You may wonder how to kill tapeworm larvae in the soil before they infect your pets or even you. There’s no easy answer, because the soil is teeming with many different kinds of critters and crawlies, both good and bad. Before you think about killing tapeworm larvae in the soil, it may be helpful to understand this parasite’s life cycle and how it travels from host to host.
Many types of tapeworm exist that infect humans and animals. Some are rare or nonexistent in the U.S., while others thrive around the world. Like many other parasites, tapeworms require a living host – in particular, any host with a spine – to continue their life cycles. However, a portion of their lives is spent outside of a human or animal host, typically in soil or feces. For instance, fleas in their larval stage consume the tapeworm eggs. When an animal eats the flea, tapeworm eggs are released in the system and migrate to the intestine.
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Animals in the wild are at particular risk. They will typically hunt rodents or other small animals that are infected. It’s these rodents, of course, that have consumed infected fleas!
Tapeworm is sometimes spread through undercooked foods, including beef, pork, and fish. Cooking to proper temperatures will eliminate the threat of humans developing an internal infestation. Once ingested, the tapeworms lay eggs, which are eliminated in feces. This can easily become epidemic in underdeveloped parts of the world with poor sanitation. Animals, in turn, graze or eat in these areas and continue the life cycle of a tapeworm. For example, a pig can become the “intermediate” host with tapeworms residing in muscle tissue.
Preventing infection by killing tapeworm larvae in the soil is probably an impossible task. Even in livestock areas, animal owners take precautions other than attempting to treat the soil. They will rotate the grazing areas and give inhabited spaces a chance to clear naturally. Keeping animal droppings picked up and disposed of is also a primary precaution. A landowner fertilizing with improperly treated water is also increasing the risk for tapeworm spread.
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A first line of defense for pet owners is to attack flea populations, both indoors and outside. When treating any area, be sure to follow label instructions carefully and keep children and pets away until any chemical applications have dried.
Rather than trying to kill tapeworm larvae in the soil, try managing activity areas. Alternate sections of the yard where pets and children play. Pick up after all animals immediately and dispose of the droppings in a sealed baggie. Tapeworm eggs reach the larval stage in about four days. Without a host transfer, they will die. Sunlight will also aid in helping to eliminate problems. Clean out any wet or damp spots and remove excess wood or other materials that remain moist on the undersides. Don’t allow pets to eat off the ground and keep their bowls clean.
Finally, tapeworm larvae and eggs can transfer with poor hygiene. Always wash hands after being outdoors, playing with animals or swimming in public pools. While the soil may be teeming with living creatures, including tapeworm larvae, common sense is one of the best preventatives.