Fleas are small parasites that feed off of blood extracted from the host. They are extremely agile, and this means that they are capable of jumping on and off of the host, which is usually a house pet. Dogs and cats can pick up fleas by taking only brief walks outside, but the chances are higher if your home is located next to a forest. They can quickly infiltrate your living areas, and the flea problem can spread throughout the home and yard. Getting rid of fleas is easier when you understand the four stages of their life cycle, general physical attributes and weaknesses.
Fleas, Life Cycles and General Traits
Unfortunately, these critters are adept at surviving adverse conditions. They go through four stages during their life cycle, and this also is part of their resiliency. One stage can survive under conditions where a flea at a different stage will die. For example, the pupa inside of a cocoon can survive even when there is no external source of food available. This means that poisoning the food supply will only kill off the adult fleas while the pupa can still survive inside of their cocoons for months. Additionally, there are thousands of different species of fleas, and each one has slightly different attributes.
Generally speaking, fleas developed the toughness in their bodies in order to withstand the intense pressure generated by an animal trying to scratch them off. Each stage also affords them extra protection, and this makes it difficult to kill all of them at once. Be aware that each type of flea might be present in any part of the house or yard. To eliminate them completely, you must be prepared to treat every area where they might be able to survive. Landscaping the lawn is part of this prevention and maintenance strategy. Fleas will often jump onto rodents if they’re present outdoors.
How to Identify Fleas
The size of a typical flea is smaller than 1/8-inch in diameter, but the amount of damage these pests can do is still considerable. The head of a flea is encircled by spikes. The mouth is equipped with tools for piercing into the flesh of the host and drawing out blood. The lifespan of a flea under ideal conditions can be up to three weeks. Most flea bites will cause an allergic reaction and itch, but they can also transmit rare diseases in exceptional cases.
Four Life-Cycle Stages
Even though there are thousands of species of fleas, each type will develop through four distinctive stages. Eliminating the flea problem requires attention in all of these areas. If your technique fails to get rid of the eggs, you might face another infestation after they make it to adulthood. Additionally, each adult female flea is capable of laying around 500 eggs. Even though each flea has a short lifespan, they can reproduce quickly.
The presence of even a single flea should raise the alarm for this reason alone; you could face a full-blown infestation if you fail to act immediately. Heat and humidity create the ideal conditions for the fleas to progress from one stage to another. The humidity level must be around 70 percent, and the temperature just around 80 degrees for them to flourish.
1. Flea Eggs
Each female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, so it’s important to act right away as soon as the flea problem is detected.
2. The Larva
Flea larva can survive for months if the conditions are poor, and they will begin to appear as adult fleas soon after the weather improves.
3. Pupa Phase
This stage represents around 10 percent of the total number of fleas in the infested home. The pupa will survive within a cocoon until the conditions are right. This stage can last for months, but in some cases, the pupa will survive for years. This is why it’s important to ensure that the pest control method used eliminates fleas in all parts of the life cycle. The adult flea will not emerge from the cocoon until there is a host nearby.
4. Adult Fleas
When fleas reach the adult stage, they emerge from the cocoon to take their first blood meal. This will happen within the first few hours, and females need a meal before they become able to lay their eggs. Their emerging bodies will be dark, small and flat. However, they will begin to appear round after feeding from their first meal. Less than five percent of the total flea population are adults, so this should be considered when planning a pest control strategy for flea infestations.
Signs of a Flea Problem
The most visible sign of a flea infestation is the adult flea. However, a single adult flea is such a small proportion of the total flea population that it becomes necessary to think about the invisible fleas as well. If the body of the visible flea is round, it means that this flea has already had a blood meal. There are many other fleas represented by the single visible adult, so you need to create a plan for eliminating fleas in all four stages of the life cycle. This means using pest control measures for every place where the flea eggs, larva, pupa and adults might be hiding. Carpets, mattresses and upholstery are the most common places for them to hide.
Act fast after you detect a flea problem. Fleas are capable of carrying and transmitting diseases and other parasites to the host. The most dangerous of these diseases are very rare, but it’s worth taking immediate precautions to eliminate them from your property. The signs of a flea infestation are a warning signal, so they should be acted on instantly for the best results. Examples of diseases or parasites carried by fleas include typhus, heart worms, tapeworm and others. Most flea infestations don’t transmit these dangerous parasites and diseases, but the risk is always there. All of the following signs represent a serious flea problem, so again, make sure to take action immediately.
Common signs of a flea infestation:
- Pets that itch and scratch excessively.
- The presence of a single adult flea can signal the existence of an entire cocoon full of larva.
- Flea bites present on the skin of both humans and animals as small, itchy marks.
- Fleas can leave marks on the skin that are called flea dirt, but it’s really the small feces left behind.
Flea Elimination Techniques and Methods
Eggs can survive termination methods and techniques that are effective on larva, pupa and mature fleas. This is why it’s critical to use a method that is known to be capable of eliminating fleas. In other words, you should assume that the fleas exist even if you can’t see them in your home. This is an important point because the hidden eggs, cocoons and larva can re-introduce the infestation at a later point in time.
Selecting Flea Control Products
Flea control products should be carefully selected to avoid triggering any allergies or health problems to your pets. This is one of the most important parts of the pest removal process because the pet might react to the products in unexpected ways. Some pets might even have serious allergic reactions to the ingredients. The process should begin with your pet. If you have a kennel for each pet, you can quarantine them as soon as you finish shampooing the fleas out of their fur. This will allow you to transport the animals to a temporary home in order to avoid re-infestation while you treat the rest of the home. Select products that can be used several times if you wish to continue giving a flea bath until you’re absolutely sure that every flea has been killed.
Flea drops or pills are effective methods for eliminating fleas without causing your pet to feel stressed. Drops can be applied directly to the skin, while the pills are ingested. They both kill the fleas off within a few days. The treatment usually works within 24 hours, but re-application is usually recommended within six weeks of the initial use. Never use both products simultaneously. Start the process by trying the method that seems least offensive to the pet, and you can always re-gauge your next attempt until you find something that works. Sprays for your home are also available, and these products come in spray bottles and aerosol cans.
How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home
To get rid of fleas, use the following steps as a starting point:
1. Buy Powerful Cleaning Products
You’ll need a strong vacuum to apply to all surfaces, and this includes the mattress, furniture and floor areas. Choose a model with disposable bags to avoid making any contact with the debris. Get a steam cleaner for the carpets and any upholstery because hot water and soap is a universal cleaning agent. Other products you need should include chemical sprays, flea shampoo and even new bedding. You can also replace the bedding instead of cleaning it.
2. Select a Pet Shampoo
Choose a shampoo that doesn’t contain any substances that are toxic for the animal. Natural ingredients like citrus oil, eucalyptus and rosemary are effective at killing fleas from your pet’s fur. Ingredients containing insecticides will produce skin irritation for your animal. Check with your veterinarian to ensure that the products in the shampoo won’t harm your pet. Dogs and cats react differently to the same substances. Make sure to read the directions thoroughly so that you wash the pet correctly.
3. Take Your Plan to a Veterinarian
Let your vet have a chance to correct errors in the product list you’ve assembled; your vet can also give you great advice on how to proceed or maintain your flea-free household into the future. Be sure to take notes during this meeting, and treat it like a professional consultation.
4. Vacuum the Home Completely
Make sure that you include all of the areas where fleas can deposit eggs and larva sacs. This includes drapes, upholstery, sofas, mattresses and floors. The vacuum should be used on all the surfaces that can be reached, but the steam cleaner should be used on the carpet. This material is capable of hiding egg sacs, and there’s a chance that the vacuum cleaner could miss some of the eggs. In addition, the steam cleaner uses water that’s heated to high temperatures, which is lethal to all of the eggs, larva pupa and adult fleas.
Make sure to continue the vacuuming process for a few weeks. This will allow you enough time to get into the carpet deeply and remove any surviving eggs, larva or pupa, and thereby eliminate the flea problem permanently. Always seal the vacuum bags, or use the disposable kind to avoid contact. After you finish cleaning the rest of the home and yard, make sure to wash your pets regularly with anti-flea shampoo for maintenance. This could be a mixture of vinegar and apple cider. You can also use a mixture made from lemon juice, which acts as a natural flea repellent. Prescription-strength pet products are widely available to help you keep these pests away from your pet even when they go outdoors, but make sure to use them correctly.
Make sure to consult a veterinarian if you have any questions about the best methods for eliminating each type of flea from your property, as some animals may react to the products used. You also need to select the right type of product that will be effective without introducing harmful chemicals into the home. Children or adults with allergies should not remain in the premises until the home is clean and safe. Always follow the directions on the product label carefully in order to avoid the worst risks.