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How Effective Are Nematodes for Fleas?

B. Koch
B. Koch

Nematodes for fleas are thought, by some, to be effective and ineffective by others. Some studies show they can kill up to 80% to 90% of fleas, while other studies have shown they are relatively ineffective. While they may not work for all situations, nematodes are a safe, non-toxic way to attempt to control fleas and other pests in the yard.

A type of microscopic round worm, nematodes are a parasite that destroys garden pests, including fleas. Nematodes for fleas work by killing the pest with a type of bacteria. After the flea dies, the nematode uses the dead flea as a space to reproduce. Nematodes will attack pre-adult, pupal, and larval fleas but not adult fleas.

Nematodes offer a non-toxic method for flea control in the yard.
Nematodes offer a non-toxic method for flea control in the yard.

The true effectiveness of using nematodes for fleas in uncertain. Some tests indicate that nematodes are highly effective, while other tests show they are not especially useful. Studies seem to show that nematodes are most effective in sandy and wet areas, while they are least effective in very dry areas. Nematodes for fleas are also only effective at destroying fleas that are outdoors, if a house is infected with fleas, other methods of control must be used.

Nematodes will not attack adult fleas.
Nematodes will not attack adult fleas.

Research indicates that using nematodes for fleas is safe. The worms do not attack humans, pets, or other backyard wildlife. Their population never becomes uncontrollable, as after they have destroyed all pests they need to survive, they too die. Many consider the greatest benefit of using nematodes for fleas to be the lack of chemicals or pesticides, which can endanger pets, children, and surrounding wildlife.

Nematodes for fleas can be purchased online or at some local garden stores. Typically, they are purchased in a specially designed sponge that allows the nematodes to survive out of the ground for up to one week. The sponge is placed into a bucket of water and wrung out a number of times to transfer all of the nematodes into the water. The nematode-filled water is then distributed around the yard with a sprayer.

These worms have the highest chance of survival in shaded, moist spaces, so areas under trees and brush should be treated most heavily. Nematodes also thrive at ground temperatures of over 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and under 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), so it is important that the weather be neither too hot nor too cold while the nematodes are being distributed. Typically, one million nematodes are recommended for every 3,000 square feet (279 square meters) of ground.

Nematodes can also be used against any number of garden pests and not only against fleas. Termites, ants, and grubs, as well as weevils, can all be controlled by these worms. Although dangerous to many insects, nematodes, according to scientists, do not prey on beneficial garden bugs, such as earthworms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are nematodes and how do they control flea populations?

Nematodes are microscopic, worm-like organisms that naturally inhabit soil. Certain species, such as Steinernema carpocapsae, are used as biological control agents against fleas. They work by entering the flea larvae and releasing bacteria that is lethal to the host, effectively reducing flea populations without the use of chemical pesticides.

How effective are nematodes at eliminating flea infestations?

Nematodes can be highly effective in controlling flea populations, with studies showing up to 95% reduction in flea larvae within 24 hours of application. Their effectiveness, however, depends on proper application, environmental conditions, and the presence of conducive soil moisture for nematode survival and movement.

Are nematodes safe for pets and humans?

Yes, nematodes are considered safe for both pets and humans. They are a natural and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical treatments. Nematodes specifically target pest insects and do not pose a risk to mammals, birds, or beneficial insects such as bees, making them an ideal choice for pet owners and gardeners alike.

Can nematodes be used indoors to treat flea infestations?

Nematodes are generally used outdoors in moist soil conditions where flea larvae are likely to be found. While they are not typically recommended for indoor use, they can be applied in indoor potted plants or around the perimeter of a home to target fleas that may transition between indoor and outdoor environments.

How do you apply nematodes for flea control?

To apply nematodes for flea control, mix them with water according to the product instructions and apply the solution to your yard using a watering can or hose-end sprayer. It's best to do this during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon, to avoid UV light degradation and ensure the soil is moist.

How long do nematodes last and how often should they be applied?

Nematodes can survive in the soil for several weeks, depending on conditions such as temperature and moisture. For best results, reapplication every 4 to 6 weeks may be necessary during the flea season. Regular applications help maintain an effective level of nematodes in the soil to continuously combat flea larvae.

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    • Nematodes offer a non-toxic method for flea control in the yard.
      By: NIAID
      Nematodes offer a non-toxic method for flea control in the yard.
    • Nematodes will not attack adult fleas.
      By: Cosmin Manci
      Nematodes will not attack adult fleas.