Flea Control and How to Get Rid of Fleas
Fleas are parasites that feed on humans and other warm blooded animals. When you have a flea problem you and your pets serve as the host.
A flea can jump 7 to 8 inches vertically and 14 to 16 inches horizontally. A skin reaction to a flea bite appears as a slightly raised and red itchy spot. Sometimes these sores bleed. Fleas usually require warm and humid conditions to develop. Due to the flea life cycle and feeding habits, many people don't realize they have a flea problem until they are away from their house for an extended period of time. This happens because the fleas get hungry while the hosts are away and they become highly active when the hosts return. People tend to think putting the pet outside will solve the flea problem, but that typically makes the fleas turn to human hosts instead.
There are several types of fleas, but the most common is the cat flea, which also feeds on dogs and humans. Fleas are attracted to body heat, movement, and exhaled carbon dioxide.
The average flea ranges in size from 1/12 to 1/6 inch long. Fleas are very small and have no wings. Their bodies are narrow if viewed from the sides. Slender fleas can get into and move around in narrow areas.
Adult fleas feed on blood and the larvae eat "flea diet" consisting of dried blood.
Habits and Biology of Fleas:
Fleas go through a complete metamorphosis. There are four distinct stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult. Flea eggs are laid on the host or are deposited on the floor or ground. They are often found in upholstery or pet's bedding. A female flea will continue to lay a few eggs every day until she has yielded up to 200 to 400 eggs. These eggs will develop into flea larvae within 2 days to several weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity. Flea larvae are active and look like maggots. The larvae will feed on organic debris, but particularly like to feed on feces of the adult fleas. This "flea diet" contains undigested blood. The flea larvae are hard to spot and are found deep in the carpets or the cracks and crevices of floors and upholstery. They are very difficult to vacuum, because the get entwined in the carpet fibers. The next stage, called the pupae look like a cocoon, also hard to spot. Under warm conditions many adult fleas will emerge from this protective cocoon within 7 to 14 days, longer under less favorable conditions.
Whenever you see adult fleas crawling on your pet, it is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Current studies indicate that adult fleas account for only 5% of the total flea population in any given situation. Eggs account for 50%, larvae account for about 35%, and the remaining 10% are the pupa cocoons. That means that for every single adult flea living on your dog or cat, there are 10 eggs, 7 larvae, and 2 cocoons.
These various life cycle stages will be found anywhere in the pet's environment, but will be most concentrated in the areas that the pet spends most of its time, like the pet's bed area. Remember, when the adult flea lays an egg on the pet, it will fall off the hairs in just a few minutes, similar to sowing seeds. If the pet usually walks through certain paths (either indoors or outdoors), there will also be a substantial amount of eggs scattered in those areas. What this means is that environmental flea control must be spread over the pet's entire environment, focusing on the areas the pet spends the majority of his or her time. The sleeping areas and walking paths are the most important areas.
Recommended Flea Control Treatment
The best time to start a flea control program is in the late spring, prior to an infestation, since adult fleas comprise only 5% of the total flea population. To contain an infestation, fleas must be controlled at every stage.
Flea Control Treatment in the home
Dust, sweep, vacuum, and mop all surfaces where pets have been frequently. Eggs are laid on the pet and drop off as it moves. All affected pets should be treated and removed from the premises for 4 to 6 hours. Remove birds from the home if you are using liquid insecticides. Cover or remove fish, and turn off the tank pump. You should keep covered shoes on until all treated areas have dried (4-6 hours) if you are using liquid insecticides.
1. Liquid Insecticides and IGR Combinations: FenvaStar EcoCap or Conquer Insecticide are liquid insecticide residual treatments. Using a residual insecticide concentrate controls the adult flea and combining it with an insect growth regulator (IGR) prevents the larvae from developing. This method lasts 4-6 months.
2. Flea Aerosols: Pivot Ultra Aerosol, Ultracide or Alpine Aerosols are good aerosols product for flea control because they are IGR aerosols. It has a residual insecticide and an IGR mixed together. Using an aerosol instead of a liquid insecticide is advantageous because you don't have to mix anything in a pump sprayer. This method lasts 4-6 months.
Recommended flea control using growth inhibitors (IGR) and liquid insecticides-Carpet and Rug Areas
Recommended residual insecticides:
- Conquer Insecticide - 8 gallon yield (good on carpet, has an odor)
- FenvaStar EcoCap-8 gallon yield (good on carpet, has an odor)
Mix the residual insecticide and growth inhibitor in a pressure lawn and garden sprayer according to directions.
For every 1,000 square feet of carpeted surface, mix:
- 2 oz. Conquer + 1 oz. Insect Growth inhibitor (IGR) + 1 gallon of water
- 2 oz. FenvaStar Plus + 1 oz. Insect Growth inhibitor (IGR) + 1 gallon of water
- Recommended rates above are for maximum strength and effectiveness.
- NOTE: For hardwood or tile, these formulations will cover 1,500 sq, however the Conquer doesn't work as well as the FenvaStar Eco Cap on hard floor surfaces.
- Use all mixed solution the same day you mix it, because it does not store well.
- Expect to continue seeing fleas the first month. These are pupa that continue to emerge. Results from the growth inhibitor cannot be judged for about four weeks after initial treatment. Re-treatment with the residual insecticide will probably be necessary during the first 30 days.
- The growth inhibitor will last on average about 4 months, and can last 6 to 7 months.
Aerosols : Best Choice for Concrete Surfaces or Hard Surfaces Inside
Alpine Flea Aerosol , Pivot Flea Aerosol, or Ultracide are the best choices for concrete surfaces and hardwood flooring. These aerosols adhere to the surface more readily than other liquid insecticides. They contain the IGRs and adult insecticides in one formultation, no mixing needed. They have a slight odor.
- An exterior flea problem can be caused by your pets and/or other animals in the area. Exterior treatment is most effective in a contained area that is kept mowed and free of debris.
- Liquid concentrates for flea control would be faster, but would require frequent retreatments(once a month)
- For short term results (but faster results), a recommended insecticide to kill the adult fleas is Bifen IT. Mix at the rate of 1 oz. per gallon of water. Use about 3 gallons of water per 1,500 -3000 sq. feet. Repeat once a month
- For long term results (but slower results), a recommended granulated insecticide to kill the adult fleas would be Bifen LP Granulars. This should be repeated every 2-3 months. For every 1,0000 sq. ft. of ground use: Bifen LP- Granules-25 lbs. This should be repeated at least once every two -three months during the flea season.
- Bifen LP and Bifen IT will work on ticks as well at the same rate of dosage.
If possible,consult your vet about the health and skin condition of your pet prior to treatment. Begin flea control on the pet by using a mild shampoo and a sponge-type flea dip, flea spray, or flea shampoo.
Recommended Pet Products
- Petcor Flea Spray, kills fleas, ticks, lice and mosquitoes and prevents further infestations for up to 63 days. May be used on dogs, puppies, cats and kittens.
- Davis Triple Flea & Tick Shampoo contains triple pyrethrins in this flea shampoo to kill fleas on contact.
- Pure Planet Natural Flea and Tick Spray On Shampoo, contains all natural ingredients to kill fleas and ticks
- Invade Bio Zap: contains enzymes to break down and eliminate bad odors caused from urine, feces, vomit or decaying organic matter environmentally friendly in a ready to use formula.
- Flee Trigger Spray -Same active ingredient as Frontline's Fipronil
Q: I sprayed for fleas last week and now they are back. Why didn't the spray work?
A: Even sprays that contain insecticides and growth inhibitors have difficulty penetrating the pupae cocoon. Flea larva that have entered a cocoon state will require follow up applications of the insecticides after they hatch. This is usually a 3 or 4 week process.