If you have a dog or cat, there’s a good chance you’ll need to know how to get rid of fleas in the yard. Treating your yard for fleas will help keep the pests from hopping onto your four-legged family member who, most likely, will bring them into the house. Even if your pet is treated with regular flea-prevention medication, some pests are bound to show up. So making your yard a flea-free zone is just one more level of defense you can take against unwanted bugs.
The first way to tackle your flea problem is to determine if you have any in your yard. Here’s a simple test from the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management program: Pull a pair of white socks up to your calves. Walk around your yard, especially in areas where your pet goes. If your yard has fleas, you’ll see them against your socks.
If you do, unfortunately, have fleas, here’s how to tackle the problem.
One surefire way to treat your yard is with a pesticide to kill fleas.
“Spraying the yard with insecticide can cut down on flea populations,” says Dr. Philip Koehler, a professor at the University of Florida who specializes in urban entomology. He suggests one containing pyriproxyfen.
“In our experiments, we found that pyriproxyfen, an insect growth regulator, was effective in preventing fleas from developing into the adult stage for seven months,” Koehler says.
You probably don’t need to treat the whole yard. Flea larvae won’t survive bright sunlight or areas with heavy foot traffic, according to a University of California IPM fact sheet. Instead, focus on the areas where your pets play and rest.
2. Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth, made from the fossils of tiny aquatic organisms, is a common substance used to kill fleas, bedbugs, spiders, and a whole host of common household pests. When the substance comes in contact with insects, it kills them by drying out their exoskeleton.
Diatomaceous earth can be applied dry or sprayed as a liquid, depending on the formulation you buy. Apply it on the ground or other surfaces where fleas may be living.
Nematodes, tiny, wormlike creatures that live under the soil, are another chemical-free alternative. Nematodes kill fleas in their pupae, larval, and pre-adult stages, providing a natural method to keep the pests under control, according to MotherEarthNews.com. They are specifically sold for yard pest control; just mix them with water, and spray or sprinkle them on your lawn.
4. Critter control
Another key component in flea control: keeping out wild critters.
“Fleas can hitch a ride on wild animals or wild cats,” Koehler says. “These wild animals should be prevented from using your yard and transporting more fleas there.”
Carefully assess your yard for any indication of wildlife—including rabbits, rats, squirrels, and raccoons. You may need to construct a fence, or shore up an existing barrier, to keep wild or stray animals off your property. Other areas where you may need to critter-proof are places they like to hide such as under porches or decks.
Make sure to keep grass mowed—even those hidden patches in the corners of your yard. Areas of tall and overgrown weeds are a great habitat for fleas and other insects, so keep them well-trimmed.
Clear out piles of lumber or other debris that may be languishing in remote spots. Removing these will discourage fleas (and larger flea-harboring wildlife) from inhabiting the space.
Take a look at your mulch, too. “Replacing soiled mulch with fresh mulch may help eliminate flea-friendly microenvironments,” says Lynn Braband, a community educator with Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management program.
Common lore recommends using cedar mulch because fleas don’t like the smell. But Koehler says it really doesn’t matter and any type of mulch will do.
“We found that cedar mulch did not have an effect on flea populations on pets,” he says.