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What Are the Signs of Fleas & How Do They Get in Your House?October 11th, 2022 by
This article was crafted with the help of Alexander Termite & Pest Control.
Even the tidiest people can find themselves facing a flea infestation. Both outdoor and indoor pets are vulnerable to flea bites. And if an infestation gets bad enough, your dog or cat won’t be the only family member with flea bites.
If you discover you’re sharing your favorite winter blanket with unwelcome guests, don’t panic. We’ve got information and advice from Charlie Washburn, the general manager at Atlanta-based Best Pick member Alexander Termite & Pest Control.
Keep reading to learn more about the signs of a flea infestation and how to get rid of them!
What Are the Signs of Fleas?
Fleas are teeny-tiny and can be hard to see. But if you notice your dog or cat scratching at their ears and around their neck more than usual, you might have a problem.
Pick up a flea comb at the pet store. Then, carefully comb through the fur around where your pet has been scratching. Get as close to the skin as possible. If you see little black specks, your fur-kid has fleas.
Contact your vet to learn about the best flea removal method for your pet. According to Charlie Washburn, Alexander Termite & Pest’s general manager, your “first and most important step is to remove fleas from pets.”
Where do fleas come from?
Most of the time, flea infestations begin when an outdoor dog or cat brings fleas inside. However, fleas can also get in on old furniture or the skin or clothing of a guest whose house is infested. Fleas don’t often use humans as hosts, but they can travel on us.
It’s even possible for fleas to get inside a house without using a host. Fleas are very small and are capable of entering a house through window screens and cracks in the floor.
Here are the two most important things you can do to prevent a flea infestation:
- Vacuum often. Aim for once per week, if not more frequently.
- Bathe your pets and change their bedding on a regular basis. If you’re unsure about the best bathing schedule for your pet, ask your vet. Some animals shouldn’t be bathed too often. If you’ve taken your dog hiking or to an area where fleas are a known problem, however, a bath is probably a good idea.
What do fleas look like?
In most cases, fleas look like miniscule black or dark brown flecks. They don’t have wings, but they move surprisingly fast by jumping. (Yes, they can jump. Far.)
How can I tell how bad a flea infestation is?
Finding fleas on your dog or cat isn’t the end of the world. If your pets go outside but don’t take a regular flea treatment medication, they will eventually get fleas. It’s normal. And if you take action as soon as you see a flea, the problem won’t snowball.
If you don’t catch your pet’s flea issue in time, however, the infestation can get pretty bad. If you start finding small, itchy red bug bites on your body, you’re dealing with a full-blown flea infestation. Fleas are hard to kill. Try a few DIY treatments. If those don’t seem to work, call a pest control company as soon as possible to get the infestation under control.
How Long Do Fleas Live?
The short answer: longer than you want them to. According to Charlie, “An adult flea can live over a year provided it has a blood meal after hatching.”
Fleas lay their eggs on your pet’s fur or bedding. Shortly afterward, these eggs fall off onto the surrounding furniture and floor. It only takes a few fleas to start an infestation because fleas are very prolific. Some are even capable of laying up to 500 eggs over the course of just a few months.
Anywhere between one and twelve days after being laid, these eggs hatch into tiny larvae. The larvae stay hidden in carpets, floor cracks, and furniture. Normally, flea larvae mature in one to two weeks, but hot and dry weather can slow that down to about six months.
After maturation, the larvae spin insecticide-resistant cocoons. They stay in these cocoons for up to five weeks. However, it is possible for flea pupae to rest inside their cocoons for a longer period of time.
If they stay cocooned up, they’ll emerge only when they feel the vibrations from a potential host passing by. This is why some flea infestations begin when people return to a house that hasn’t been occupied for a while.
How long can fleas live without a host?
A flea’s diet consists of blood from its host, and female fleas cannot lay eggs until they’ve fed. Unfavorable conditions can cause a flea to die within two to five days without a meal of blood.
With humid and temperate conditions and enough to eat, however, one flea can live anywhere between a month and an entire year. On average, a flea can live for two months without eating.
Can fleas live on humans?
Fleas can certainly bite humans, but they can’t live on us. We just aren’t hairy enough.
Why are fleas so hard to kill?
Fleas are especially hard to kill for a few reasons:
- They jump. Fleas are incredibly difficult to see and catch.
- They have hard exoskeletons. This means that they’re almost impossible to crush.
- One flea can lay hundreds of eggs that you’ll never see. If the infestation isn’t treated, those eggs will hatch over time.
How to Get Rid of a Flea Infestation
Luckily, getting rid of fleas isn’t as harrowing as dealing with a bedbug infestation. First, wash or get rid of any bedding or blankets where your pet spends a lot of time.
Vacuum often. This will spur more pupae to emerge from their cocoons and come into contact with any insecticides or desiccants you’ve applied to the area. Vacuuming will also help get the insecticides down into the carpet.
If you decide to use an insecticide spray or a bug bomb, make sure to treat every area that might have fleas. Don’t set off a fogger just anywhere in a room. Everyone in the household (including pets) should stay away from areas that have been treated.
The insecticide needs to dry first, which can take a few hours. Opening a few windows can help fumes dissipate faster and speed up the time it takes for the treatment to dry. And since fleas don’t fare well in heat, letting in some sun won’t hurt.
Commercial insecticides aren’t the only available means of treating a flea infestation. There are plenty of store-bought and homemade flea killers and recipes available. These options range from sticky flea pads and boric acid-based products to cedar oil and homemade rosemary spray.
Fleas are also very easy to dehydrate. Sprinkling salt, diatomaceous earth, or baking soda over an infested area is another tactic to try.
It’s likely that you’ll still see fleas for a few weeks after you treat. That doesn’t mean that the treatment wasn’t effective. The leftover fleas are most likely newly hatched adults that were inside their cocoons during your initial treatment. They should go away easily enough with thorough vacuuming and washing. But if the infestation doesn’t get better after about a month, it may be time to re-treat or call a professional.
And if a month sounds like too long to wait, start with the pros! They’ll know the most efficient ways to rid your house of fleas for good. But keep the following professional advice in mind: “Remember that it’s usually not a single treatment that’s needed,” says Charlie. “Any effective method for dealing with fleas will probably be a regimen or a program, not a one-time thing.”
This article was crafted with the help of Alexander Termite & Pest Control, a Maryland expert in Pest & Termite Control. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.