Flea Traps

- May not eliminate an infestation -

Summary: Flea traps attract and capture fleas on sticky boards. Traps may not eliminate an active infestation by themselves but are useful as a sort of "early warning system" in large facilities like kennels. If an infestation is detected early steps can be taken to stop it before it develops too far.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

What are flea traps?

Flea traps are designed to capture adult fleas on a sticky surface. Fleas are attracted to the trap by a combination of light and heat. Generally the traps consist of a small light bulb, which provides the heat and light, suspended over a sticky mat. Fleas jump toward the light and land on the sticky surface where they are trapped.

Do flea traps work?

Yes and no. Flea traps do attract and capture fleas but they won't eliminate an active infestation. The reason is simple -- your pets are far more attractive to fleas than are traps, since fleas are adapted to finding a suitable host rather than a light bulb. So, in the competition for a flea's attention your pet "wins".

adult cat flea (original photo by Ken Gray)

Adult cat flea (1/10"-1/5"). Adult fleas move between the host animal and the "nest", or pet bedding.

Should I use flea traps?

Probably not unless you manage a kennel. In terms of eliminating fleas, flea traps don't work very well because they only trap a fraction of the flea population. The best approach to flea control is to use the relatively new flea medications like Frontline (tm) and Advantage (tm) that are applied directly on the animal, combined with treating bedding with methoprene (see Related Articles below). If the new flea medications are too expensive then the next best approach is to combine regular flea shampooing and combing with treatment of bedding with methoprene (see How to Control Fleas & Ticks).

There is, however, one good use for flea traps. Since they do trap fleas they can be used as a sort of early warning system. In large facilities, like kennels, a small flea infestation may go unnoticed. Placing a few traps around may uncover a small, easily controlled infestation, before it gets out of hand.

Related Articles

How to Control Fleas With New Medications

Using Methoprene to Disrupt Flea Development

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