Eradicating ticks, fleas and mosquitos
By Bob Freund
Ticks, fleas, mosquitos—those pesky bloodsuckers emerge looking for a meal each spring. We humans and our pets often are big drinks on the menu to these little parasites.
Most owners protect their pets with insecticide collars or repellents. But sometimes, they also want to swat down the tiny pests where they live.
That’s when they call in the Mosquito Squad of Southeast Minnesota, Spring-Green or other outdoor, insect-control services.
Leashes & Leads, a rural Byron pet services business, schedules a series of regular visits from the Mosquito Squad from late spring through early fall to ward off any build-ups of flying insects, ticks and fleas.
“We have several hundred dogs that come through our doors every single day,” marketing director Kevin McClure says. Besides protecting those animals on site, the rural business also wants to guard its large complex against future infestations. Leashes & Leads includes a dog training facility, outdoor exercise park, boarding kennels and a dog swimming pond.
It has been successful, McClure says. “Having areas sprayed really cuts down on fleas and ticks,” he says. “I don’t know of any incidents (of bug outbreaks).” Leashes & Leads has relied on Mosquito Squad’s outdoor applications for about seven years, says Craig Holschlag, owner of the company’s southeastern Minnesota franchise.
WHAT’S THE THREAT?
Mosquitos, fleas and ticks can bite both humans and pets. They need what “blood meals” for nourishment. Tick bites can have effects ranging from minor irritation to illnesses as serious as Lyme disease. “Mosquitos can vector (transmit) heartworm to dogs,” says Jeffrey Hahn, entomologist with the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service.
Heartworm prevention, along with tick and flea treatments given directly to the animal are the best protections, “especially since a dog is not just going to stay in the front yard,” Hahn says.
When pets roam into wooded areas, they have greater chance of a brush with ticks, including the main dangerous one in southeastern Minnesota, the blacklegged, or “deer” tick. It can carry Lyme disease and at least three other potentially severe diseases. “Typically, wherever you have deer, you’re probably going to see the blacklegged ticks,” Hahn says.
SWEEPING THE SURROUNDINGS
Most of the time, well-maintained lawns will not harbor ticks or fleas, the entomologist says. At the same time, the insects may not be far away, waiting in more favorable habitats, such as woods or tall grasses that border lawns. In many situations, Mosquito Squad tries to create barriers for insects by treating those border zones, Holschlag says.
The same insecticide that kills mosquitos also is lethal to ticks and fleas.
“In the normal course of our applications (for mosquitos), we’re really going to get to the tick areas,” he says. A full season of barrier treatments might involve six applications—about one every three weeks—depending on weather.
Spring-Green’s business ranges across lawn, tree and shrub care into insect controls. “We use products that will be an instant knock-down plus provide a residual to control them for 30 days,” says Harold Enger, director of education for the lawn services chain.
“We mainly treat trees and shrubs under 10 feet (tall); that’s about where most mosquitos hang out,” Enger says. “If you’re doing fleas and ticks, you need to spray the lawn as well as surrounding trees and shrubs.”
Both Spring-Green and Mosquito Squad also offer separate, targeted treatments to control those biting pests.
Some property owners treat on their own using off-the-shelf products. But, “don’t do the ‘If-a-little-is-good, a-lot-is-better’ mentality,” Enger says. Follow the label directions, he says.
Both Spring-Green (spring-green.com) and Mosquito Squad (mosquitosquad.com) operate franchise offices in Rochester.
How to remove ticks
If you find a tick, remove it promptly to minimize chance of infections. University of Minnesota extension entomologist Jeff Hahn advises if it is attached, the best way is to:
• Grasp it with tweezers or tissue paper close to the skin of the animal
• Avoid squeezing the abdomen of the insect.
• Gently pull away with steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist it because part may remain in the skin.
• Clean out the bitten area with an antiseptic or other germ-fighting agent, such as iodine.
• Using tape or alcohol or Vaseline to force it to stop biting doesn’t work.
For much more detail, see “Ticks and their control” by Hahn at the University of Minnesota Extension site, www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/ticks-and-their-control
Bob Freund is a Rochester-based writer.