DEAR JOAN: We’re having a flea invasion and we don’t even have pets.
The cat next door spends much of his time sleeping in our yard, but we don’t let him into our house. We wonder if there is a “season” for fleas and if we should put up with bites until the time passes.
We are using flea powder in the house and we are not sure how long it takes to eradicate fleas. Can you even expect that? Should we also fumigate outside?
julie and rudi, richmond
DEAR JULIE AND RUDI: How creative of you to get the fleas before you get a pet. There is a flea season in California: it starts on January 1st and runs through December 31st. The downside of having a wonderful climate, which allows us to grow all sorts of things for most of the year, is that it is never without ticks and fleas. season. While fleas prefer the blood of our pets, they will bite humans if we are available to them. A small flea problem can quickly turn into a big problem, as fleas go from egg to adult in two to three weeks.
Controlling them requires you to act quickly, and you need to tackle the inside of your house and the garden at the same time. You will need to vacuum your home: carpets and rugs, upholstery, and mattresses. Pay attention to the nooks and crannies of your home, like forgotten corners and gaps under furniture. Using a steam cleaner is also recommended. You will need to wash the bedding in hot water and dry it on the highest setting of the dryer.
Be sure to empty the vacuum by placing the bag or the contents of the collection container inside a plastic bag and dispose of it in the outdoor trash container. Then wash the washable parts of the vacuum cleaner and clean the filter.
If you feel the need to use pesticides, always follow label directions, which often require you to leave the house for a while after using them. Aerosols are preferable to nebulizers. Getting a couple of lighted traps (insects are attracted to light and heat, and are trapped in a sticky tray inside) can help you know if you’ve got rid of fleas and give you advance warning of a new invasion, in in case you’ve missed an egg.
Outdoors, you’re more likely to find fleas in shady, cool, moist places. If you use food-grade pesticides or diatomaceous earth, use them sparingly and focus treatment on these areas. Otherwise, keep the lawn mowed, spread cedar chips in problem areas, and avoid overwatering.
Let your neighbor know that the cat has fleas and needs to be treated, otherwise the problem will continue.
DEAR JOAN: We recently noticed a squirrel in our orange tree on its way to the fig tree, and its teeth were too big. His upper teeth are growing past his chin and his lower teeth are up. He obviously never learned to file his teeth.
Is there anything we can do for this poor animal? He looked at us like he needed help.
DEAR MONA: Give him something to gnaw on, like beef bones, deer antlers, or a block of salt. Then it’s up to him to get to work.
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