“If a huge skull and crossbones were suspended above the insecticide department
the customer might at least enter it with the respect normally accorded
death-dealing materials.” —Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Tanner: sixpence for you thoughts?
Part Two: Declaring (Sensible) War
FLEAS.(PART 2 OF TWO). There are more than 3,000 different species of flea, the most common being Ctenocephalides felis, (the cat flea), also the most common on dogs. Fleas are similar to cockroaches in that they adapt to their environment: they become stronger and more immune to popular commercial flea control chemicals with each generation. Moreover, an effective solution must also deal with eggs and larvae that come to life long after adult bugs are dead. In truth, most of the fleas are living in the dog’s environment, rather than on his body:every flea found in his fur may mean that there approximately 30 more living in your home.
A flea's life span goes through four stages
tied to external conditions, and the adult fleas that bite represent only the top, about 5% of the “flea population pyramid” total. The broad base of the pyramid—50% of the total population—is the vast number of eggs. A female flea can lay up to 60 eggs each day (up to 900 in her lifetime). But before doing so, must find a blood meal... possessing little eyesight, she relies primarily on air currents and carbon dioxide to locate hosts: as your dog passes by, the persistent flea jumps up and down, sometimes thousands of times, before it hitches a ride. Once on board, the flea secretes saliva onto the target area to soften the skin and make the blood flow readily; it is this saliva (not the actual bite) that causes the allergic reactions in pets and humans. After her blood meal, the flea begins laying eggs on your dog: some are removed as he grooms himself; others fall off as he moves about the house.
In 2 to 12 days the eggs hatch into wormlike larvae, (about 35% of the total population), which emerge from the eggs and feed on debris and organic matter in carpets, soil, or in cracks and baseboards. The larval stage generally lasts 1 to 3 weeks, but under unfavorable conditions it can last up to 200 days, before the larvae spin a cocoon and transform into pupae (10% of the total). The hibernating cocoon can survive up to year without feeding, awaiting proper conditions (and detection of a host’s vibrations) to hatch and immediately seek a blood meal, thus begining a new generation. Adults can live 1 to 2 months without a meal and can survive 7 to 8 months with just one meal.
The wide fluctuation in duration of the various stages accounts for the sudden emergence of massive numbers of fleas in what we know as “flea season”: they've been there all along, waiting for optimal temperature and humidity conditions to occur before maturing en masse. The problem is that many common pesticides used to eradicate these pests kill only adult fleas, leaving almost the entirety of the flea problem behind to wreak havoc many times.
Statistically, efforts directed at the eggs and larvae will yield the best results,
and prevent future generations from being born.
Layla: nervously coy...
TICKS. Ticks are incredibly hardy, cannot be suffocated or drowned (they breathe only once every five hours), and are resistant to many chemicals. Ticks belong to the class arachnida, which counts mites, spiders and scorpions among its members. Infinitely patient creatures, ticks make their way onto the edges of leaves and branches, then stretch out their legs waiting to hitch a ride on a passing host.
How do they choose that host? Sightless and deaf, the tick uses olfactory receptor neurons consisting of about 20 sensilla located on their first pair of legs (the Haller’s organ) that are narrowly tuned to the specific odor of butyric acid: a fatty smell emitted by warm-blooded creatures (also contained in sweat). The tick’s skin is photosensitive, and can detect warmth; it directs itself toward such warmth, then drops from its perch onto the host (your dog). As “obligate blood feeders,” ticks consume blood and as such, can transmit disease. A female tick will feed for several days, increasing as much as 200 times in weight before she's had her fill; once satiated, she falls to the ground where she lays thousands of eggs which emerge
to re-start the cycle.
Feeding for only a few days, the majority of the life of a tick is spent off the host in the environment either seeking a host, molting or simply passing through an inhospitable season (e.g., hot summers or cold winters). Ticks that infest dogs include Dermacentor variabilis, the American dog tick; and Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged tick(erroneously nicknamed “deer tick” as a propaganda tool by advocates of recreational hunting). They are known as three-host ticks, since at each stage of life (larva, nymph and adult) the tick feeds, drops off and transforms, then moves on to another host.
Controlling fleas and ticks on your dog necessitates ceaseless attention; it's never a onetime or occasional thing, particularly for a dog that may get walked in outdoor areas. But why do some dogs seem to be infested with parasites… while others (even in the same household) aren’t? The answer lies in nature’s plan, and the parasite’s role therein: to weed out and finish off unhealthy members of the various host species. The reason can often be found by comparing the general health of each animals' skin: the fastest-growing organ of its body, with the outer layer of cells being replaced every 3 weeks. Optimum nutrition is essential for healthy skin; improperly nourished, the skin will be the first area to show problems. Dry, unhealthy skin causes itching, as well as more severe reactions to fleabites, as the skin may bleed and actually “fall apart”; under these conditions, fleas need not chew to extract blood… and flock to this host. A strong immune system and high nutrient levels help repel insects: many infestations can be avoided with the simple steps of an improved diet, augmented by an Omega-3 (fish or flaxseed oil) supplement.
Bella: "Am I in trouble?"
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT (IPM). IPM is a pest control approach that uses the least toxic methods first. IPM includes common sense methods based on scientific knowledge of the pest: methods often include removing food sources, preventing their entry into an area, using beneficial prey organisms, and the prudent use of pesticides. IPM can be more effective than conventional methods that rely on chemicals alone. Goals of IPM: • Using knowledge about the pest's habits, life cycle, needs and aversions; • Using the least toxic methods first, up to and including pesticides; •Monitoring the pest's activity and adjusting methods over time; • Tolerating harmless pests, and; • Setting a threshold to decide when it's time to act.
Important aspects of any IPM endeavor necessitate learning about the pest’s biology, using that knowledge to exclude them from an area, either by blocking access (including learning about their home base and travel patterns), or removing their food and shelter. Identifying all of your control options before acting is an important framework
for any IPM endeavor.
Daisy: pensive thoughts...
SIMPLESTART. Regular grooming that includes use a flea comb is effective: fleas are caught in the closely spaced tines of the comb and can be dunked into a container of soapy water, to drown. Don't crush fleas with your fingers since they may be carrying parasites themselves. You may pick up an adult flea, or you may collect black, pepper-like material. To determine if this black material is flea feces, place the debris on a white paper towel and add a drop of water: if it is flea feces, you will see a reddish-brown stain develop, since flea feces is actually digested blood. A bath every two weeks during the season with a mild organic lotion soap will kill many fleas by drowning; it's not necessary to use insecticidal shampoos, as most soaps will kill fleas (just let the suds stand a few minutes before rinsing).
Afterward, a lemon rinse will tone the cleansed skin, leaving a residual citrus odor that will temporarily help repel fleas. Slice a whole lemon and drop the unpeeled slices into a pint of nearly boiling water. Steep the lemonwater overnight, then strain out the pulp. Sponge the lemon rinse onto your dogs skin and allow it to air-dry (don't towel). This nontoxic treatment can be repeated daily if necessary. (You can make a natural flea shampoo by using one cup of the lemon rinse and one cup of white vinegar added to a quart of water).
TO A NATURAL PROBLEM. Having likely already left eggs in the house— a time bomb that goes off months or even years later, given the right temperature and humidity— treating only your dog with insecticide in an effort to keep fleas and ticks out of your home is both futile and cruel, sacrificing the dog for the sake of its environment. Vigilance and preventive techniques allow most pet owners to keep flea populations under control without using poisons. While they take longer to work, and have a shorter duration of effectiveness, organic flea fighters are safer, and include two varieties of pyrethrin (botanical insecticides) that are derived from the flower heads of several types of Old World chrysanthemums; their pesticidal properties have been utilized for more than 100 years.
Pyrethrins affect the flow of sodium out of the nerve cells in insects, resulting in repeated and extended firings of the nerves (over-excitation), causing the insects to die. Breaking down on exposure to light or oxygen, they are non-persistent (biodegradable). A newer natural agent, d-Limonene, is a by-product of the citrus industry (the rinds) and carries a mild, grapefruit-like odor. It is used as a precursor to carvone, found in natural essential oils (oils extracted from plants), employed as a mosquito repellent.
Luke: dignified statesman
An au Courant Battle...
Many flea control insecticides simply aren’t effective. While flea collars emit continuous micropowder “vapors” into the home (including active ingredients that are known carcinogens, and which your dog ingests, through breathing or self-grooming), they often irritate the skin, merely “chase” fleas to his tail end, and do not affect flea eggs. Aerosol space foggers are promoted with claims of virtual eradication of household pests. But foggers are effective only on exposed adult insects; eggs and larvae are not exposed and, except when the fogger has a persistent ingredient, there is no residual toxicant to contact the insect when it is vulnerable.
Treatment of your home
must begin with a thorough cleaning: vacuuming picks up fleas and eggs from carpets, floors and crevices, and from under or on furniture. Experiments done on nylon carpets have shown vacuuming provides the same level of control at the pupal stage as permethfin, a widely used synthetic pesticide. Persistence is key, with frequent vacuuming of the house, (especially pet areas), paying careful attention to dark, damp places where fleas may have deposited eggs, as an important step to keep fleas from gaining a foothold. Banishing clutter, throw pillows, magazines, etc., speeds the process, (which depends on repetition). Be willing to move and turn over furniture for access.
Riley: percolating on his prey...
Since larvae wrap themselves around the base of carpet fibers, and hang on, vacuuming may be only partially effective in removing the flea larvae in carpeting. But vibration from vacuuming can result in the emergence of adult fleas from the pupal stage, and the newly hatched fleas may be removed prior to ever meeting your dog. After vacuuming, the cleaner bag (or permanent cup, if a bagless unit) shouldn't be left in the machine: since the fleas may escape and the eggs it contains can hatch and re-infect your house: throw it out or otherwise destroy the contents. For severe infestations, a professional steam cleaning
is in order.
For carpeted areas,BORIC ACID (nontoxic borate crystal salt) dissolves the waxy protective coating on fleas, eggs, and larvae, causing them to dessicate (dehydrate), effectively targets flea larvae on contact, yet has extremely low toxicity to dogs; (troublesome only if directly inhaled, or, around a dog with wounds from existing dermatitis). Shake the product onto the carpet and work it in with a broom. The extremely fine particulates can remain in the carpet, even after vacuuming. As its killing action is mechanical, not chemical, fleas cannot become immune to its effects.
For bare floors,PYRPROXYFEN,(a juvenile hormone analogue) can be sprayed as an insect growth regulator (IGR): it mimicks natural juvenile hormones of insects, and treated larvae will be unable to mature into adults, breaking the flea life cycle (brand name: Nylar®). Available in liquid concentrate or aerosol formulations, it has a 3 to 6 month residual indoors and can last 30 days outdoors. It is difficult to find this chemical alone, since it is often combined with
Fleas tend to accumulate where dogs sleep. If possible, establish a single, regular sleeping place (restrict his access to hard-to-clean areas like basements and attics) with fresh bedding that is easily removable and washable; covering his “bed” with a sheet or towel is beneficial. To break the flea life cycle, schedule washing at least once a week. Pick bedding up by the four corners so that eggs and larvae aren't scattered throughout the area; don’t mix it with other laundry, and polish off any six-legged survivors with a dry at “hot” setting. When you re-make his bed, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the clean bedding, carpets and floors, working it in with a broom; cedar oil powder under the bedding is especially effective.
Taco: the distinguished don
HEAT/LIGHT FLEA TRAPS. Heat is indicative of a warm-blooded host, and will stimulate and attract fleas: you can suspend a bare bulb 6-12 inches over a pan of water with some dish soap added: surfactants in the soap reduce the water’s surface tension, causing the fleas to sink and drown. However, the light itself is important: even though fleas will orient themselves toward heat, absent further stimuli, they will not jump to a host (or the trap).
Fleas primarily use visual cues to locate hosts. Fleas lack acute vision; but do sense changes in light intensity. Flea eyes have a single biconvex lens, and adults are positively phototactic (they are drawn to light sources): researchers have demonstrated that if placed in a dark area, 93% of fleas move to a lighted area within 40 minutes. Adult fleas climb objects or congregate near openings that allow light in (doorways) so that they can orient themselves towards lighted areas while waiting for a host. An effective IPM exploits this phenomena.
Fleas can detect wavelengths between 300 and 600 nanometers (nm), but are most receptive to wavelengths between 500 and 530 nm, a green-yellow colored light. Commercial lighted flea traps fitted with a green-yellow filter will attract twice as many fleas as a standard/LED bulb. Also, fleas are most attracted to lights that are briefly turned off (10 minutes on, 5 seconds off): most fleas move only a short distance toward an uninterrupted light. Fleas jump once the light is turned off or blocked: they interpret the break as a host walking in front of the light, and they move toward the perceived shadow, as the light going off simulates a moving a host. Thus, flea traps are more effective at night, and traps employing intermittent light consistently capture nearly eight times more fleas than a light that is continuously on.
George: eyes as an ocean, that reflect dreams
DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. Once your home is sanitized, defend against a recurrence of fleas by applying small amounts of diatomaceous earth (DE) throughout. Appearing similar to baby powder, diatomaceous earth is diminutive fossilized skeletal remains of unicellular plants called diatoms (a major group of algae, and a common type of phytoplankton). The microscopic, razor-sharp edged particles attach and penetrate the waxy protective outer coating on the flea’s shell-like exoskeleton, leading to dessication (dehydration) and death.
It only takes a small amount of diatomaceous earth to cover a large area indoors if it is strategically placed near problem areas such as under the baseboard heaters, beneath the stove or cupboards, near the sink, garbage, etc. Effective on carpeting, if sprinkled on bare wood floors DE will drop into cracks and crevices favored by fleas. While the effectiveness of the dust does not wear out, it can be accidentally sucked up when vacuuming, so you may need to reapply after using the vacuum in certain areas. Non-toxic, DE can also be rubbed directly into your dog’s fur.
You should continue application of DE after the resident flea population is exterminated, because hibernating fleas in the cocoon stage may survive in the home environment up to a year without food. This stage can survive most chemical treatments and can emerge to reintroduce the flea population in your home.
Jasper: twilight rogue, daring the camera...
CEDAR OIL.Pine pitch has been used for centuries by many cultures globally as a general-purpose repellent and killer for biting insects, and by Native Americans as a repellent and for antiseptic purposes. But is very high in turpenes (essential oils of conifers), which can be toxic to the respiratory and central nervous systems if inhaled, and the renal system if ingested. Cedar oil (wood oils and gums) is lower in these turpenes, and as a biochemical insecticide, has been deemed by the EPA as safe around humans, (even infants and pregnant women), terrestrial wildlife, frogs, birds, honey bees, and beneficial insect predators (praying mantises, ladybugs, and dragonflies), noting in the Wood Oils and Gums Case 3150 (March, 2011) its “non-toxic modality, low use volumes, and biodegradability (little to no persistence).”
At the same time cedar oil kills on contact biting insects such as mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, ticks, head lice, bed bugs; and repels wasps, yellow jackets, and most spiders. Pure cedar oil has a strong smell whose odor, but not effectiveness, evaporates in a brief time. Many families send cedar oil sprays as care packages to US Army posts in the Middle East to protect soldiers and their service dogs against sand fleas, scorpions, biting flies, and venomous snakes. As a spray, it is used agriculturally to repel flies and knats from horses and cattle, in granular form to control soil-borne insects in stables, and as a closed release dispenser to repel moths from clothing.
Cedar oil acts as a pheromone interruption agent that shuts down the insect’s breathing system. Having no effect on humans or animals, it is non-toxic, and can be applied directly to the dog as a contact killer and to provide natural repellency; it does not wash off with water and should last several weeks, (rain even refreshes its activity: signified by the fresh smell of cedar on his coat). Used for home eradication or yard spray, pets can be returned to the treated areas in a short time and the process can be repeated whenever desired without chemical residue or build-up. For residential applications, forms include sprays (the dog and house), powders (his bedding), and granules (lawn borders).
Frankie: conspicuously handsome
As a specific flea exterminant, cedar oil is combined with ethyl lactate, a corn oil by-product (used as a water-rinse-able degreaser) and water, thus becoming a biological solvent, which is instrumental in triggering instant erosion and dehydration of the flea’s exoskeleton, and subsequently, the egg and larvae: breaking the reproductive cycle. The spray is used especially along baseboards as well as the floor surface and rugs, on the legs of furniture, under bureaus and desks, box springs and mattresses, etc. Once a room is sprayed thoroughly, it takes 2-3 hours for the odor to fully dissipate.
For severe flea and tick infestations, or, in cases where de-cluttering is difficult, solutions include a low volume chemical-free fogger that uses a turbine to thrust an atomized solution of cedar oil and melted quartz rock (acting as a carrier) as a cold dry mist which can penetrate into cracks, behind furniture, through jumbled basements and clothes-filled closets, outside house perimeters and yard areas, etc.; and which is ideal for fumigating disorderly areas such as basements and attics. As such, cedar oil can be an ideal non-persistent fumigant for repeat applications, or for large-scale de-infestation projects (industrial applications, hotels, etc.), as an alternative to commonly used (but hazardous, and regulated) Bromomethane, (methyl bromide) pesticides.
Millie: "age" is a meaningless number!
In many respects, the SIMPLEST AND MOST EFFFECTIVEflea & tick preventative will mask the specific odors on your pet that pests are searching for in the environment: if the formula is effective, fleas and ticks cannot smell, taste, or even identify the host they're seeking. Many herbal or natural remedies can work just as well as chemical solutions.
A CLOVE A DAY…Many dogs seem to benefit from the addition of garlic and nutritional or unprocessed BREWER'S YEAST (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to their diets. When metabolized, an odor (and bitter flavor) that fleas and ticks find very unattractive develops in the skin. The odor betrays the allicin content in garlic, a phytochemical (a naturally occuring biolocally-active enzyme, that is produced when the plant is attacked or injured) which is toxic to insects. The important flea-control ingredient in brewer's yeast is thiamine (vitamin B1), which concentrates in the skin and can repels fleas.
Overdose of garlic can cause anemia, and some dogs are yeast intolerant if consumed orally, reacting with a skin allergy to excess pyridoxine (vitamin B6), so advice from a holistic veterinarian regarding proper dose is important. Better than mixing ingredients yourself, one prepared by a vet or a commercial product would have appropriate proportions of the two already established, according to your dog's weight. Zinc, essential for healthy skin, but lacking in many pet’s diets, is often added to commercial products (chelated zinc is more readily bio-available for absorption). This supplement will require several weeks to build up to fighting levels in your dog’s skin, so start before peak flea and tick season begins. For dogs unlikely to excessively groom themselves, some guardians use brewer's yeast dusted on externally
as a flea powder.
MAGNETICTAGS. A controversial technology offered against biting pests is magnetic tags that attach to a dog collar (or a farm animal’s harness). Worn in pairs (one each: for fleas and ticks) magnetic tags add to the dog’s external bio-energetic field with specific frequencies proven to disturb fleas and ticks, creating a barrier. Although dismissed by many as wholly ineffective, the tags have enthusiastic advocates, claiming effectiveness for up to 2 years.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (about a teaspoon added to his daily drinking water) supports the immune system, or, add two cups to his bath water.
NEEM OIL. A vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of a tropical evergreen tree, is used as a bio-pesticide in organic farming and medicinal applications. Pure neem oil can is commercially available as shampoo (alternatively, by adding neem oil to conventional shampoos), and used heavily diluted for topical flea repelling application; or as a paste, the oil is extracted from dried neem leaves for a variety of skin treatments. Neem leaf is also administered orally to improve general skin condition. Other essential oils (rose and geranium) are known to repel fleas and ticks through their odor, (undetectable to humans). Already diluted commercial brands are safer for the unexperienced user, and often formulated with supporting herbs or flowering plants (wormwood, horsetail) that impart this bitter smell that repels biting insects.
Albie: uncontainable cheer...
COCONUT OIL. A skin rub can be made from a half-tablespoon of virgin, un-refined coconut oil diluted with water into a spray before setting out for a walk. The oil contains lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid found in “mother’s milk” that boosts the immune system against bacterial and viral infections. Itoil has been shown to be aa natural highly effective flea, tick, and mite repellent, with the added benefit of skin and coat conditioning. Coconut oil can also be ingested, by adding 1 teaspoon per 30 lbs. of body weight mixed into food, augmented by brewer’s yeast (a repellent, but the oil has natural antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties and helps expel or kill intestinal parasites).
WHITE VINEGAR SOLUTIONS. A spray for misting the dog (or furniture and pet bedding): 3 parts water/1 part white vinegar, with a few drops of tea tree oil. Alternatives:Lemon, salt and vinegar spray; boil several lemons in water with a few tea spoons of salt. Once cooled, add one table spoon of apple cider vinegar. Spray it onto your pet’s coat and leave it to dry naturally. Apple cider vinegar, salt and baking soda spray: 8oz. vinegar, 4oz. warm water, ½ tbs. salt, ½ tbs. baking soda (spray it onto the dog’s coat and leave it to dry naturally).
CITRUS JUICE. The juice from a freshly squeezed orange or lemon can be lightly rubbed onto your dog's fur to repel fleas. Its important to note that citrus oil extracts are not safe for dogs, as the oil that is extracted from the rind of the citrus fruit contains limonene. While limonene is indeed an effective insect repellent (and all-purpose household cleaner), it is also a skin irritant, and can cause liver damage if ingested. However, the oil is specific to the cells within the rind of the fruit and can only be extracted using specialty equipment, and so is not found in the fresh-squeezed juice of the fruit.
QUASSIA-BASED BOTANICALS. Extracts from the South-American flowers Quassia Amara (Amargo) have shown effectiveness as a contact-insecticide (the insect must be sprayed) and antiparasitic. Extracts of plant wood or bark have been known as a natural insecticide and larvacide in organic farming environments. A prepared spray, PetzLife Complete Coat (which is then rubbed into the skin to assure coverage), combines sispanga, sacha café, and sisopanga rojo. It can last up to several weeks (depending on the dog’s activity). An oral tick preventative that is added to the dog’s food is claimed to last 2-3 months after a 5-day dosing, and combines larrea mexicana, chapparel leaf aromatica, Oregon grape root quassia amara, quassia tansy, and thyme vulgarus.
Pebbles: brake test!!
EUCALYPTUS. (Aromatherapy): The concentrated volatile essences (oil) steam distilled from leaves of the eucalyptus tree can augment bath water as a natural deodorizer and flea & tick repellent, incorporated into conventional shampoos, or misted onto his bedding.
LAVENDER. (Aromatherapy): Lavender is a light-scented oil steam distilled from the flowers of Lavandula officinalis. Further to its medicinal benefits, lavender has a delicate and beautiful fragrance, known for its calming, anti-depressive, effects on dogs, and incorporated into shampoos or spray, can be used to repel fleas and ticks.
PEPPERMINT. (Aromatherapy): Steam distilled from the leaves and flower tops of the hybrid mentha piperita plant, repels fleas with a strong odor, used as a spray, wipe-on, or shampoo additive; and also for its high concentration of menthones (natural pesticides).
ROSE GERANIUM OIL. (Aromatherapy): Of the two varieties of rose geranium oil, (the botanical name) Pelargonium capitatum x radens. The more popular oil under the name Pelargonium graveolens is from the same family, but not the same species. If used in small doses, does not need to be diluted; dogs have such sensitive smell that they may be annoyed (avoid the face): one drop behind each shoulder blade and one drop on the tail has been described as
an effective tick repellent.
GERANIOL. (Aromatherapy): an oil extracted from geraniums and lemongrass; a primary compound of rose oil, palmarosa oil, and citronella oil. An effective repellent, plants destined for commercial oil production are grown specifically for their higher concentration of oils and generally come from, Nepal and Southeast Asian countries.
PALO SANTO. (Aromatherapy): Bursera graveolens (Spanish: palo santo, or “holy wood”), the essential oil of wild South American tree bark. Users report success making an herbal flea/tick collar: 2 tablespoons almond oil with Rose Geranium Oil or Palo Santo, dabbing a few drops on the dog’s neck area (or directly on his collar).
Steam-distilled leaves of LEMONGRASS OIL, CINNAMON OILand WINTERGREEN OIL formulated as a spray or wipe are well-known as effective repellents.
Kirby: contemplating the approaching day
DE-BUGGING THE YARD. Outdoors, fleas are highly susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and moisture. They prefer damp environments, but are vulnerable to drowning: flood the lawn, then mow infested lawn areas short, and allow summer sun and breezes to dry it out. Studies have shown that removing dead plants, leaf litter under shrubs and trees, and discontinuing mulching flower beds can also significantly reduce tick populations. Planting lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, and geraniums around the home and in the yard will help keep fleas and ticks out of the area.
Spray non-toxic cedar oil with a garden hose sprayer or an available fogging device on and under decks, along building foundations, on the outside walls of the home, on any wood, brick, or stucco surface up to the soffits. As a rinse it will wash away insects living around or under siding and trim. Flower beds, shrubbery, patios, stairways, tool sheds, swing sets, sandboxes, compost piles, and outbuildings can be sprayed without harming them; earlier applications are revived by rain. Cedar oil as a yard spray has no adverse effect on beneficial or pollinating insects (butterflies, honeybees), which are sight-driven rather than pheromone-driven.
PREDATORY NEMATODES.Nematodes are microscopic worms that eat flea larvae and are therefore a natural way to control flea populations. They are available at pet and garden stores or online. Using a lawn sprayer, (ideally after a rain has soaked the ground), put them in moist, shady spots near your house, and within 24 hours the resident flea population can be reduced up to 80% depending on area sprayed. As nematodes multiply rapidly, you have only to introduce a small initial number to have residual benefits. Flea control nematodes, however, are not uniformly effective in all outdoor environments; though research is inconclusive, evidence suggests that nematodes are most effective against fleas in moist, sandy soils (neither fleas nor nematodes survive in hot sun). Cold winter weather will cause nematodes to become dormant and decline, (you need to re-introduce the next year); and also, as a biological control need to be reintroduced periodically, because they eat all the prey species and die off for lack of food.
CRYFOWL. Free-range chickens, turkeys and particularly guineas are relentless insect eaters and will feed on ticks. The Guinea Fowl Breeders Association ( www.gfba.org ) reports 65 percent of its members have noticed radical declines in tick populations after they began keeping guineas; a single guinea can clear 2 acres in a year (see: Jeannette S. Ferguson; Gardening with Guineas).
 EPA states that toxicity is generally associated with over-application. Overdose and toxicity can result in a variety of symptoms in dogs, including drooling, lethargy, muscle tremors, vomiting, seizures and death. Permethrin and other pyrethroids are synthetic versions of pyrethrin which have significantly greater toxicity potential.
 In cases of severe flea infestation you may conclude that you have no choice but to use a commercial “fogging” insecticide to eradicate the adult fleas, before a natural-insecticide program can be implemented effectively. Exhaust your alternatives: faced with this decision, remember that chemicals may remain residually for weeks afterward. Ensure that the product contains natural pyrethrins as the active ingredient, and call the manufacturer’s toll-free line to ask what the “inert” ingredients are: if they can’t (or won't) tell you, it would be prudent to bypass that product.
Having made the decision to use the fogger: prepare the room by moving furniture and clutter away from walls and baseboards, so that the fog can penetrate efficiently. You should remove all animals both for the procedure and minimally, several hours afterward.A diligent, ongoing natural flea-control program should preclude the need for further chemical “fogging” in your home. A safer (and far more effective) alternative is a chemical-free turbine fogger/fumigator, which drives atomized biodegradable non-toxic cedar oil throughout the target areas, more thoroughly, and with less preparation (see discussion above).
Tulip: sunshine and brightness
 Diatomaceous earth for pest control should not be confused with “pool grade” diatomaceous earth, which is treated with heat, causing the formerly amorphous silicon dioxide to assume crystalline form which is not effective for insect pest control.
 Directly spraying any oil (example: even something as benign as vegetable oil), can coat the exterior of insects and other living creatures, potentially clogging pores and resulting in incapacitation or suffocation. Also, birds that feed on those insects would stop visiting.
 Still, studies found dose-related impairment of thyroid function and hepatotoxicity in animals: Panda S and A Kar., How safe is neem extract with respect to thyroid function in male mice? Pharmacological Research. 2000;41(4):419-422. It is also essential for awareness that not all “natural oil” remedies are safe. Example: pennyroyal oil is often suggested as a flea remedy for domestic animals, despite being well documented for imparting serious hepatic and neurologic injury (nausea, vomiting, respiratory difficulty, gastrointestinal bleeding, seizures, and coma, followed by coagulation abnormalities, disseminated intravascular coagulation, massive hepatic necrosis, and death).
 Although absolute accuracy is questionable, you can identify tick infested areas of your yard by making a tick drag. Tie a couple of yards of cotton muslin to a stick and drag it over suspected areas. Many of those ticks waiting with outstretched legs will show up on the cloth; (treat the cloth with cedar oil, or otherwise dispose of it— remember, laundering will not "drown" ticks— to eradicate those that you do find).
Sage: enigmatic half-light traveler
N.B.: This essay is written for informational purposes. Our goal is to build awareness of concepts and define common terminology to stimulate creative thinking, so that you may effectively conduct your own research. We draw your attention to concepts, issues or authors that are or may be important to the subject at hand, but do not consider that our interpretation is necessarily complete. Web links in the text to products are illustrative only and should not be considered an endorsement. This essay is by nature, narrowly focused: there are numerous scholarly writings, as well as detailed EPA web pages, on this topic; which we encourage you to seek out. We would welcome your comments or suggestions! We are not medically trained, nor legal experts. We believe that the most important thing a dog guardian may do in his companion's lifetime, is work to build an understanding of manufacturing and regulatory processes for dog food, the basics of dog food labeling; and issues involving use of pesticides on and around household pets. We encourage you to discuss this topic thoroughly with your veterinarian.This essay is focused on products meant for dogs: it is important to remember that PEST CONTROL OR MEDICINE PRODUCTS INTENDED FOR DOGS SHOULD NEVER BE USED ON CATS. Web links are in blue & will illuminate when you pass your mouse over them: click to be directed to a site.
To report an adverse event associated with a pesticide (such as a flea and tick product), notify the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC: 1-800-858-7378, 7:30am - 3:30pm PST) NPIC provides these reports to the EPA under a cooperative agreement. Also, consider reporting the incident to the product's manufacturer: pursuant to FIFRA, manufacturers are required by law to submit reports of adverse effects to the EPA (click here).
Complete Directory of Flea & Tick Products: Cautions → click here Page 1 of this Essay: Controversy and Safety Issues of Commercial Flea & Tick Products → click here
“Too many of us die without knowing transcendent joy, in part because we pursue one form or another of materialism. We seek meaning in possessions, in pursuit of cosmic justice for earthly grievances, in the acquisition of power over others. But one day Death reveals that life is wasted in these cold passions, because zealotry of any kind precludes love except of the thing that is idolized.
One the other hand, dogs eat with gusto, play with exuberance, work happily when given the opportunity, surrender themselves to the wonder and the mystery of their world,
and love extravagantly.
Envy infects the human heart; if we envy, next we covet, and what we covet becomes the object of our all-consuming avarice. If we live without envy, with the humility and the joyful gratitude of dogs— ball! cuddle time!— we will be ready even for Death when he comes for us, content that we have made good use of the gift of life.” —Dean Koontz; A Big Little Life (A Memoir of a Joyful Dog)
You can brighten the long, lonely day of a needy dog:consider volunteering at a shelter. Your used but servicable linens, towels, bathmats, or cushions can provide comfort while he waits. Need help affording veterinary care? click HERE • Find low-cost spay neuter services: click HERE
Food & Safety Recalls/FDA Advisories for Dog Foods: click HERE
To think about: American taxpayers spend more than $1 billion annually to fund municipal animal shelters.
In those facilities, 14,000 animals are killed each day, often brutally: even in archaic gas chambers...
many within merely hours of their arrival: why are they called shelters?