How to safely and effectively control Fleas - THE SIX-LEGGED VAMPIRE THAT JUMPS
Although there are over 2,200 species of fleas worldwide, with over 250 species of fleas described just in North America, only a few are commonly encountered by humans with enough frequency to be considered pests. These include the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis (Bouche), the dog flea, C. canis (Curtis), the human flea, Pulex irritans (L), and the oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis (Rothschild). Other species, such as the rabbit flea, Cediopyslla symplex, the mouse flea, Ctenopsyllus segnis, the ground squirrel flea, Diamanus montanus (Baker), and Oropsylla hirsuta, a flea that feeds primarily on prairie dogs, may occasionally achieve pest status when their host mammals nest in or near structures or the fleas attack hunters and hikers. Some, such as the northern rat flea, ground squirrel flea, and Oropsylla hirsuta are important vectors of sylvatic plague, bubonic plague, and murine typhus.
Flea management is best done via management of the host animal’s habitat. Since fleas must spend at least part of their life cycle on their host, the chances of encountering fleas in areas of the host’s habitat where it spends most of its time (e.g., its den or nest) are much greater than in any general area, such as a field or barn in which the host may or may not be found at a given time. One author has suggested that most fleas spend more time in the host nest or burrow than on the host itself (Benton 1980). Each year, 52 million pet owners spend about $500 million just on over-the-counter flea control products. Just about every flea normally feeds only on one creature.
Adult fleas are truly the “vampires” of the insect world because they feed only on our blood and the blood of our pets. They are narrow, small, wingless insects, red, brown or black in color and are protected by a hard flat shell. They are hard to see and even harder to kill with pesticide poisons - so why use poison? When you try to find this tiny (1/32”-1/3”) invader, remember to check your pet closely behind the ears, at the base of tail, on the stomach and between the toes. The flea has armor-like plates in layers - each with backward pointing spikes (or spines) so they can move easily and quickly through hair or feathers. Their feet have double claws for holding on to their host and they also have a barbed “mustache” under their mouth to further anchor them to the skin as they feed with their piercing -sucking mouth parts. You normally can not feel the flea bite as it actually occurs; it is the saliva that soon sets off an itching reaction. Their bites cause an inflammation of the skin and can carry disease and parasites. Fleas can pull up to 400 times their own weight. Fleas literally “fly” with their hind legs; they can jump 150-200 times their body length (the equivalent of a man jumping 1,400-1,800 feet!) On takeoff, a flea is moving 20 to 50 times faster than a space rocket. Behind their legs is a rubbery muscular protein that allows them to move against gravity 135 times faster than you or me. After its lift-off, the flea cartwheels end over end, until it reaches its new host/meal. One pair of mating fleas living for nine months can theoretically produce a quarter of a million little “vampires”, or up to one trillion offspring in a year! To the voracious little flea, dogs, cats, birds, humans or even elephants are simply something to eat.
Frequently launder pet bedding and rugs that pets frequent in hot, soapy water and dry in a clothes dryer or direct sunlight. Steam clean, vacuum or rinse-and-vac carpets with Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaners with or without peppermint and/or borax thoroughly to remove lint and dust around baseboards and cracks where flea eggs and larvae accumulate. Eliminate vegetation that will harbor native mammals and/or rodents. Prevent pets from resting under the building, and exclude wild mammals by screening attic and eaves entrances. Thoroughly clean furniture in areas that pets tend to frequent and use. Wash frequently using diluted Safe Solutions enzyme cleaners. Most research shows adult fleas rarely leave the host ( the primary environment); the second environment is the carpet/floor or nest/burrow which contains the majority of the flea eggs, larvae and pupae. You must control both environments to control the flea infestation.
The secret to flea population management is the flea’s life cycle; the adult must contribute timely nourishment for larvae under special conditions or the young will not survive. No longer a regional problem, today fleas are common in all parts of the country except very dry areas (so install a dehumidifier and a fan). The most important and common species that you must manage is the cat flea which feeds on a variety of hosts, including cats, dogs, rodents, foxes, opossums and humans. This flea prefers pets and will not affect humans unless populations are excessive or the pet is removed from its resting areas. The situation that occurs when families remove the pet, take a vacation, then return home to find ravenous fleas is not uncommon. An outline of the sequence of events:
A summertime vacation assures good flea-growing conditions (temperature and humidity). Taking the pet with you removes the main host/food supply for your fleas. While the family is away, flea larvae continue to develop, feeding on dried blood; pupae complete their cycle and are ready to emerge; flea adults become ravenous. The family returns to the adult fleas emerged and emerging - ready to feed and accept ALL available warm-blooded hosts - (you). Before you go inspect inside - put your pant legs inside your socks.
Flea Bite and Flea Allergy
Fleas inject an irritating saliva when they feed, normally on your ankles. The flea bite’s irritation causes the host to scratch and shake, dislodging flea eggs. The females digest the host’s blood and excrete a corkscrew shaped string of black, nearly dry blood. This fecal blood breaks up in pepper-like specks that are also scratched off, into the pet’s sleeping or resting areas. Pets and people can be afflicted with dermatitis caused by the flea allergens and are susceptible to flea-transmitted diseases, e.g., typhus, tapeworm and cat-scratch disease.
Control fleas Indoors. Carefully clean/vacuum daily (or better yet, steam clean floors weekly with diluted enzyme cleaner or with borax or as needed) even under furniture. A close inspection of a home or building will principally involve finding the “hot spots” or areas of high flea development. Pet bedding or sleeping areas should be identified first. Pets do not sleep or rest indiscriminately or randomly in a building. They have favorite places and move among them throughout the day. Wherever pets habitually stop and rest, flea eggs and dried blood accumulates. These are “hot” spots where they habitually scratch, bite, or shake, e.g., immediately after leaving a resting spot. Spots where cats land as they jump down from a high, resting or feeding area are places where fleas, eggs and dried blood falls. Fleas are very attracted to anything white - so to determine how severe your infestation is, wear white socks and watch for “spots” to appear. Thoroughly vacuum carpeted and non-carpeted areas daily, for serious infestations steam clean and/or spray wash or rinse-and-vac with diluted Safe Solutions, Inc. enzyme cleaners or soaps, Basic H, eucalyptus soaps and/or any natural soap. As a last resort, dust lightly with food-grade diatomaceous earth. One application of disodium octoborate tetrahydrate or borax will control fleas for a year, but be careful that children and pets do not get these or any boron products in their mouths. Spray over the first application of boron with a second hot water spray to drive the material deep into the carpet; then vacuum thoroughly when dry.
Control Fleas Outdoors. Kennels and doghouses are obvious places where fleas build up - salt water can be used to kill them there. But there are other places pets prefer to sleep or rest at certain times of the day. Examples are under particular bushes, under porches, or in crawl spaces. If a pet roams the perimeter fence, points of infestation might be located there. Outdoor flea infestations rely on dependable hosts and warm humid climatic conditions. Flea larvae require moisture because they easily dry out and die. Neither can they tolerate free water (such as rainwater) or they drown. Note: infestations are never found in unprotected or undrained situations. Spray all protected areas using a hose-end sprayer with diluted Safe Solutions Not Nice to Bugs® or their Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint and/or borax or salt water. (Borax and salt will also kill vegetation.)
I have also written a free chapter on flea control please check out: http://www.stephentvedten.com/19_Fleas.pdf
Do not forget to wash your pet with Safe Solutions Pet Wash - http://www.safesolutionsinc.com
Since we all know that the flea lays her eggs on the pet and they usually fall off, it is apparent that hey fall off where the pet goes. Because of this, you must treat your home in case your pet comes inside. That is one of the most important thing to keep in mind in order to totally <gt;.