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Fleas live mainly on our pets, but they do bite humans and they leave nasty, itchy red sores. Although there are many species of flea, it is the cat flea that commonly infest our cats and dogs. Fleas can be successfully treated using DIY products but being thorough and methodical is the key to success. Pets should be treated with veterinary products only and the surrounding area treated either chemically or non-chemically to ensure permanent eradication.

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Guide to eliminating fleas without using toxic products:

  • thoroughly groom your pet using a flea comb. This will pull all, or most of the fleas off your pet. Drown any fleas in a bowl of soapy water
  • thoroughly vacuum all rooms, taking care to vacuum into cracks and crevices and under furniture. If your pets use the chairs, vacuum under cushions etc.
  • wash all the pet bedding in a hot wash. Destroy any badly soiled bedding.
  • seal the used vacuum bag and remove from the house
  • identify all those areas that your pets use for feeding, sleeping, rest or play and dust a light dusting of Diatomeaceous Earth over those areas. Diatomaceous Earth is a totally non-toxic natural product made from the silica cell walls of fossilised diatoms (present in plankton) which works by puncturing the carapace of fleas, beetles and cockroaches causing them to dehydrate and die.
  • leave the powder for seven days and then thoroughly vacuum the house again
  • dust another dose of Diatomaceous Earth over the critical areas and leave for another seven days
  • remember that 95% of fleas will be on the floor/pet bedding as larvae and pupae, not as adults on your pet. We have to wait for these fleas to reach adulthood before the Diatomaceous Earth can work against them. So, be a bit patient because if you want to avoid using chemicals, this is by far the safest way of eliminating the fleas. As the fleas hatch they will come into contact with the powder and of course the idea of vacuuming is that the vibrations will cause the pupa to hatch and then either get vacuumed up or contact the powder that you subsequently dust over the area.
  • repeat the vacuum/dust programme one more time and that should be the last you will need. Next time, just vacuum but don't dust with the powder
  • as an ongoing preventative measure, dust some Diatomaceous Earth into cracks and crevices, deep in pet beds, underneath cushions where pets sleep etc. It will sit there harming no-one until a flea comes along and is eliminated.

Guide to eliminating fleas using insecticides:

  • if you don't mind using insecticides, for instance in a vacant house where the departing pet owning family have left nothing but the fleas, then eradication can be quick and complete.
  • thoroughly vacuum all rooms, taking care to vacuum into cracks and crevices and under furniture. If your pets use the chairs, vacuum under cushions etc.
  • wash all the pet bedding in a hot wash. Destroy any badly soiled bedding.
  • seal the used vacuum bag and remove from the house.
  • Treat infested areas and all contaminated rooms with a permethrin based product such as Acclaim or Flea & Fly Bomb
  • Administer as per product instructions

Use pesticides safely and always read and follow the label instructions for use.

Although there are hundreds of species of fleas, it is the Cat Flea that commonly lives on our cats and dogs.

Description:

  • the flea is very flat, side to side
  • reddish brown in colour
  • about 3mm long
  • hair-like bristles on the body aid navigation through animal hair

Life cycle:

  • female flea lays approx 50 roundish white eggs per day, 500-600 over several months
  • eggs are laid on the animal, but are quite smooth, so they fall off onto carpet, bedding etc.
  • the eggs hatch after 2 days to several weeks depending on temperature
  • the larvae that hatch are about 6-7mm long and semi-transparent white
  • they have small hairs along their body and actively move
  • they eat the faeces of adult fleas and other organic debris found in their environment
  • larval stage lasts 5-18 days depending on available food
  • larvae then spins a cocoon and pupates
  • the pupae are to be found deep in carpeted areas or in layers of organic material like a garden
  • the adult flea can stay in it's cocoon for only 5 days or for a year or more
  • stimuli such as warm ambient temperatures, high humidity, vibrations or carbon dioxide emitted from potential prey can all cause the adult flea to emerge
  • the adult emerges from the cocoon in less than a second and latches onto the prey
  • once on the prey, they have their first blood meal
  • the egg to adult cycle can take as little as 14 days in the optimum warm centrally heated conditions of a modern home

Signs of infestation:

It is very common for people not to realise they have fleas in the house until numbers have built up to such an extent that they start to feed of humans as well as their pets.

  • if you suspect your pet may have fleas, comb its hair with a special flea comb, that will collect any fleas within the path of the comb
  • if you find 'salt and pepper' like black and white debris on your pet or in it's bedding, then you have fleas. That is a mixture of the eggs and dried blood from the fleas
  • flea bites become small, round, red itching wounds often to be found around the ankles, wrists and stomach

Fleas are mostly active through the warm summer months, but within a warm centrally heated house they may remain active over winter.

  • Fleas are found anywhere, indoors or outside, in association with mammals and birds.
  • Fleas require blood to survive and reproduce; that blood can be sourced from animals, birds or humans.
  • Fleas go deep into carpets, upholstery and pet bedding making it difficult to access them for control.
  • In the cocoon stage, fleas are protected from all but a few specialist sprays.
  • as a rule of thumb, at any one time only 5% of fleas will be on their hosts, whilst 95% will be on the ground as eggs, larvae or pupae.

As the fleas are usually carried into the home by domestic pets, surveillance is the best option for identifying a situation before it becomes a problem.

Q. I've got fleas in the house and tryed a spray to get rid of them. I've now bought flea bombs as that is all I can think of using as there will be eggs in the house. Will that get rid of the fleas and kill the eggs at the same time and can you give me some advise on how I should kill them if flea bombs dont work? I am ripping all the carpets up out of the house and all soft toys as they living on the soft toys. Will that be enough to be rid of them?

A.

The flea bombs contain permethrin and they will kill the adult fleas but not the eggs. The eggs will continue to hatch over the next couple of weeks. Make sure you have eliminated the fleas from your pets. Grooming with a flea comb and drowning the fleas in soapy water it the least chemical route to control. You could use 'Acclaim' as that will kill the eggs on the floor and soft furnishings but it is pretty expensive. You say there are soft toys and I assume these belong to the pets and not children? as you would not want to let off a 'flea bomb' in the house with children around. The safest method of control is to use non-toxic Oa2ki spray and powder followed by vacuuming every three days - or more- to get rid of the hatching fleas. Wash the soft toys in a hot wash followed by a hot tumble dry, that will kill any eggs. You don't need to rip out all the carpets as the fleas can be controlled using either chemical or natural products together with regular cleaning.

Q. ive got flea bombs to kill an infestation will it work and kill the eggs

A.

Flea bombs generaly contain permethrin which will kill the adult fleas but not the eggs. Personally I would not use a flea bomb in the house as it puts the chemical on and under every surface and that is not necessary. The fleas will be based on the floor and in soft furnishings. To fill the eggs, use 'Acclaim' but it is quite expensive. Otherwise, use your flea bomb and vacuum every three days for a couple of weeks or, preferably use a natural or organic product (Oa2ki spray and powder) followed by vacuum cleaning. Better not to use chemicals in the house, especially if there are children about.

Q. Hi we do not have any pets and have lived in our home for 12 years problem free. Recently my daughter has been getting small bites that are red and very itchy.we think that may be coming from her bedroom but don't know how. Today she came home from school with 2 more. Coudl something be in her room and be in her clothes? I have combed her hair for head lice 3 times in 7 days and it's been completely clear each time. Can you give us any idea what the problem might be and what to do please?

A.

This does sound like a bed bug problem although it is difficult to say without seeing the pest itself. The key to dealing with a bed bug problem is thoroughness. You have to be vigilant and identify where they might be hiding. Below is a list of the sort of places you need to look

joints in the bed frame and places where fabric has been attached to the bed frame or the head-board

the mattress, particularly seams, buttons and edge beading

gaps behind the skirting boards and/or floor boards

gaps behind loose or torn wallpaper

gaps behind electrical fittings

bedroom furniture; remove all drawers and inspect all cracks, crevices, joints and seams inside and out

remember that young bed bugs can access hiding places no thicker than a single sheet of writing paper

Below are the sort of signs you should be looking out for.

the bed bug itself

eggs or empty egg cases

blackish spots of bug excrement

blood smears

As far as control goes you have two options.

1. Non chemical. This might appeal as you are dealing with a bedroom

First steam clean the mattress, hot wash and dry the bed linen and curtains, and vacuum thoroughly.

Apply a non chemical dust such as oa2ki insect powder into cracks and crevices, bedframes, wardrobes, drawer joints and floorboards. This can also be applied sparingly behind electrical fittings. An oa2ki spray is available for areas where dust will not stick or would appear unsightly (not on electrical fittings)

Seal any crevices or access points with sealant or decorators caulk

2. Synthetic chemical.

Everything above applies, but substitute insectaban insect powder for the oa2ki powder and cyperbug spray for the oa2ki spray. Do not use either of these on the mattress.

All the above products are available on our website. Keep vigilant one attack on these pests may not be enough

Q. Can fleas live in soft toys and if so, how can i get rid of them?

A.

A flea lives for about 3-4 weeks naturally. If it does not feed it will die in 2-14 days. The bigger problem is the eggs. They can remain viable for months and months depending on the conditions. Fleas won't be able to live in the soft toys but the eggs will. In order to kill the eggs wash the toys on a hot wash and tumble dry hot. This should kill any eggs. Remember if you are treating fleas in carpets or soft furnishings that you have to repeat the process on a weekly or two weekly basis because the eggs will keep hatching and you'll be back to square one. Hope this helps