While many folks don’t associate autumn chill with fleas and ticks, fall can be one of the worst seasons for these bloodsucking pests. The best way to determine if fleas and ticks are an active autumn threat in your region is to check with your local veterinarian or county extension office.
Fleas in Fall
In many parts of the country, the cat flea – the most common flea of dogs and cats – hits peak infestation in late summer and fall. Fleas can carry tapeworms and organisms that cause bubonic plague and murine typhus.
Fleas live outdoors and hitchhike their way inside on pets or people. Some pet owners have even had fleas hop into their homes from decks through open sliding doors.
Where do fleas live? In moist, shady areas, including lawn thatch, mulch, leaf litter, woodpiles, crawl spaces and beneath porches or decks. Squirrels are one of the biggest flea carriers, along with other wildlife (rabbits, groundhogs, opossums, etc.).
How do I control fleas? To eliminate fleas and their nesting places outdoors, keep the area surrounding your home clear of debris. Don’t mow grass shorter than 2 inches to allow natural flea predators to establish. Apply an insecticide perimeter treatment to prevent fleas from moving into your home. Don’t forget to treat pets for fleas – for their protection and yours.
What eats fleas? Many creatures do, including spiders, ants, ground beetles, salamanders, toads and garter snakes. Birds also feast on fleas. Hang bird feeders and nest boxes and provide water to encourage birds to make their home in your yard.
Ticks in Fall
Ticks have a complex two-year life cycle. The life stage most likely to bite humans in fall frequently carries disease organisms, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis or ehrlichiosis.
In mild climates like California’s, adult tick populations are most active from October to March. In climates with four distinct seasons, ticks – like the deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease – have two active seasons: early spring to early summer and fall.
Ticks live outdoors and feed on warm-blooded animals.
Where do ticks live? Leaf piles or litter, mulch piles, plant shoots, woodpiles, shrubs and weedy areas.
What’s the best way to control ticks? If ticks are a problem in your yard, consider applying an outdoor insecticide that is labeled for ticks. A perimeter treatment can help prevent ticks from migrating indoors.
Apply an insect repellent with DEET to clothes and exposed skin. Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easy to spot. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to keep ticks outside clothing.
If you have been in a tick-infested area, check for ticks, especially in skin folds (beneath arms, behind ears, groin area). Wash clothing in hot water and dry for an hour at high heat to kill ticks that may be hiding in seams.
Don’t forget to treat pets and check them frequently, especially after they’ve been outdoors in tick-friendly environs.
If you live in an area with ticks, create a tick-safe zone around your home.
- Remove leaf litter, tall grasses, and brush around the home and at lawn edges.
- Separate lawn from surrounding wooded areas with a band of gravel or wood chips to limit tick migration.
- Keep the lawn mowed.
- Don’t place swing sets or outdoor living areas near surrounding woods.