Fleas are a significant pest, so it’s important to know what to do if you have fleas in your house. This type of infestation often requires the assistance of a pest control professional. However, there are several steps that you can take on your own to help minimize the issue as well.
Identifying the Source of the Flea Infestation
A house flea infestation is usually the result of an infested pet, such as a dog or a cat. If you don’t have a pet, but find fleas in your home, this indicates that some mammal hosted flea has been in your house recently; this might be a rodent in the walls or a stray cat that crept into the attic. Though the original host may have left, fleas can live on in your carpet feeding on humans as hosts.
Fleas are tiny bugs, only about 0.3cm long and dark brown. They have a flat body that makes them challenging to squish. They do not fly but can jump long distances. You will often see fleas on the back of your pet’s neck, where the cat or dog can’t reach to bite at them. For every one flea that you see, you can anticipate 80 more are hiding.
If your pet is the source, your flea infestation treatment must begin with the animal. If you don’t have pets, start by inspecting and sealing your home carefully to prevent any animals from coming in.
The Flea’s Life Cycle and Habits
Fleas go through a four-stage life cycle. You must kill them systematically at all stages, which can take months. Fleas begin as eggs, which are easily spread throughout the house wherever the host animal roams. Next, the eggs hatch as larvae that feed on organic material. After about two weeks, the larvae spin a cocoon and enter the pupa stage; this may last anywhere from a week to more than a year. In the final stage, the adult flea emerges. The adult must find a host within about a week of hatching to survive.
Fleas feed on animal or human blood. They can survive off a single bite for a year, but most fleas feed almost continuously and live for only a few weeks.
Treating Your Pets for Fleas
Several methods will help you kill fleas on your pets. You may eliminate the issue with just one treatment option if the infestation is mild. However, for a severe flea problem, you may want to try these options. Speak with your veterinarian about the best products and safest approach.
- Use a flea comb to remove fleas from the fur. Drop them into soapy water to kill them.
- Give your pet a flea bath with a medicated shampoo.
- Administer a topical or oral flea medication to kill the remaining fleas.
- Repeat your treatment on all pets in the house, even if only one of your pets have fleas.
Going forward, apply a preventive flea treatment regularly; this is usually applied monthly or quarterly. Preventive flea products will help you avoid future infestations in your home.
Preparing the Home for Flea Treatment
Treating your home for fleas requires careful preparation. Remove your pets from the house while you’re treating it. Pick up all loose items from the carpeting, such as toys, shoes, or boxes. As you clear the floors, look for areas where the infestation is worst. You’ll see a grainy black substance known as “flea dirt” on the ground that’s comprised of dried feces and blood.
Replace all pet bedding, if possible. If you cannot discard the bedding, you must wash it weekly in hot soapy water for at least a month or until you no longer have signs of a flea infestation.
Cleaning Fleas From the House
Fleas like to live in dark areas and burrow into carpet or upholstery. Removing them requires thorough vacuuming every other day for about a month, or until the infestation is gone. Vacuum carpets, throw pillows, upholstery, and rugs. Vacuuming will:
- Stimulate fleas to leave their cocoons, thus exposing them to the insecticides that you used
- Remove flea eggs, larvae, and pupa.
- Remove flea dirt, which is a food source for the larva.
- Raise the nap of the carpet so insecticides can get deeper
Steam cleaning helps with severe infestations; this kills adult fleas but doesn’t help with eggs and pupa. Alternate between steam cleaning and vacuuming every other day if the infestation is severe.
Flea Infestation Treatments
A professional pest control treatment is usually necessary to eliminate severe flea infestations. An insecticide application helps kill adult fleas and works well in conjunction with your thorough cleaning efforts. For a minor infestation, you may be able to capture several of the fleas by setting out a bowl with dish detergent and water under a light. Fleas will jump to the light, and this mixture is fatal to them. Flea sprays and foggers may help if you have a small number of fleas as well.
How to Stop a Flea Infestation Outdoors
Fleas typically come in from outside. If you live in a rural or wooded area, you’re more likely to face these pests. Fleas prefer dark places. Trim back trees and shrubbery, so your property gets more sunlight. A pest management professional can help you apply a chemical treatment to the yard as well. It’s best to do this when you’re treating your house so that you can enjoy the benefits of a comprehensive treatment across your property.
The best way to stop a flea infestation is with a thorough multi-faceted approach to the problem. Treat your pets first, clean the home diligently throughout the infestation, and continue with preventive treatments and regular inspections to make sure the issue remains under control.