the edges of your yard to help keep fleas from having a place to hide and lay eggs.

Step 3:  Watch the moisture 

Fleas love moisture because it helps them thrive. As such, you need to make sure you’re not overwatering your grass and plants. This can attract fleas and give them a happy home – something you want to avoid.

Step 4: Let the sun shine 

Another thing that fleas love is darkness. So trim any bushes and trees to allow your yard to fill with sunlight to help deter fleas.

Step 5: Treat your lawn

Use a specifically formulated flea spray treatment all over your lawn to kill existing fleas and chase away new ones.

Step 6: Mulch with cedar 

Fill your flower beds with cedar mulch. Cedar is a natural flea repellant and will help keep them away.

Step 7: Evict wildlife 

Squirrels, cats, skunks, rabbits, and other creatures are all potential hosts for fleas. So do what you can to keep them out of your yard by using traps, avoiding birdseed and making your yard less friendly to them.

Step 8: Make sure your home and pets are clean 

Vacuum your house and then treat it with a flea treatment. Then, groom and bathe your bets with flea shampoos and conditioners to kill any fleas that may have gotten to them. This will ensure that any fleas that may have been brought inside are gone.

Products you can use to treat fleas in the yard

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to get rid of outdoor fleas naturally

One of the natural ways you can get rid of fleas in your yard is by introducing nematodes which are tiny multicellular organisms that live in the soil. In addition to fleas, nematodes help control other garden pests including ants, grubs, and termites. You can buy them in any garden center or online store and you only need to add water as instructed on the package and spray them in your yard.

Cedar is also an effective flea repellant. If spreading cedar wood chips throughout your yard is unsightly or cumbersome, use them throughout the yard’s perimeter so that they can deter fleas from getting into your yard. You can also spray the yard with cedarwood essential oil. This oil is safe for pets, humans, and the environment.

When to call a professional exterminator to treat fleas in your yard

A professional exterminator is trained to deal with flea infestations. They can identify the source of the infestation, get rid of the fleas, and advise you on how to avoid future infestations. Professional exterminators will use products that are safe for you and your pets.

If the steps and products outlined above fail, it is time to involve a professional flea exterminator. They might request that you prepare your yard by clearing it out, vacuuming your home, and treating your pets with specific products (or even a trip to the vet). They might also ask you to leave the home for a few hours while they treat the fleas in the yard.

How to keep fleas out of your home

The first step towards preventing a flea infestation in your home is by keeping the grass in your yard mowed and any shrubs trimmed. Grooming your yard gives fleas and other pests zero places to hide. Next, discourage animals such as feral cats, opossums and raccoons from getting into your yard by ensuring that you do not leave trash or your pets’ feeding bowls outside.

If your pet spends time outdoors, run a brush or flea comb through their coat before they get inside the house. Making sure they are well-groomed and shaved makes it easier to spot fleas.

The bottom line on outdoor fleas

Flea infestations can quickly get out of hand and are hard to stop. Pets are a good barometer to tell if you have fleas. If they’re constantly scratching or seem restless it could be a sign that they have fleas. Fleas thrive in hot, humid weather, darkness and tall grass. You can make your yard inhospitable to fleas by mowing your lawn, cleaning it to get rid of hiding places, and trimming trees and shrubs to let sunlight in. However, if your yard is already infested, you should concentrate your eradication efforts on the “hot spots” before treating the rest of the yard. If you notice little to no improvement then it may be time to call a professional exterminator.

Frequently asked questions

What is the fastest way to get rid of fleas in the yard?

The easiest and fastest way to get rid of fleas is by using an insecticide or pesticide. Choose one that contains pyriproxyfen as it prevents larvae and pupae from developing into full-grown fleas.

What kills fleas in the yard naturally?

Sprinkling your yard with diatomaceous earth is an effective way of naturally killing fleas in your yard. However, this will only work if it’s not wet or raining.

When is a flea infestation most likely to occur?

Fleas can infest your yard at any time, but they are more likely to attack if you’ve been away for a long time.

What are the dangers of not dealing with a flea infestation immediately?

A flea infestation can result in skin irritations that lead to hair loss on your pets’ coats or bites on your skin. They also predispose pets to allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, and other diseases.


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