Here’s quick fact for all you live entertainment lovers. Did you know that flea circuses provided loads of entertainment to 19th-century audiences all over the country? I kid you not guys; these were actual circuses with real live fleas dressed as humans or towing rollers, cannons and chariots behind them. These tiny clothes and equipment were originally made by jewelers and watchmakers to show off their incredible skill at miniaturization. So fast forward to a couple hundred years later and it’s quite clear that fleas are still trying to get revenge for years of humiliation.
You spot a flea today; you bet your sweet little behind it’s not there to entertain you. Apart from severely irritating your skin, fleas are infamous plague carriers that have killed literally millions of people throughout history.
In fact, fleas are said to have caused the Plague of Justinian that killed over 200 million people in Europe. History also has these bloodsuckers being used as biological weapons in the Japanese in World War II as vectors for Septicaemic and Bubonic plagues. Sounds like a pretty painful way to go if you ask me.
That’s why you can’t afford to ignore even the slightest signs of a flea infestation. In today’s segment, we’ll be looking at what exactly fleas are and what attracts these nasty little blood suckers to you and your home.
But that’s not all; I’ll also be informing you on what signs and symptoms to look out for as well all the different treatments and remedies you can try right in the comfort of your home. So buckle up guys, we’re going skin deep with the ultimate guide to getting rid of fleas.
What Are Fleas?
Introducing the nastiest bug in the entire Siphonaptera Order, fleas are small, wingless, flightless insects that live by consuming the blood of mammals and birds. These tiny bastards are so great at sucking blood that the word siphon is literally their middle name. An adult flea’s body measures about 3 mm in length and is engineered in such a way that it makes for the perfect parasite.
The brown, shiny body actually flattens completely sideways to compress and allow the fleas to quickly move through their host’s hairs, fur or feathers. Similarly, fleas have mouth parts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood, hence the name Siphonaptera.
Now, while flies lack wings, it would seem none of them got the memo. Their hind legs are so robust that they can jump over a distance 50 times their body length; a feat second only to some cold blooded amphibians. That’s like a human jumping over a skyscraper. So, what would make those powerful legs hop all the way to the sanctity of your home?
Causes Of Flea Infestations
Well, we’ve already seen that fleas depend on a blood meal from their hosts to survive. So if you have a warm body, that’s all the cause a flea needs to start hanging around you. However, fleas don’t like humans too much because of the lack of fur and incessant bathing habits. As such, the most likely cause of a flea infestation is usually external.
For instance, they can be tracked in from outside by our sweet, innocent pets who were just out and about their business. On other occasions, fleas may become an inside problem when their previous host is no longer around. But for a real infestation to occur, the most common cause would be a spillover from neighboring yards. When competition becomes too much in one area, fleas will often focus their feeding habits elsewhere and look who’s sporting a nice, warm-blooded body.
Signs And Symptoms Of Fleas
Fleas are tiny, but the suffering they bring to each and every inhabitant in your home can be ruthless. The first sign of infestation is usually the presence of adult fleas which are usually easy to locate. But once you spot just two or three fleas jumping around; that, my friend, is what people refer to as the tip of the iceberg. As far as the life cycle of a flea is concerned, you have a real problem. An adult female flea can lay over 5000 eggs in her lifetime.
As you can imagine, this means a rapid increase in numbers. If you have any pets, they also make for great attraction of flea activity. Watch out for pets that are constantly scratching themselves.
Fleas can also bite people, leaving behind bite marks with a very itchy sensation. The result is usually a slightly raised, swollen spot with a single puncture point at the center.
But since fleas usually subscribe to the “family that eats together stays together” lifestyle, these bites will usually occur in lines of two bites or just clusters. Typically, this will cause your skin to become itchy, inflamed and irritated for weeks. However, severe infestations can cause anemia in more extreme cases. We know nothing grabs your attention like a list of all the symptoms, so hey, why not?
- Visual sightings of brown, shiny adult fleas
- Slightly swollen bite marks with puncture wound in the middle
- Presence of flea dirt on skin
- Discomfort and constant scratching for pets
- Hair loss, weight loss, and anemia
- Illness and general weakness
Prevention, Treatment And Cures For Fleas
Fleas have one heck of an impact on the economy. Don’t believe me? Well, check this out; approximately $3 billion is spent annually on flea related issues and flea pest control in the US alone. With such astronomical figures, it’s better to avoid fleas altogether. But if you’re already facing an all-out infestation, don’t worry; I’ll show you how to get rid of all the fleas as well.
But before I begin, it’s worth mentioning that flea infestation requires multifaceted treatment plans. Addressing only individual flea bites or your pet’s infestation alone often doesn’t prove effective for many home owners. For flea infestation to be fully effective, it should encompass physical and chemical methods on your pet, your home, your compound and yourself as well. So, shall we dive right into the first phase?
A. Flea Prevention 101
Like I said, it’s always easier to prevent a flea infestation even before you spot any signs of one. If you don’t take any preventative measures, then you’ll definitely regret it when a massive infestation makes life difficult for your family. Anyone who has ever dealt with an infestation can tell you that it is an ugly and time-consuming process. So before things escalate, here’s how you prevent fleas from coming into your house.
1. Troubleshoot your compound
The first line of defense involves keeping fleas and other insects from setting up shop in your compound. If you own a lawn, keep the grass mowed and shrubs trimmed all the way back. This simple landscaping is actually the opposite of curb appeal for fleas since it reduces their hiding spots.
Next, discourage any feral pets, stray dogs and wildlife from coming into your yard at all costs. Raccoons, feral cats, and opossums are often the worst culprits when it comes to harboring fleas. To keep them out and away, make sure that your fence is impenetrable and avoid leaving open garbage or food outside.
Lastly, seal off any openings where stray animals could crawl into and hide. If possible, you could insulate your entire home and close off any gaps where even the smallest flea or mosquito could enter.
2. Protect you and your pets
As opposed to waiting until an infestation occurs so that you can throw money at the problem, practicing some preventative measures on both you and your pets can help you save a pretty penny.
Since pets are the most susceptible, try to run a flea comb on their fur whenever you can. Not only will this help you spot any signs of the insects early on, but the flea comb actually helps to reduce the number of fleas on your pets. Regular baths also help pets remain clean and pest free.
As for you and your family, there are plenty of flea repellents and other remedies that can be used to keep fleas at bay and even eradicate them. And they’re all laid out conveniently below.
B. Flea Treatment And Elimination
Since you’re here, it’s safe to assume that you’ve spotted some of the earlier signs and symptoms of fleas around your house. Like I said, seeing just two or three adult fleas is usually the precursor to a full blown infestation. If your home has fallen victim to fleas, don’t panic as I’ve compiled the ultimate, step by step guide to getting rid of fleas.
1. Getting rid of fleas on pets
Thanks to all their fur and outdoor shenanigans, pets are almost always the first to fall victim to fleas. If your poor pet is struggling with fleas, you can get rid of the infestation in the following way.
i) Regular Baths
Cleaning your pets regularly will really help in controlling fleas and even keeping them away from your pets. There are plenty of natural flea shampoos that you can use to kill all fleas and their eggs without harming your pet. For dogs, there are some essential oils that can clear a nasty infestation right out.
ii) Apply Flea Killing Products
This could be a spot on, flea collar, oral medication. Combining a collar with a spot on treatment not only prevents the larvae from turning into adults, but it also helps control adult fleas as well. Other products to use include herbal collars, ultrasonic devices, and vitamin B1 supplements.
2. Getting rid of fleas in your home
Having fleas doesn’t mean that your house is necessarily dirty. However, cleaning up after an infestation helps to eliminate the already rising numbers as well as make your home unattractive to the fleas. Here’s a step by step guide to cleaning your home for fleas:
i) Wash Beddings, Clothes and Upholstery
Fleas have the uncanny habit of hiding in the most uncommon places. As such, start by cleaning your sheets and beddings thoroughly to kill any eggs left behind. Similarly, throw all pet beddings in the washing machine and let them go for a deep spin. You could wash your items with certain chemicals and essential oils that we’ll name later on to ensure that fleas don’t return. However, beddings and article that are full of eggs, larvae, flea excrement might not be salvageable. You’ll have to throw those away.
ii) Vacuum Regularly
If there’s one place that fleas absolutely love hiding, it’s got to be in carpets and rugs. This is where they hide out and lay thousands of eggs. Arm yourself with a vacuum cleaner and suck the flea life out of your carpets, rugs and every nook and cranny you can find. To make the cleaning even more effective, stick some moth balls in the dust bag to kill the buggers as you vacuum. When you’ve gotten all the dark, damp and hidden spots, seal up the bag and throw it away immediately.
iii) Use Insecticides and Flea Bombs
When it comes to fleas, botanical dusts are perhaps the oldest and most effective natural insecticide. Treating your house with a safe, natural insecticide ensures that almost 100 percent mortality rate for fleas in all stages. For dust insecticide, get the carpets, furniture, bed, corners and pretty much everywhere else. Foggers and bombs are more effective since aerosols penetrate into every nook and cranny.
iv) Essential Oils
When it comes to treating and controlling different types of insects, nothing works better than essential oils as they have no side effects. Not only do these oils help drastically cut down the number of fleas in your home, but they also achieve all this without the use of harmful chemicals.
Some of the best essential oils for flea control have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-parasitic properties that make them ideal, well-rounded options for eliminating fleas and their symptoms.
While some essential oils are more than suitable for direct skin contact, others work best when used on clothing, carpets, cushions, and beddings. So, which of these oils do you need? I’ve compiled the top 5 best essential oils that are like poison to fleas and a few recipes that will help you put the oils to good use.
5 Best Essential Oils For Fleas
1. Lemongrass Essential Oil
When it comes to flea control, lemongrass packs quite the impressive double whammy. Apart from having properties that make it a natural flea repellent, lemongrass oil also has an aroma that is quite unpleasant for many insects. When used topically, this essential oil also works wonders for soothing flea bites and other skin conditions. But while lemongrass won’t kill fleas, it will definitely convince them to leave you, your pets and your house alone.
2. Cedar Essential Oil
This is hands down one of the best essential oils for eradicating fleas. Not only does cedar oil repel these pesky blood suckers, but it actually kills fleas right there and then. Cedar oil is quite strong and should be used in moderation, especially if you’re going for topical application. However, it works best in a room diffuser as a total cleanser.
3. Lavender Essential Oil
Here’s another sweet smelling, well-rounded, all-purpose insect repellent. In addition to being a broad spectrum insect repellent, lavender essential oil has been proven to prevent tick and flea eggs from hatching. You can use the oil topically in lotions or as a more concentrated spray for beddings, upholstery and any place you don’t want fleas to come.
4. Cardamom Essential Oil
Thanks to its robust anti-inflammatory abilities and antibacterial effects, cardamom oil can help keep you and your pets safe from secondary infection. Similarly, the oil works great as a flea deterrent and can help speed up the healing process thanks to its analgesic properties. The oil can also be used to soothe itches, pain, and discomfort caused by clusters of flea bites.
5. Peppermint Oil
Now, peppermint is not known as an effective repellent, but it wouldn’t be fair of us to just chase away the fleas and ignore their effects on your skin. Peppermint works magic for the inflammation and irritation caused by the bug bites. Apart from offering a speedy recovery, the oil also stimulates blood flow to the skin and offers relief from pain, itching and general discomfort.
5 Essential Oil Recipes For Fleas
1. DIY EO Flea Killing Spray
This recipe is for another who needs to make a flea killing spray for themselves, their pets and any other surface around the house.
What You’ll Need:
- 16 oz. glass spray bottle
- 1 cup fresh water
- 3 drops of cedar essential oil
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
- 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
Method – Mix the fresh water with your cup of vinegar and add the essential oils. Combine thoroughly and pour into a glass spray bottle. Use this concoction to mist your skin, your pet or surfaces, and areas where you think pests could be hiding.
2. Flea Bite Soothing Cream
As much as repellents might chase fleas away, the effects of their bites stay with you for much longer. To clear the bites and heal your skin faster, here’s a cream you can make at home.
What You’ll Need:
- 4 drops of lemongrass essential oil
- 2 drops peppermint essential oil
- 3 drops cardamom essential oil
- 15ml Jojoba or grapeseed carrier oil
Method – Mix all the essential oils with your choice of carrier oil to make the blend safe to use on the skin. Apply topically every day until the skin irritation subsides.
3. DIY Diffuser Blend
One of the most effective ways to repel and even kill fleas is by using a diffuser to get your blend airborne.
What You’ll Need:
- 5 drops lemongrass Essential oil
- 8 drops cedarwood essential oil
Method – Add the recommended number of essential oil drops in your regular diffuser and let the good times roll. Not only will the scent of lemongrass act as a flea deterrent, but the cedarwood actually drops these suckers like dead flies.
4. Essential oil Based Flea Collar for Dogs
We couldn’t leave our furry dog friends out of the recipe book now, could we? To make your very own DIY flea collar, you will need the following:
- Soft material collar
- 1 tablespoon of alcohol
- 2 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 2 drops citronella essential oil
- 1 drop thyme essential oil
- 2 garlic capsules
Method – Mix all the above ingredients with a table spoon of vegetable oil for effective mixing. Drain or soak the collar in the blend until it is fully absorbed. Leave it to dry before placing around your dog’s neck. For everything else you need to know about essential oils for dogs, I have you covered.
5. EO Flea Recipe for Cats
Generally, cats are far more sensitive to essential oils since they metabolize them differently. Aside from possibly having adverse reactions to EOs, they are also sensitive to the oil’s strong scents. However, this doesn’t mean that you should leave them to their flea ridden fate. The following recipe will work for cats, but instead of using essential oils, you can use hydrosols instead to be safe.
- 1 tsp geranium hydrosol
- 1 tsp lavender hydrosol
- 1 cup water
- 8 oz. spray bottle
Method – Mix all the ingredients thoroughly drain in a spray bottle. Spray your cat’s fur only once a day and avoid the face, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
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5 Home Remedies For Fleas
If you don’t have any essential oils or pesticides nearby, don’t worry. I’ve compiled a list of all the different items you could use to control and eliminate flea infestation around your home. Some of these remedies can be found right in your very own kitchen. Let’s sink our teeth (pun intended) in the best home remedies for flea management.
1. Baking Soda
It’s white, it’s cheap, and it works great as a flea deterrent. Ideally, baking soda is one of the strongest desiccants that works by sapping the moisture from the environment and from fleas as they walk by. This chaffing effect also works by sucking the moisture from the eggs and killing fleas before they hatch.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is not only organic, low cost, and widely available, but it also kills all fleas and other insects when applied to carpets, lawns, and yards. This organic powder is food grade, meaning it’s safe for both human and animals to ingest. Basically, the earth works by puncturing the exoskeleton of insects, causing them to dry out.
3. DIY Citrus Spray
Citrus fruits are well known for their insect repelling properties. Just the juice alone form a lemon or orange is enough to keep you and your pets safe from bites. Just slice a lemon thinly, add some water and bring it to a boil. After sitting overnight, put the mixture in a spray bottle and attack any areas that you may suspect have fleas. The spray can also be used on your skin as well as pet’s fur.
4. Detergent Water
Here’s one of the smartest homemade flea traps that I’ve ever seen. All you have to do is place a mixture of water and detergent in a low, shallow bowl and position it under a low hanging light source. Since fleas are attracted to light, you will have made a very attractive, but toxic and deadly swimming pool for fleas.
Research shows that fleas require a relative humidity of 50 percent or higher to survive. Just reducing the humidity levels to below 50 percent for two days will kill all adult fleas and larva as well as stop their eggs from hatching. A dehumidifier will work great to keep the humidity in check and create an arid, hostile environment for fleas.
The Final Word
There you have it folks; everything you need to know about fleas is now at your fingertips. Hopefully, preventing and eliminating infestations will be much easier. Make sure you act at the first sign of fleas before they multiply and turn into a cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive problem.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of treatments, remedies and all sorts of creative ways to kill off the Kobe Bryant of pests. So go ye unto the world and rid it of fleas. And don’t tell Kobe what I just said about him…