The dog days of summer turned into just a dog when a flea infestation took over several rental and foreclosure properties in Rob the Bug Guy’s service area in Owosso, Mich.
With maintenance workers bitter and bitten, he was called in to service the pesky properties — each of which had housed anywhere from five dogs, to a personal kennel room.
“The homes were being managed by management companies in other cities, so no one was living there to do the vacuuming,” said Amanda DuBuis, office manager for Rob the Bug Guy. “The maintenance people refused to go in anymore because they were being attacked by fleas.”
Although Rob DuBuis was equipped to treat the pests, he couldn’t escape the job without a few hitchhikers in tow.
“When Rob sprayed and came out of the house he was covered in fleas,” according to Amanda. “He initially tried brushing them off his clothes, but of course they would jump back on him. He didn’t bring them back, but it definitely wasn’t an efficient method since he spent as much time brushing off fleas as he did doing the job.”
A DIFFERENT APPROACH. When brushing them off proved ineffective, the Michigan PMP got creative.
“It got to the point where he wore his bee suit so we could see them better, and then I’d take a cup of dish soap water to pick them and drown them,” Amanda said.Although this method was time consuming, the company was on the right track.
According to structural entomologist and consultant Stoy Hedges, the best thing a pest control technician can wear when servicing a severe flea infestation is a bed bug suit because it covers the whole body and shoes.
With a bed bug suit, the service technician can also go outside and peel it off immediately after spraying to avoid bringing any pests into the truck, to the office or back home.
“The suits help because you can strip everything off, and the suits are generally lighter colored so you can see if something is crawling on it,” said Hedges.
The suits are also washable, so a technician can strip off the suit, place it directly into a sealed plastic bag and dump it right into the washing machine where soap and hot or cold water will kill the bugs.
According to Hedges, these suits weren’t an option early in his career because they didn’t exist until about four or five years ago. Still today, he reserves the suits for extreme jobs.
In a pinch, Hedges also recommends suits used by painters because they don’t have seams that the bugs can breach to get into your clothing.
Although there has been limited testing with mosquito and tick repellants when it comes to repelling fleas, Hedges said there’s really not anything a technician can spray on themselves to prevent stowaways and biting, so the suits are the best means of protection.
“They’re so tiny, even one can slip past,” said Hedges.
If one does manage to make it off of the job site, it isn’t a worst-case scenario.
“The flea is going to need a couple of things,” Hedges said. “It’s going to need a dog or a cat to feed on and produce eggs.”
Hedges added that as long as the dog or cat has been seen by a veterinarian and is under a flea protection plan, bringing an infestation home is less likely.
Although the odds aren’t in the fleas’ favor, Hedges still recommends that technicians be prepared, even if they don’t think they are walking into a flea situation.
“Sometimes you’re not even going in for fleas and you find them in a crawlspace or attic,” said Hedges.
He suggests always keeping an extra set of clothes reserved for scenarios like that so the technician can take off the flea-ridden clothes, place them in a sealed plastic bag until they can be washed and perform a visual inspection on themselves.
After working on a flea job, Hedges adds that technicians should always shower and wash their hair, even though chances are the bugs are only on the skin — if at all.
“We’re not their primary host,” he said. “They’ll feed on us, they’ll bite us, but they aren’t going to stay on us too long. They’ll move on to try and find a more suitable host.”
The author is a Cleveland-based writer who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.