Are fleas becoming a problem again?
By Chris Williams on December 3, 2012.
When I started out in the pest control industry nearly three decades ago, the ‘flea season’ in New England seemed to run about four months from June through September. Premise treatments with the ‘good stuff’ (carbamate and organophosphate based chemistries) were the rule, and the pet owner took their pal to the groomer for a flea bath. These two strategies combined with thorough vacuuming pretty much did the trick. Callbacks were virtually nonexistent. As concerns about odor (solvent) and toxicity of these older materials mounted (much of it unfounded in my opinion) they were replaced with newer chemistries (pyrethroids mostly) featuring low to no odor water-based formulations during the late 80’s/early 90’s. These seemed to work pretty well at first, but I distinctly remember experiencing more callbacks with these new formulations. Resistance perhaps? Not really, but in my opinion these new formulations provided little or no residual control.
Next came the game changer for professionally applied flea control with the introduction of topical treatments for fleas during the mid 90’s. Featuring new active ingredients, these veterinarian only dispensed products (Frontline, Advantage, etc.) worked amazingly well at knocking down flea populations. Suddenly the flea season for our industry instead became the flea week! For many years after the use of these topical flea treatment products became the norm, I can recall performing only a relative handful of premise treatments for fleas each season.
That trend lately (within past 5 years or so) is in full reverse now with the pest control industry reporting increasing flea problems. Indeed, I’ve probably performed more flea control work this year than I have I two decades.
So why are they (fleas) on the increase?
Though no one knows for certain, there is speculation that some populations of fleas are possibly becoming resistant to flea control treatments. I have not yet seen any data to back this up, but I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal comments from both veterinarians and pet owners alike that seem to suggest that it is happening. I will keep you posted.