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How Effective Are Nematodes for Fleas?

Nematodes will not attack adult fleas.
Nematodes offer a non-toxic method for flea control in the yard.
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  • Written By: B. Koch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Images By: Cosmin Manci, Niaid
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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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.

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.

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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.

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