If you have ever had to deal with fleas, you perhaps already know how annoying they can be to both humans and animals alike.
Let’s discuss fleas and how to get rid of them.
Table of Contents
- What Attracts Fleas?
- An Unhealthy Attraction
- Relative Warmth
- Dark Shadows and Flea Waste
- Carbon Dioxide and Movement
- Repel, Don’t Attract
- How to kill flea larvae
- The dark side of fleas
- Flea life cycle — egg to larva
- Flea life cycle — larva to pupa
- Flea life cycle — adult
- Controlling flea larvae in your home
- A tried and trusted flea control concoction
- Fleas and your pet
- Should you call in the big guns?
What Attracts Fleas?
Saying that fleas are a mere nuisance is an understatement considering how much damage they can do to your pets and even to you.
If your dog or cat has been treated for fleas before and you still notice them scratching, the chances are that those tiny little bugs are still around somewhere.
Depending on what stage the fleas are in, they usually are attracted to food, warmth, movement, darkness, and even your exhaled breath.
Fleas may be feeding on your pet, but it’s sad to say that it’s your home environment that aids them.
An Unhealthy Attraction
Apart from the agony, these bugs inflict on your pet each time they bite them; these insects can cause some severe skin irritation in animals who are allergic to flea saliva.
This allergy is known as Flea allergy dermatitis, and it can lead to infection, shedding, and skin welts. You may need to administer Steroidal medication for treatment.
Fleas are known as carriers of the murine typhus and bubonic plague. Fleas also transmit mites and tapeworms to dogs and to even humans.
Symptoms of parasitic infection may include vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, nervousness, loss of appetite, rectal irritation, and abdominal pain. Mites, on the other hand, cause mange, dermatitis, and scabies.
Your dog can also suffer flea anemia and have to deal with a low red blood cell count, making the pet weak or lethargic. Your dog’s skin may become discolored, and it may even collapse.
Fleas are attracted to conducive weather and temperature. They prefer warmer climates to cool ones.
These bugs are most vibrant in temperatures of around 65 degrees and will search for warmth in any place, even your pet’s fur, resting very close to the skin. However, that should not stop you from treating your dog’s or cats for fleas when it is winter.
Unless you are able to keep your home at a crisp 64 degrees Fahrenheit or maybe lower in the winter season or you are a sucker for flawless vacuuming, chances are the same fleas that nested on your pet during the summer months will find data their way into your carpets or floorboards to stay safe during the winter if they don’t stay on your pet.
Dark Shadows and Flea Waste
A female flea may lay as many as 50 eggs a day on their hosts which most likely is your pet.
The eggs do not stick to the fur as they quickly fall off and land on your floors, carpets, and furniture, where they creep into shadows, they love their homes really darker, and they remain there to feed on the undigested feces of bigger fleas.
Safely hidden out of sight, these bugs eventually grow into pupae and spin silky cocoons around themselves, from which they will break out as fully grown fleas.
Pupal development of fleas takes as short as ten days; however, the adults are patient and will not emerge until they find a host — up to one year later.
Carbon Dioxide and Movement
It is incredible how fleas can wait until they find favorable conditions before they emerge. A dormant pupa will remain that way till it senses movement, body heat, or carbon dioxide from the breath of a host.
Mostly attracted to contrasting shadows against a light background or to green-yellow light, the emerged adult can jump as high as a foot high just to attach to a host and start feeding. A freshly emerged adult flea will die if it does not feed immediately.
Repel, Don’t Attract
The best way to be flea-free is to take a multifaceted approach. Treat your animals externally using a flea medication with fipronil or imidacloprid.
You can also use an oral drug that contains lufenuron as they kill all fleas that bite pets who have taken it. Do not wash your pet’s bedding with cold water. Opt for hot, soapy water as regularly as possible to kill larvae and pupae.
Of course, if your pet shares your bed, you must also wash your bedding thoroughly. Wash or vacuum floor areas, carpeting, rugs, and furniture. Ground ET rid of the vacuum cleaner bag immediately after cleaning. Steam-clean your floors, drapes, furniture, and upholstery.
Some natural flea control remedies that you may find very useful without exposing your cat or dog to chemical agents include some formulations with pyrethrin gotten from the head of a flower, a citrus derivative, or d-Limonene and diatomaceous earth.
How to kill flea larvae
Small and almost invisible bloodsuckers that dish out really painful bites, fleas have been a plague on both humans and animals for several centuries.
Like most parasites, these pint-sized pests depend on their hosts for food and survival. When the unfortunate host is your sweet little pet, and the tiny folks are munching on your ankles, it the battle line has been drawn, and you’ll do almost anything to get rid of the bugs.
Having a good knowledge of flea biology and a couple of tricks up your sleeve to kill every flea larvae in your surroundings will help you win the war.
The dark side of fleas
Fleas are everywhere on the planet, and they infest preys depending on what attracts them. While most species of insects would instead feed on animals, a bulk of them finds their way to human hosts depending on the magnitude of the infestation or in the absence of animal hosts.
There is an estimate of over 2,500 flea species in existence, including rat fleas, human fleas, poultry fleas, beaver flea, and even mouse flea.
However, the majority of the ones you can find in American homes are the feline or cat fleas. On some rare occasions, you can also find dog fleas in American houses.
The difference between fleas and other bugs is how they have been able to cause devastating epidemics for centuries in different places around the globe.
In the present day, the Oriental rat flea, which is a prevalent parasite of rats, has been identified as the most threatening to humans around the world.
The same way humans suffer from flea infestation, animals also have to deal with these tiny little creatures, and whenever there is an infestation, they can cause significant discomfort and pains to these animals.
While ticks are more famous when it comes to their association with diseases, fleas are also capable of carrying some infectious bacteria that will not only affect animals but extend to humans.
Some example of such conditions is the one called cat-scratch disease and the Mycoplasma haemofelis disease. Also, if you have a pet that is hypersensitive to flea bites, you may notice some development of irritation and persistent allergies.
If you have young animals around you, it is also vital that you avoid flea infestation as they can lead to some potentially fatal consequences due to the immature immune system of baby animals.
Flea life cycle — egg to larva
The life cycle of fleas is absolutely amazing. These tiny little creatures have a complete metamorphosis called holometabolism. Holometabolism is a form of insect development that is in four distinct stages, namely; egg, larva, pupa, and imago or adult stage.
The fantastic thing about this life cycle is how it contributes to the survival of most of these insect species especially since the lava and the adults have different Predators as they are also varied and also do not compete for the same kind of food source.
For the adult female flea, she lays the eggs in a conducive environment and leaves them to hatch into larva within 3 to 4 days after they’re laid. Unlike the eggs of other parasites, flea eggs are not known to be sticky; that is why when they are laid on prey, they quickly fall off onto the ground.
The eggs are white and usually shaped oval or round, and because of their size, you cannot see them with your naked eyes.
Flea life cycle — larva to pupa
Like I earlier stated, there are several species of flea. Cats fleas have a total of three larval stages, none of which would feed or live on a host.
However, they feed on the blood infused feces of older fleas and whatever organic debris they can find in the environment. The three larval stages of the cat flea are usually completed within 7 to 14 days, depending on the humidity, temperature, and food available in their environment.
For this reason, it is best to look in, and around your pet’s bed for the larva. You can identify these by their tiny warm or grub-like appearance and they usually neither that have eyes no legs.
While the flea larva can survive without food for a couple of weeks, the last larval stage usually doesn’t require any food before they molt in the non-feeding pupae stage.
Flea in the pupae stage can remain in one position for several months without feeding or emerging as adults until they feel the vibration of a pet or a person who would be their host.
You can barely recognize pupae without a microscope because they are often encased in a sticky cocoon covered by dirt. Cat flea usually develops into a full-grown flea adult in about one or two weeks.
Flea life cycle — adult
Adult fleas usually do not have wings and are just about 1/8 inches long, oval in shape, and reddish-brown in color.
Once an adult flea comes out of its puparium, it usually has about seven days to get a blood meal unless they die. Once the new flea has its first Blood meal, it can survive for 200 days without food.
Fleas are considered to be very prolific, and one female flea can lay as many as 25 to 40 eggs daily and more than 2000 eggs in her entire life, which usually is between 21 to 28 days.
The adult female fleas are generally more prominent than the male fleas, and both do not have ears and a blind.
Controlling flea larvae in your home
Killing flea larvae may not seem like much, but it goes a long way toward eliminating or reducing an active flea infestation in your home.
You still must also make an effort to eradicate the adult fleas that create a typical swarm, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
To focus on getting rid of flea larvae, you must vacuum daily or at least every other day, sucking up fleas, pupae, eggs and larvae from every dark nook and cranny of carpets, sofa, loose rugs, cracks between hardwood flooring, and areas where walls meet floors, using your crevice tool and then do away with the vacuum bag.
You also have the chance of spreading a thin layer of human grade-E diatomaceous earth on the surface of carpets and allow it rest for 48 hours — keeping your animals away from the carpet — and then vacuum thoroughly.
Whenever you find out there is a flea infestation, make sure to toss your dog beds, pillows, towels, dog stuffed toys, and blankets into the washing machine on hot. And after that, into a hot dryer for a minimum of 20 minutes to dry out.
Make sure to machine wash everything as often as you can, in order to kill flea larva and control the free population in your environment. A steam cleaner is also an excellent tool in your Arsenal if you must control flea.
Steam clean your upholstered furniture and your carpet at least once a month to get rid of fleas in all stages of their life cycle.
A tried and trusted flea control concoction
Lots of people swear by their homemade flea eliminators, and one of the most famous blends for flea extermination is a flea spray that is made form four liters of vinegar, two liters of water, and one cup of witch hazel, two cups of lemon juice mixed together in a big spray bottle and then applied in a big spray to pet beds, furnishings, floors, carpets, and other places of your home where fleas gather.
Fleas and your pet
In a nutshell, pupae, flea larvae, and eggs make up as much as 95 percent of the flea population in a most infested home, with just 5 percent adult fleas — which are the percentage feeding on your animals and perhaps nibbling on your ankles.
Bear in mind that baby fleas do not take blood meals, and neither the mature stage nor the larvae stage of fleas take abode on your pet, but rather lurk in the dark cracks and crevices of your home, such as hardwood floors, upholstered furnishings, rugs, and carpets.
An adult flea only jumps on a host for food and can consume up to 15 times its body weight in its 10 to 15 blood meals every day.
As a general rule, you will find flea larvae in your pet’s bed and around it, but not on your animal’s body. Once you have confirmed that fleas are on the move, you can begin to treat your dog with an old-fashioned bath using chemical-free, organic, and sulfate-free shampoo.
Should you call in the big guns?
When you’re dealing with a flea infestation all by your self, it may sometimes feel like you’re not getting anywhere. Besides, it only takes one to two weeks for a flea population to explode into astronomic proportions.
Don’t be dismayed. Like all pest issues, pest elimination is a process, and it takes a while to become flea free.
However, if you get overwhelmed and assume your flea infestation may have become unmanageable, consider getting a licensed pest control professional who should successfully eliminate fleas.