So, you’ve got a pet and it’s got fleas and those fleas have made a home in your house. They jump on your legs when you walk through a room, they crawl over you while you’re watching TV and they even bite you in bed. It’s a situation that can’t go on. It’s time for action.
The Flea Lifecycle
The first thing to learn when fighting a flea infestation is the flea lifecycle.
Briefly, adult fleas live on the pet and feed off its blood. They lay eggs, most of which fall from the pet and lodge themselves in carpets, crevices and furnishings. Depending on conditions, the eggs will hatch into larvae in one to two weeks.
The larvae, minute worm-like creatures live deep in carpet fibres and develop over a period of several weeks before entering the pupae stage and spinning a cocoon around themselves.
The insect can remain in the pupae stage for several months before emerging as an adult flea. A point to note about the pupae stage is that the cocoon the insect spins is waterproof and tends to protect it from insecticides.
Any effective extermination of fleas must take into account the above four stages of flea development. It is no good simply killing the adult fleas because as soon as some of the pupae hatch the fleas will be back.
To rid your home of fleas, take these steps:
Vacuum everywhere – floors, furnishings, nooks and crannies, even outside areas if the flooring is appropriate. Vacuuming sucks up eggs, larvae and pupae reducing the potential future adult flea population. The vibrations it causes also stimulate the pupae to hatch. You may not think you want this, but you do as it makes the insect more vulnerable to the insecticide you’ll use later.
Wash pet bedding, rugs and any other fabrics which may harbour fleas at any stage of their life cycle in soapy water. Soapy water kills fleas no matter what stage they’re at.
Time to bring in the chemicals. There are many flea sprays out there and the choice is up to you, but spraying is unlikely to be effective if the spray or flea bomb does not contain Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). This is a protein which stops non-adult fleas from developing to maturity. This means that they can’t become adults capable of laying more eggs – effectively breaking the lifecycle.
In addition to IGR, your spray should contain a knock-down agent to kill the already-developed adult fleas.
Be diligent in your spraying – all floors, all areas where your pet lounges, patios and decks, under furniture etc. If you intend to use a flea bomb, be aware that it may not reach very far under large pieces of furniture and you’ll need to dose these areas separately.
Treat Your Pet
No point clearing the house if Fido is a walking flea colony. As with room sprays, pet flea treatment is a matter of personal choice. The most modern and effective treatments, however, are the “top-spot” products. When using these, a small dose is applied between the pet’s shoulder blades and remains effective for about a month.
The Following Weeks
Even though the approach outlined above is exhaustive, you’re not done yet.
Not every adult will have been killed, not every egg will have been destroyed and, particularly, a number of the pupae, with their protective cocoon, may have survived the spray.
You may, in fact, see a resurgence in the flea population a couple of weeks after treating your house as the surviving pupae, stimulated by your vacuuming, begin to hatch.
The answer? Keep vacuuming every day. You’re basically waging a war of attrition, progressively withering the remaining flea population to a point where it is no longer viable.
While regular vacuuming is often sufficient at this stage, in extreme cases you may need to spray a second time.
The Good News
It’s a fair bit of work and sometimes it has to be repeated, but the good news is that once you’re successful your house will be flea-free and will remain so. The adult fleas will have died out and there will be no pre-adult fleas left to produce any more. You’ll once more be able to walk across your floors in safety.
Unless you forget to dose Fido and he returns from a flea-infested neighbour’s with a new set of tiny friends….
Learn about a natural way to get rid of fleas in this video.