Fleas are mostly associated with pets, but these insects can also impact humans. Learn more about them as well as the best control methods.
Biology of Fleas
The term fleas actually covers about 1,000 species of these small insects. Adult fleas are considered external parasites on birds or mammals. They live on the skin, in feathers, or in fur and feed on blood from their hosts. Fleas go through four developmental stages during the life cycle, including the egg, larva, and pupa before reaching adulthood. It is possible for flea pupae to stay dormant for a reasonable amount of time. They may then emerge as adults thanks to carbon dioxide, heat, vibration, or the presence of a suitable host. Flea eggs are typically laid somewhere close to the host’s body and somewhere that they frequent. An example would be in the carpet of a home or in the nest of a bird or other mammal. At the larval stage, fleas use their chewing mouthparts to feed on adult flea feces as well as organic debris. Adults need to feed on mammal or bird blood. Many people are surprised to learn that fleas spend a reasonable amount of time not on their hosts, such as on the ground or in vegetation. Fleas can live for a long time between feedings. Although they are wingless, they are excellent jumpers thanks to the propulsive mechanisms on their hind legs. They are also active travelers.
Why Fleas Are Considered Pests
The average person is aware that fleas can choose to live on your pets and bite them, causing itching. Since fleas multiple quickly, that itching can quickly get out of control, making your pet very uncomfortable. That alone would be enough to qualify fleas as pests, but they can actually do much more damage than just itching on pets. Fleas can also bite humans, although the types of fleas found on your pets are more likely to stick to your dog or cat than you. In the case of a flea bite, there is typically minimal impact on human health. In most cases, you will just have a small bite with a red spot that itches and is not the prettiest to look at.
Some people, however, are allergic to flea bites and in this case, being bitten by a flea can cause a severe allergic reaction. It is also possible to get a secondary infection from a flea bite, either via the bite itself or from scratching the bite. An infection can cause symptoms like excessive redness, extreme pain, and swollen glands. It is also possible for fleas to carry diseases that they can then transmit to humans and pets via the bites. Some of those may be flea-borne spotted fever, cat scratch fever, typhus, tularemia, tungiasis, and plague. Going back to pets, fleas can do more than just cause itchy patches. They can potentially spread some of the same diseases they would to humans, such as cat scratch fever. Pets may also be allergic to the saliva of fleas, leading to a potentially extreme reaction. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms if a pet swallows an infected flea. There is also the risk of anemia in pets in the case of a severe flea infestation due to blood loss.
Methods for Controlling Fleas
Controlling fleas will typically take a combination of professional assistance and some DIY work. Fleas reproduce quickly and are very hard to spot, which makes them incredibly time-consuming and challenging for the average person to get rid of. Professionals will be able to use safe chemical solutions to get rid of the fleas for you. You will need to combine this with your own efforts for the best results. You should definitely call professionals if the flea infestation is medium to severe, as this will dramatically reduce the time you spend fighting the fleas. For those who want to minimize the chemicals used to fight fleas in their home, you can consider diatomaceous earth. This is a common control method for a range of insects, including fleas. This fine powder is non-toxic for humans and causes fleas to die from dehydration. Just ensure you choose a food-grade version so it will not cause irritation and be careful when using it around pets.
DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Fleas
If you have pets in your home, then your very first step to preventing and getting rid of fleas should be to ensure you give your pet regular flea prevention. This can come in a range of formats, including drops, pills, collars, and medicated baths. Regular treatment of some sort is essential for any pet that goes outside. You can frequently apply the treatment yourself or have your vet do it. In the case of fleas on a pet, you will need to stay on top of laundry and check your pet regularly as the fleas get under control. Combine one of the prevention methods with a flea comb or similar device. Fleas are very tiny and flea combs have small gaps between the teeth, making it possible to catch the insects. You will need to kill the fleas as soon as you find them; otherwise, they can jump somewhere else.
You must also stay on top of cleaning in your home to get rid of the fleas. Wash the sheets and blankets frequently if fleas are present and vacuum daily while they are still present. There are also some simple solutions you can try in your home. One would be to make a trap by filling a bowl or plate with dish soap and warm water. This will trap the fleas thanks tot eh liquid’s high viscosity. Place the trap at night and change it every day. You can also try making a homemade herbal flea spray with vinegar, water, lemon juice, and witch hazel. Or you can use baking soda, salt, rosemary, or lemon spray. Another option is to buy some spearmint, lavender, penny royal, or chrysanthemum plants, as all of these have flea-repelling properties.
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