Retailers are taking advantage of natural and traditional trends in outdoor bug elimination.
By Lizett Bond
As enduring historical foes of civilization, the flea, the tick and the mosquito are durable pests equipped with their own armory of unique weapons to plague humanity and pets, sometimes literally, with infestations, diseases and bloodthirsty bites.
A plethora of products exist for waging war and industry professionals agree that the best way to eradicate these adversaries is to launch a three-pronged crusade.
“You start with the pet, the topical, but you have to treat everything, which means the environment too,” said Scott Click, general manager for Tomlinson’s Feed and Pet with six locations in the Austin, Texas area.
Preventing fleas and ticks from populating is an effective means of management, Click said, adding that insect growth regulators interrupt the life cycle, thus preventing the development of bloodthirsty adults.
In situations where lawns become infested, Click recommended broadcast treatments, such as Hi-Yield Lawn Granules, to kill the existing outdoor infestations.
“Sprinkle the lawn and it goes down into the soil and kills the bugs,” he said.
Along those lines, Jeff Luedke, registration and product specialist for VPG, Inc. of Bonham, Texas, said this year the company will introduce Hi-Yield Bug Blaster Bifenthrin 2.4 percent in ready-to-spray and concentrated forms, and Hi-Yield Bug Blaster II Turf Insect Control for outdoor flea and tick management.
For customers preferring a natural, anti-pesticide approach, diatomaceous earth is effective and acts as a desiccant to destroy the exoskeleton of the flea, said Claudia Loomis, owner of Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies in Bedminster, N.H. But owners must be conscientious in the application of this product, she added.
“As an outdoor treatment it works well, but if there is wind or a rainy day you have to be diligent in treating your yard” she said.
Loomis added that while the best defense is protecting the pet itself, treatment of a small yard may be effective when used in tandem with topical, but even in a treated yard, a dog coming back from a hike or a day at the dog park may be bringing fleas or ticks back on its body.
“It’s difficult [because] the technology hasn’t been perfected and I don’t know if we should spray chemicals all over the yard,” she said. “I think the first line of defense is treating your pet.”
Likewise, William Kaiser, owner of Pampered Pupz in Libertyville, Ill. agreed that treating the lawn alone to prevent flea and tick infestation isn’t necessarily the best option.
“We recommend two different approaches,” he said. “One is an internal type of flea and tick protection, like Frontline for example, which is absorbed into the bloodstream.”
In addition to those products, Kaiser suggested a topical product to kill the fleas already on the dog for heavier infestation areas.
Pet owners must be cautious when using a chemical spray in the yard, as these products have the potential to be absorbed through the paws or ingested should a dog eat the grass, Kaiser added.
“I am not a fan of any type of pesticide in the yard for that reason,” he said.
With that in mind, nematodes are an effective and chemical-free method of destroying fleas and ticks outdoors. These parasitic roundworms live in the soil, attacking flea larvae. A natural means of controlling insects, nematodes live inside the host larvae, killing it and laying their own larvae, which then multiply to search out more prey.
“They work really well, particularly in areas that are wet because they need moisture to keep growing,” Click said. “So early in the season, when it’s wet, the nematodes do pretty well and will very naturally kill the fleas and bugs in the yard.”
Killing the flea larvae in the soil is critical to a successful flea treatment program, ensuring that pets are not reinfected every time they go outside, said Anne McMahon, vice president of Yard Lover, an E-store based in Harrisonburg, Va..
“The appeal to pet owners is that the nematodes are effective but completely chemical free and harmless to pets and people,” McMahon said.
Is there a trend towards the use of organic and natural products when treating outdoor pest infestations?
“The trend I see is more and more interest in organic pesticides, particularly from consumers who have been affected by illnesses of all sorts and feel that chemicals are having an impact on our health as a society. These folks are particularly passionate about decreasing chemical use.”
--Anne McMahon, vice president of Yardlover.com in Harrisonburg, Va.
“I would have to say there was momentum a couple of years ago with organic products but because of the economy right now it has taken a sidestep or slowed in momentum because typically organic products cost more.”
--Edward Mukai, vice president of MQ7 in Golden, Colo.
“We are seeing a big up-tick in the sale of natural sprays, sprays that have neem oil and herbal essences in them. We carry the Sergeant line, Natural Defense, which is a pyrethrin-free line of flea and tick products. We also have a few other products that we carry that are natural.”
--Claudia Loomis, owner of Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies in Bedminster, N.J.
Some essential oils have properties known to repel various insects. Derived from the natural chemical makeup of plants, these oils are used to harness inherent defenses and properties to create an effective non-chemical treatment. According to Mike Mockler, brand manager for the Brampton Company, Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Yard and Kennel Spray is designed for attachment to a garden hose and sprayed across the yard or kennel. Formulated from a blend of peppermint and clove oils, the spray kills fleas, flea eggs and ticks naturally by breaking down the protective barriers surrounding the flea egg itself as well as the waxy coating of adult fleas, according to the manufacturer.
“It works a little faster on the adult fleas because it breaks down that waxy outer barrier,” Mockler said.
Cedar has been used for thousands of years as an insect repellent and MQ7 Vice President Edward Mukai said the Golden, Colo.-based company’s MQ7 Green Science Indoor/Outdoor insect control utilizes scientifically modified cedar oil and other plant-based ingredients. He noted that the product is all natural, non-toxic and safe to use around children.
“It can be applied indoors, directly on pet bedding and you can spray it outdoors in the yard,” he said. “MQ7’s Green Science Mosquito Outdoor Control is a hose-end spray concentrate for backyards, gardens and lawns. Utilizing modified cedar oil as its main ingredient, it is non-toxic, all-natural and the effects last up to three months.”
“It is very difficult to eradicate a mosquito population because for every mosquito you see flying around, there are 100 in the egg stage so it is not only important to repel, you have to eliminate the egg stage,” Mukai added.
Various other manufacturers also offer cedar-based pest control products. VPG, Inc. offers Natural Guard Lawn Shield Insect Repellent, a cedar-based repellent for fleas, mosquitos, chiggers and other pests formulated to create an irritant scent barrier, according to Luedke.
Fleas and ticks aren’t the only outdoor pests pet owners have to watch out for. Mosquitoes can make time in the yard downright uncomfortable for both pets and people, and Loomis said she prefers Best Shot from Best Shot Pet Products as a mosquito repellent. She noted that Farnam's Flys Off is very popular with her dog show customers during the summer months when shows are often held at outdoor venues.
“Flea and tick products don’t always protect against flies and mosquitoes,” she said.
Getting at the root of the problem by attacking mosquito breeding grounds is also an option consumers may consider. B.t isrealensis is a naturally occurring bacterium that is toxic to many species of insect, including mosquitos. When placed in birdbaths, ponds and standing water, products formulated with this bacterium kill mosquito larvae and are safe for wildlife and pets, according to Craig Harmer, product manager for Gardens Alive in Tipp City, Ohio.
“Bt is one of the original ‘safe’ insecticides,” he said.
Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies
Claudia Loomis, Owner
412 US 202/206
Bedminster, NH 07921
Craig Harmer, Merchant
110 West Elm Street
Tipp City, Ohio 45371
Edward Mukai, Vice President
25209 US Highway 40
Golden, CA 80401-9347
1068 E. Park Ave.
Tomlinson’s Feed and Pet
Scott Click, General manager
908 E. 49th St.
Austin, TX 78751
Mike Mockler, Brand Manager
The Bramton Company
P.O. Box 655450
Jeff Kuedke, Registration and Product Specialist
230 FM 87
Bonham, TX 75418
Anne McMahon, Vice President
4061 Quarles Ct.
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Many other options for outdoor pest control exist, from “natural” control methods to chemical lawn treatments. Retailers seeking to offer these products may choose to pursue various marketing strategies. Click noted that when a customer comes in looking for pest control products, he will first ask what type of product they are looking for and then direct them according to those requirements.
Yardlover offers both organic and non-organic products and McMahon agreed that preference for either type of product is a matter of customer inclination.
“We have not noticed any difference in customer satisfaction between organic and non-organic users,” she said.
At Pampered Pupz, Kaiser said he has not observed a movement towards green and organic products, adding that most pet owners use what is recommended by local veterinarians.
“I think a lot of the vets in this area are sticking by what they have been used to and we don’t argue with the vets,” he added.
Luedke suggested retailers market products that appeal to these two general user groups.
“There seems to be a shift to more natural and organic product, but these shifts are limited to certain areas of the country,” he said. “The interest seems strong, but the purchase of these products is still not as strong as the interest.”
“It’s different customers who have a different approach on how to keep pests under control in their yard,” he added.
However, in between these two groups lies a middle ground, Mockler said.
“There are the two extremes but there is also the blend of the two that want to use the traditional spot on pesticides but are looking for a little something extra,” he said. “They don’t want to add more pesticides, are looking towards a more natural route and go a hybrid of the two.”
It boils down to choice of arsenal for maintaining the battle lines and matching the tenacity of the enemy.
“Just as you have to be diligent about flea control for your dog and home, you have to be diligent about how you are treating your yard,” Loomis said.
Industry Professional Site: Comments from non-industry professionals will be removed.