So you want to know how to get rid of fleas naturally? Fleas can be difficult to remove from your home once they are introduced. They are typically transmitted from mice or rats or your pets.
If you have a dog or a cat, you might worry about your pet getting fleas, and it is a real concern, especially if your pet spends a lot of time outside. Fleas are insect parasites that feed mainly on the blood of animals. They can quickly become a problem in your home, biting into your pets and making them itch. They can also bite and feed off of you and your family.
What do Fleas Look Like?
Fleas can live for several months without feeding, but female fleas need a blood meal before they can reproduce. Fleas go through a full metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, adult) in as little as two to three weeks, though this may take longer in cooler temperatures. The time of year they thrive the most is during the hot summer months.
Fleas are small, wingless, vertically flat insects with three pairs of legs. Adult fleas are about 1/8" - 1/6" long (3 to 4 mm).
They are a dark reddish-brown in color, with biting mouthparts, with six legs (including much longer hind legs).
Fleas can jump as high as two feet to get onto a host creature. For their size, this is further than any other insect can jump. If you had the ability to jump like a flea, you would be able to jump about 300 feet forward and 160 feet up into the air!
Do Fleas Bite Humans?
Fleas feed on bird and mammal blood. Their main preferences, however, are for hairy animals such as dogs and cats (and pigs, in the case of human fleas).
Do fleas bite humans? Yes and no. Flea bites on humans are less common, but they happen. All fleas will bite humans if given the opportunity. Flea bites aren’t that painful (at least compared to stinging insect stings!), and flea saliva makes the bites undetectable immediately. But later, you will know that you've been bitten. As with other insect bites, the bitten area will be swollen, red, and itchy.
You will see flea bites often in clusters or in small rows on the skin. Depending on whether or not you or your pet are allergic to them, these bites may be inflamed for up to several weeks.
Can Fleas Live on Humans?
One less common flea for developed countries (Chigoe fleas, which are a concern mainly in Latin America and parts of Africa) are known to live on people and also to burrow into human skin and feet. Once burrowed into a human foot they cause itching, swelling, skin ulcers, and loss of toenails--they can even make walking a problem.
But for the most part, though some fleas will feed on humans, they prefer animals as hosts.
Where Do Fleas Live Indoors?
Fleas prefer to live in different areas, depending on what stage of life they are in.
Flea Eggs: Dozens of flea eggs get laid directly in your pet’s fur every day and get easily shaken out (meaning flea eggs can end up in carpet, furniture, your bedding, and wherever else your pets may roam (including on top of appliances, if you have cats!)
Flea Larvae: Flea larvae prefer dark, narrow and dusty spaces for protection.
Flea Pupae: Flea pupae are almost always found on floors and in your carpet.
Adult fleas: Adult fleas live on hosts such as dogs, cats, rodents, and other furry animals.
How do You Know if Your Home Has Fleas?
Do you have fleas in the house? Some telltale signs that you might have fleas in your home start with an inspection of your pets. These signs include:
Fleas' favorite areas on an animal are its neck, ears, and underbelly.
You may notice fleas hopping around on your drapes, carpet, furniture, pets, and in their bedding. You'll know them by the way they quickly vanish!
You may notice your pet begins scratching, licking, and gnawing at its fur, which is likely because of flea bites. For serious cases of fleas, your dog or cat may lose patches of fur where fleas have set up shop.
When you inspect your pet, you may see small, patchy "specks" on your pet's skin (flea feces).
You may also notice salt-and-pepper-like particles in their bedding, or even in your own (dead skin and dried blood).
You might also have an itchy, red, swollen rash on your own skin, especially if you're allergic to flea bites.
Where Do Fleas Live Outdoors?
Outdoors, fleas typically thrive in grass, sand, sheds, debris, and any other place where they can find humidity and shade for harborage (note that areas like the grass underneath shrubbery provide perfect living conditions for all stages of a flea’s life cycle, including adult). When your pets head for the shade on hot summer days, fleas in the yard see their opportunity to latch onto a host, and go for it! When you see your pets who like to play outdoors itching and scratching, you know it might be time for a flea yard treatment.
Let’s Talk About Some Common Types of Fleas You Might Encounter
The main types of fleas that are problematic to animals and humans are cat fleas, dog fleas, and human fleas.
Cat fleas are the most common of domestic fleas. They can be found most often on cats and dogs throughout the world, including the United States. They may also be found on other hosts, such as foxes and rodents. Cat fleas are more prevalent around the world than dog fleas, mainly because they can survive on a wider variety of host animals. They are usually black to brownish-black in color, but may also be a reddish-black after feeding.
Dog fleas bear some resemblance to cat fleas, and though they also latch onto cats, they prefer dogs as hosts. Dog fleas can be distinguished by their more rounded heads compared to the cat fleas' elongated head, as well as their hind legs bearing eight notches rather than six.
Though they are often referred to as "human fleas," this flea species can thrive on a wide range of host animals, including dogs and cats. They are the least-encountered species. Human fleas prefer pigs over humans as hosts but will transmit from one human to another to feed, especially in less sanitary, crowded conditions.
Can You Get Fleas Without Pets?
Fleas, once introduced into a home, even the cleanest of homes, can thrive even when no pets are present. If there are no pets to feed on, they will head right for you and your family.
How Do You Get Rid of Fleas?
Outdoor Control Strategy
Your flea control strategy begins outside. For a flea spray in your yard, use an effective plant-based solution like Maggie’s Farm Yard Bug Spray. You’ll likely need to treat the whole yard, or at least all the areas outside where pets have access. You should plan to re-treat your yard a couple of times (a few weeks apart) to get the fleas that come out of their protective stages. Also, remember to always treat your pets with a product labeled for on-animal flea control at the same time you treat the premises for fleas, otherwise, you could find yourself right back where you started.
Indoor Control Strategy
Start by sweeping your wood and tile floors, and by vacuuming all your carpets, rugs, pet bedding, and furniture thoroughly to remove any flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. Vacuuming will not only scoop up adult fleas, pupae, and flea eggs, it will stimulate the pupae to emerge to the adult stage.
Seal the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic trash bag and dispose of it outside in the trash. Be sure to treat your pets for fleas with a product labeled for on-animal use at the same time you treat the premises. If you don’t treat both the pet and the premises (indoors and out) you will likely not get rid of them all.
Indoors, fleas can be killed directly by spraying with an effective indoor plant-powered flea spray like Maggie’s Farm Home Bug Spray. Maggie’s Farm Spider & Insect Dust or Maggie’s Farm Bed Bug Killer are longer-lasting treatments for the edges of carpets, under and around pet bedding and rest areas, and underneath furniture cushions.
Pay particular attention to pet areas and treat them thoroughly, but don’t treat pets directly with Maggie's Farm products. It can be difficult for insecticides to penetrate pupae, so treatment is more effective after the pupae emerge as adults, so as stated previously, you should plan to do a couple of treatments a few weeks apart to get the fleas that emerge out of their protective life cycle stages.
Tips to Help Prevent Fleas
The best way to win the battle against fleas (and ticks) is to practice prevention, and that begins outdoors in your yard.
Keep your lawn mowed and shrubbery well-trimmed. If fleas have nowhere to hide, they will go elsewhere. Trim foliage and trees back from your home and seal off any openings to crawl spaces, garages, sheds, under decks, etc.. Clean up trash that feral pets and wildlife (with fleas) might come to feed on. Don't leave your pets' food outside!
Keep Your Pets Treated. Treat your pets frequently with products labeled for fleas and ticks. Brush or comb your pets thoroughly before letting them back in the house. Keep your pets well-groomed and trimmed, especially in the summertime, to make flea detection easier.
Keep Your Home Clean and Tidy
This is the first preventive measure against any pest, but note that even if you do have fleas, it doesn't mean your home is dirty. Clean floors and well-vacuumed carpets and rugs are definitely focus areas in your fight against fleas.
If a flea infestation becomes overwhelming, you should call a pest control company.
What are your best strategies against fleas at home? Post a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
For scientifically-tested, effective flea control in your yard and home that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.