Fleas are notorious bloodsuckers. These vampirish insects are a real threat to humans and pets. Flea bites aren’t just painful; they are infectious. Fleas are vectors of plague and scratch fever. They also leave itchy lumps on the skin that are painful to scratch. And what’s most annoying, flea infestation isn’t apparent because fleas are tiny. They like hiding in coats, carpets, cracks and crevices, and beddings. Despite their size, fleas are long-range hoppers. Watch out for hopping on carpets, curtains, beddings, pet’s fur, or other soft furnishings in your home. Thus, to avoid nightmarish experiences, it’s vital to recognize when fleas have made themselves your unwanted guests before it’s too late. There are tell-tale signs. Even if you discover flea infestation, how do you eliminate them without ruining the fabric and fibers of your carpet? Hints lie in pets and people. But it’s not just that. Let’s dive into how to discover infestation and how to eliminate fleas from your house.
What’s the Size of a Flea?
Fleas are tiny, wingless insects. Adults are 0.1-0.4 cm long with flat and narrow bodies. The larvae are even longer, with lengths ranging between 0.4 cm and 1 cm. The larvae are white. They move, yet they don’t have legs. Adult females are fertile, laying several hundreds of eggs per day.
The hatchlings are larvae, which dig grooves in soft furnishings like rugs or carpets. They hide in the tunnels away from predators and form protective shells or cocoons. The pupal stage that follows the larval stage is the most dormant. The pupae can hibernate for up to 24 months, or until they come across an ideal host. Fleas are long-range jumpers. Their legs are well-adapted for jumping. In one step, they can cover 295 feet across and jump as high as 160 feet! It’s a surprising fact given their lightweight and ability to gather momentum. Your furry companions are usually the easiest targets of the pupae that have developed the ability to hop onto the host and cling to it.
The following manifestations in people should goad you to spring into action.
- A sure sign is an itchy red lump that isn’t responsive to over-the-counter medications.
- Fleas target lower limbs, leaving rashes in their wake. These types of irritations are a sure sign of flea infestation.
Your canine companions are the easiest targets of fleas. Because of itchiness, pets will scratch, chew, or bite the bitten part to relieve themselves of irritation. While scratching is normal, if it persists, perhaps it’s time to rethink. Some pets are resistant to fleas, but some are allergic to species. Flea feces, bites, and saliva can invoke severe biting, chewing, or scratching on the tail base, thigh, ear, or neck. In animals with a low tolerance for flea bites, they can turn around suddenly to scratch the affected part. The pupae hop onto the host and attach themselves to the host. The metamorphosis begins afresh. The host is a conduit of spreading the eggs across the environment.
Fur provides a hideout from prying eyes. Hindquarters and heads are usually popular hideouts. Other than sucking blood, fleas defecate on their hosts, depositing tiny, black specks. You can use a flea comb to brush off the dirt. When you pick up flea poop with a ball of wet cotton wool, it turns red-brown because it’s soluble. For neglected pets, the affected part can turn patchy because of the loss of fur due to aggressive scratching or biting. Fleas also cause skin discoloration and scaling.
How to Control Fleas
As they say, prevention is better than cure. That statement drives the point home when it comes to flea control. The obvious step is to care for your pets. Never neglect them. It doesn’t matter whether your home is pristine. Fleas will always be your unwanted visitors if you don’t preventatively treat your cat or dog. Be sure to give them the best standards of hygiene. Shampooing, spraying, or smearing the skin with insecticides is a big step toward successful flea control. Importantly, wash pet beddings and carriers. Maintain these high standards all the time.
While it’s crucial to vacuum every corner of the house, the key priority should be areas like beddings, carpets, couches, chairs, upholstered furniture, or cracks and crevices, where cats or dogs spend most of their time. Vacuuming gets rid of most eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults, but not all. Vacuum your home at least once a week. Be sure to remove the vacuum bag and dispose of it once you finish vacuuming to prevent reinfestation. Vacuuming doesn’t work if there’s heavy flea infestation.
Yet, even in the best of circumstances, flea infestation may be inevitable. Insecticides are viable options, but you need to be cautious lest the flea develops some resistance. In short, don’t over-rely on insecticides. We encourage you to adopt some form of rotation between different types of insecticides. Above all, apply insecticides in breeding grounds like cracks and crevices, pet’s fur, or carpets.
There are two ways to control fleas when push comes to shove. Let’s take a look at each of these over-the-counter alternatives.
Insect Development Inhibitor (IDI)
This insecticide targets the eggs, larvae, or pupae. It’s ineffective against adult fleas. It prevents the production of chitin, which is a substance that constitutes the outer protective layer of cocoons and flea skin. You can supplement the use of IDI with an adulticide (more on this in the next subsection).
Insect Growth Regulator (IGR)
It makes plenty of copies of the growth hormone to prevent juveniles from developing into adults. Fenoxycarb and methoprene are active compounds that bring about these effects. As long as the hormone’s supply is excess, the metamorphosis won’t complete. Molting fails to take place. IGR leads to premature deaths.
This pyrethrin- or synergized pyrethroid-based insecticide targets and eradicates adults. For best results, use it alongside IGR and IDI.
These are plenty of spray treatments available in the market. You can shop for these. Be sure to spray every fortnight to give eggs and larvae to develop into pupae and adults.
However, there are homemade alternatives to these over-the-counter products. Dish soap, sodium bicarbonate, rosemary, diatomaceous earth, and salt are readily available at home.
Fleas are disease-carrying vampires that can wreak havoc in your home. They seek refuge in the host’s fur when they mature into pupae and adults. However, their juveniles hide in carpets, cracks, crevices, or beddings. Fleas lay hundreds of eggs in a single day. They don’t just feed on the host’s blood; they also salivate and defecate on the host. These waste products cause allergic reactions, let alone their bite. In this article, we have discussed what fleas look like, where they hide, and how they attach themselves to their host. We have also covered their metamorphosis and what remedies are effective against them. We hope this article gives you some useful background on how to eliminate them from your carpet.