My Home is Infested with Fleas – What Should I Do?
I live in an old house that had a wild cat under the porch before I moved in. On day one, fleas start biting my ankles, I look around and discover my house is infested with fleas from animals. Research gave me an answer, which I pass onto you. Here it is.
Can you identify the insects and the bites that they inflict? Do you know that a vacuum, a hot clothes washer, and a hot dryer cycle contribute the most to ridding pests from your home?
Fleas are Tiny and Multiply Quickly
Unlike a huge spider or a large cockroach, a single flea is small and hard to find all alone. Adult fleas grow no bigger than one-eighth of an inch long, they are reddish brown to black, flat from side to side, and jump as far as 13 inches, or 200 times their own body length.
The Michigan State Extension Service maintains that fleas start as tiny eggs, which are only 1/50 inch wide, hatch into larvae, and hide in carpets, pet bedding, or floor cracks. The larvae transform into white cocoons, where they can live for several months.
After numerous warm and humid days, adult fleas emerge from their cocoons. These insects require blood to multiply and they’re ready to feed immediately upon leaving the cocoon. Once they suck blood from their host, they lay as many as 50 eggs a day.
If several of these insects get onto your pet or yourself and are left unchecked, the flea population explodes. Here is a YouTube video of an extremely serious pest infestation in the basement of a home, where the tick numbers are so large that you can see mounds of these insects.
What Does a Flea Bite Look Like?
The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program describes a flea bite as small red spot with a red halo around it that fails to show swelling. Flea bites itch on most people, and some victims and pets are extremely sensitive to insect bites.
Secondary infections set into pets and humans who suffer from fleabite allergic dermatitis, in which the itching is extreme, hair loss is possible, and entire regions of the skin redden. One single bug bite might cause this reaction that can last for up to five days.
Steps for Eliminating a Flea Infestation
Immediate action is needed to eradicate fleas from your home. You need to eliminate sources where insect eggs and cocoons might exist and treat victims of the adult tick infestation. Fleas might bite you, but they will seek out your pet as their flea hotel.
First, vacuum all places where your pet sits, eats, or sleeps, including under furniture, cabinets, behind doors, in cracks and crevices, and around baseboards. Once you’re finished vacuuming, immediately throw away the vacuum bag, or the vacuum’s contents.
Next, wash pet bedding weekly in hot water and dry it in a hot drier, which eliminates insect eggs, cocoons, and newly hatched adult fleas. Steam clean all rugs, carpet, and furniture and plan on vacuuming, steam cleaning, and washing for many days to eliminate all of the fleas.
Finally, handle the bugs on your pet with either a chemical or non-chemical approach. A natural tactic is to use food grade diatomaceous earth, which is tiny mined fossilized marine animals that scar the exoskeleton of the insects and literally dries them out and kills them.
Diatomaceous earth can be lightly dusted around and on your pet’s bed. It is even safe for placing directly on your pet, as long as you are careful not to allow it to be inhaled by either you or your pet.
If you are more comfortable with killing ticks through chemical treatments, they are several options available for killing fleas, that are administered either between the shoulder blades of the pet, or given orally. These chemical products control all stages of fleas by killing them on your pets. You can find them here.
The flea-killing chemical, methoprene, found in PetArmor® Plus for Dogs and Frontline® Plus for Cats works well, as does a similar chemical called pyriproxyfen, used in Advantage® II for Dogs and Advantage® II for Cats. It’s best to apply these preventive insect killers in spring.
THE BOTTOM LINE
These simple steps worked for me and they will help you when you say, “My house is infested with fleas.”
- Vacuum every location in your house where your pet stands, sits, and sleeps, then dispose of the vacuum bag.
- Wash pet bedding in hot water, dry it in a hot dryer, and do it weekly.
- Steam clean rugs, carpets, furniture and repeat until fleas are gone.
- Treat your pet with either food grade diatomaceous earth, or chemical flea killer, such as Frontline® Plus for Cats, or Advantage® II for Dogs.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment, or visit our fleas eradication hub for more tips relating to removing fleas from your home. Brought to you by the Attic Pest Authority Team.