Thursday, June 02, 2011

Flea Prevention Step #1

We have done our best to care for our dogs and family as holistically as possible. The past two years have been horrible for fleas, though, and last year we caved and one month out of the season we resorted to Frontline (which didn't seem to help) and spraying the yard with chemicals (which did give us the respite we needed to be able to recuperate).

This year, we are being more proactive in the prevention of a flea problem in hopes that we are able to find that magical combination.

The first thing we did was to get some barrier plants established. See the full post on plants that help with this.

So far we have planted some bee balm, artemisia and two kinds of mint. I'll be adding more bee balm, marigolds, and more mint next time I make it to the greenhouse, as well as perenial mums.

We don't have carpet, so the next thing I did was treat the sofas, also part of spring cleaning. I vaccuumed them, spritzed them with vinegar, washed cushion covers where possible, and then when all was dry, sprinkled a mixture of borax/diatomaceous earth/table salt onto the sofa base under the cushions. If you have a flea problem, you can sprinkle the whole sofa with this, wait a few hours or overnight, then vaccuum. Since it's not an issue yet, I'm just leaving this dust under the cushions as a preventive measure and the borax offers up a fresh, clean scent.

Next step will be to give everyone a bath at the same time, ensuring that we don't have any fleas to start with, then spray with an essential oil that will repel them. You can find a recipe here. Or I might use a product I just read about this morning which sounds amazing - Triple Sure. And now I finally understand why peppermint oil is so often used in natural sprays, and why peppermint itself (and all mints) is high on the list of plants to have in your yard as a barrier.

And while the animals are being bathed, their bedding will also be washed, which happens frequently in our house anyway, but this time we'll be adding a new trick. Once the fresh bedding is placed in the crate, it will be sprinkled with salt. The salt will dehydrate the fleas and not be bothersome to the pets. I am so excited about this simple solution that I can't wait to see if it works!

And then there is the lawn... not sure what I'm going to do about it this year. I found a recipe for mouthwash/dishwashing liquid/tobacco juice and I made that and sprayed it on the front yard, but haven't made my way to the back yet. In the meantime, found out that the tobacco juice is harsh, indiscriminant (killing beneficial insects, as well), and possibly harmful to the dogs since nicotine is a neurotoxin. So I'm still researching that solution before I spray it anywhere else. I can honestly say I haven't seen any bugs or even ants on the front porch since spraying, though. Also read that a coat of lime in the grass will control a large percentage of fleas.

So we'll be doing whatever we can this year to not have to resort to harsh and harmful chemicals. The dogs literally hate Frontline, so even if I have to go back to baths every week, we won't be using that anymore.

Feel free to share what has worked for your family!

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