Fleas are one of the most persistent, nasty and tough to kill insects known to man. True, fleas are small. But any level of an active flea infestation can make the people and pets living in the area miserable.
If you’ve wondered why this creature is so “hard to kill”, read on. This article will explain the flea in great detail and only then will you understand why they are so hard to rid a structure of them once they get a foothold inside.
FLEA LIFE CYCLE
Like most insect control, successful flea control must include a flea treatment that will stop the flea “cycle”. This cycle I am referring to includes the eggs, larva, pupa and adult stage. Here is a brief description of the cycle from start to finish.
IT ALL STARTS WITH A FLEA BITE..
1) An adult flea jumps onto you, your pet, your child, etc. and gets a good blood meal. Fleas feed on blood and although their mouth is small, a flea bite can hurt and most certainly can become inflamed, itchy and swollen. Many people and many pets are allergic to flea bites.
Like most insect bites, some people are exceptionally sensitive to flea bites and others won’t feel or even notice irritation. Fleas need a good blood meal to reproduce and once they reach adulthood, their quest for a good meal will be their only purpose.
In the yard, fleas will lay in wait surviving through the harshest weather winter will bring. Once spring arrives and temps warm, adults will hatch from pupae to start new life cycles.
Where they start is pretty much random. So if you pass by a flea waiting to feed, you will be their target. So its not that fleas target cats or dogs as much as they target mammals. And fleas aren’t specific to animals so a cat flea will readily bite a dog or human.
HOW TO TREAT FLEA BITES
Now if you have flea bites and need relief from their itch, apply STING RELIEF SWABS. This product will take away both the itch and discomfort.
NEXT COMES THE EGGS..
2) Once the adult females get a good meal, she’ll start looking for mate. And after mating, she’ll start laying eggs. She won’t be doing a lot of traveling during this time. In fact, the whole cycle (biting, feeding, mating and egg laying) can occur right in your yard, your home or on the pet.
FLEAS ARE EGG LAYING MACHINES!
3) In the next two to three weeks, the average life of a flea, hundreds and hundreds of eggs will be laid by any one healthy female (see picture to the right). Some of her eggs can fall in the yard, some in the house and some will remain right on your pet if that’s where she got her meal.
4) When the eggs hatch, a small caterpillar like creature comes out to feed on anything organic (see picture to the left). This includes dried blood, flea feces, animal hair and a variety of otherwise disgusting organic matter in the yard, in your carpet, on furniture, on your pet and basically anywhere in or outside the home.
5) These flea larva will then feed for days after which they’ll spin a cocoon and undergo metamorphosis in this stage. And it’s this third stage, the one called the flea pupa, which is the big problem when dealing with any flea infestation. Clearly this is the worst stage of all because we can’t kill it !! That’s right! No spray will kill flea pupa consistently or completely. This is why you still have fleas following the most thorough treatment (spray or fog). And this is why you should do a thorough job and if hatching flea pupae come back strong in a few days following a good treatment, don’t be surprised. All this means is that you should treat again and again until you effectively “use up” all the pupae. Only then will the cycle finally end.
6) The flea cycle will then complete once the flea pupa hatches out. But unlike most insects, fleas won’t randomly hatch. Instead, the “hatching” of pupa will only happen when it detects a hot blooded meal close at hand. Only then will the pupa risk coming out of its protective cocoon. And when it does, it will immediately bite, feed and look to breed. At that time the cycle will start all over again….
WHERE DO FLEAS LIVE?
Now that you understand the flea cycle, let’s talk about where the flea cycle can occur.
It’s important to understand this process if you wish to do a good flea treatment. Well guess what. The flea cycle can occur almost anywhere. No doubt it can occur on the animal, in the yard, in a carpet, in a litter box, in a bed, in a garage, in a basement, in a crawl space, in an attic, in a doghouse, on furniture, etc., etc., etc.
The rule here is simple: any place a warm blooded animal spends time can become a flea infested location. And it’s important to understand that fleas can feed on most any animal that’s warm blooded. In other words, fleas do not discriminate. If you have blood, they can and will feed on you if given the opportunity!
This means they will readily bite people so yes, you can have a flea infestation AND NOT HAVE ANY PETS!
It is true they prefer dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, rats, mice, and birds but if none are present, they turn their attention to people. Additionally, the most common flea found is the cat flea. But you could also have a dog flea, bird flea, rat flea, sand flea, human flea, sticktight flea, bat flea and many other species which have been named after the host where they were first discovered. The good news is that any flea treatment being done will work on any of the aforementioned flea species so the type you have is not important.
HOW TO TREAT FOR FLEAS
Now that you know where the flea cycle can occur, it will be easier to understand what must be done to end the infestation. Remember, it is important to understand that fleas will persist if you only address one or two locations if the whole house and yard is infested. In other words, don’t think that treating the pet will keep your home or yard flea free. The same is true about the yard. Although treating the yard before flea season starts is a good practice, only treating the yard and pet but failing to treat the home would be a big mistake as well.
The following “short video” (less than 60 seconds long) provides a good overview of how to treat fleas both inside and outside the home and why most regular “over the counter sprays and foggers” won’t work:
A good set of rules to follow are these:
1) If the pet is an inside animal, you must treat the home and the pet to insure no fleas.
2) If the pet is an outside animal, you will need to treat the pet as well as the yard the pet frequents.
3) If the pet spends a lot of time both inside and out, then you will need to treat the pet, yard and the home.
* If you are spraying two of the three areas but fleas are still persisting, then chances are that you need to treat the location where you are not treating.
**Always remember that FLEA CONTROL IS EGG CONTROL! IF YOU STOP THE EGGS FROM DEVELOPING ON THE PET, IN THE YARD AND IN THE HOME – YOU WILL ACHIEVE FLEA CONTROL!
It really is that simple. Yet many homeowners will take a chance and not treat some key part of their property. They will wrongly believe their problem is “coming from my neighbor’s dogs and if I treat my yard that will stop them” or “the fleas came with my Mother-in-law when she visited with her pet and all of them stayed after she left!”
These are all old wives tales. The bottom line is simple: treat all areas which are subject to having flea eggs and you won’t have to worry about the eggs being able to develop. Again: FLEA CONTROL IS EGG CONTROL.
Once infested, a proper flea treatment will generally take 1-2 months to rid any structure of fleas. If done correctly, the cycle would be interrupted with the first flea treatment and once the flea pupae have all hatched out, the flea infestation will cease. Will this take a week, a month or two months? No one can say for sure because of one reason: it all depends on how many flea pupae are in your home and how long it takes for them to run their growth cycle and hatch out. It could be resolved with one flea treatment; it could take three to six weeks of flea spraying once a week for all the cycles to run their course.
BEST FLEA SPRAY FOR USE IN THE HOME
So what are the best products to use when doing flea control? This will vary depending on where you are treating. We have over 30 years of experience helping home owners treat the worst flea problems known to exist so we’re confident in our recommendations.
The next segments of our article will detail products specific for the home, the yard and the pet.
So whether you have carpets, hardwoods, tiles or cement, we know what’s best to use on any given surface and will explain in detail below what you need to use, how to mix it up, how frequently you’ll need to spray and how to it applied.
LIQUID TREAT CARPETING AND FURNITURE
In most scenarios, once you have active fleas you will best served spraying a liquid formulation. This form will provide the quickest results. And for carpets, its usually the best way to deliver the product where it will be needed.
Liquid treatments should include two actives. The first is the adulticide, designed to kill adults and larvae. The second component is the “egg killer” or what we call an “insect growth regulator”.
The following “short video” (less than 60 seconds long) summarizes why Bithor is such a great product for use in the home and specifically, why its so safe for use around people and pets.
For the adulticide part of the spray, BITHOR is the way to go. Odorless and very to safe to use around mammals like people and pets. Bithor mixes with water and can be sprayed over carpeting, furniture, drapery and pretty much any fabric where fleas might be active
Add 1 oz per gallon of water and plan on covering 750-1000 sq/ft per mixed gallon.
ADD A GOOD “EGG KILLER” TO THE TANK TOO
As stated above, you need to add an insect growth regulator to the Bithor. For the longest time, PRECOR was the “best” option to use but in our experience, you’ll get better results with NYLAR. First, its always good to change actives – especially if you’ve been using the same one for many years. Second, Nylar works on many other insects and not just fleas.
Nylar works the same way as Precor; add 1 oz to the gallon with either Bithor listed above. The two are designed to be mixed together and should be applied at the same time. Nylar will effectively work on eggs causing the hatching larvae to develop incorrectly. Ultimately this leads to them dying before they can reach adulthood and their reproductive stage.
For severe problems or homes larger than 2,000 sq/ft, the 10% NYLAR will prove more economical as you only need 1/4 oz per gallon of water added with the Bithor listed above.
To get your spray applied, you’ll need a good PUMP SPRAYER.
This short video shows the kind of “spraying” you’ll need to do to get the job done correctly (please note the video shows us using our old, discontinued sprayer).
Now as good as these products are, its very likely you’ll need to treat sometime soon following your first application. Whether or not you should will depend on how many flea pupae are left in your home following the initial treatment.
One or two pupae hatching in the days following the first treatment will usually go unnoticed. But if you have a big problem and in turn, a mass hatching of developing pupae 1-2 weeks after you first treat, it will get bad again for sure. The general rule is plan on spraying as needed. Certainly once a week for 2-3 weeks is not unusual. And in really, really bad cases, twice a week. But for most homes, one treatment followed by another two weeks later will get things under control.
But just in case you have a bad problem, here’s what you should do…
UNDERSTAND YOU CANNOT KILL FLEA PUPAE WITH MOST SPRAYS!!!
When you do your first liquid treatment with an adulticide and a growth regulator, the adulticide will kill the adults and larvae which are out and about. The growth regulator will act on existing eggs and once they are exposed to the regulator, they will not be able to develop normally to adults. However, there will still be developing pupae. These could take another 4-8 weeks to fully grow and hatch. Sadly there is nothing that can be done to stop this from happening unless you treat with the FS MP AEROSOL listed below. The exact length of time the pupae in your home will vary; it all depends on things like temperature, humidity, the species of the flea living there, etc. So if you’re only using the liquids, expect them rebound in a few days.
But there are some things you can do to make the problem more manageable..
MAKE SURE YOU USE EVERY ROOM AND DO NOT LEAVE THEM VACANT!
Since pupae are motivated to hatch when they sense activity around them, be sure and keep people and pets active in the rooms where the flea problem is the worst!.
Flea pupae are motivated by movement and body heat. They will not hatch if a room is void of activity. In fact, one way of getting them to hatch quicker is to use a vacuum as often as possible. Daily vacuuming will excite them and get them hatching sooner rather than later.
Another way to get them to hatch sooner is to walk around in long, white, tube socks. The white will reflect light and in turn, appears to be a hot target to a developing flea cocoon.
Immediately after walking around for awhile, vacuum. The effect of vacuuming and the spray in the carpet will knockdown that many more fleas which will not be able to bite.
Additionally, the vacuum will actually pick up some that hatch as the vacuum passes by. Do this every day til you can do so without seeing any fleas.
And remember: FLEA COCOONS CAN LIVE OVER A FULL YEAR WAITING FOR A TARGET BEFORE HATCHING! This is why vacation homes that have been left vacant for 8-12 months have been found to have hundreds of fleas hatching when vacationers arrive. The flea pupae have been doing nothing but lying in wait for a target the whole time. This cylce can happen in your home if you close a room for a month or two expecting the fleas to die off. Don’t waste your time waiting; all that will happen is that when you finally go back into the secluded room, the fleas will be extra aggressive!
USE FLEA TRAPS!
Another way of getting the flea cocoons to hatch sooner is to install HEATED FLEA TRAPS. These traps are unique in that they use heat to lure adult fleas and will actually get pupae stages to hatch. Look at flea traps as a type of tool and not as a treatment. When traps are placed in the middle of an infested room, they will lure fleas from up to 15 feet away in both directions. This means one trap has an effective “reach” up to 30 feet.
One trap will cover up to 400 sq/ft. This is a room that’s about 20 feet wide by 20 feet long. But if you have a trap in a room just 10 feet by 10 feet and it has but one door to enter or leave, the trap will only work in this one room. Now if you place a trap out and don’t catch fleas after 3 days, move it about. In general, plug the trap in to the wall an use the included cord to set it away from the wall and out toward the middle of the room.
To understand how the trap works, imagine what it looks like to the flea. Since they see infrared, they perceive the trap as a little kitten or puppy sleeping. The following video provides product details on this trap.
Contrary to popular belief, fleas do not like to hop. That being said, they will readily move toward the trap.
Once fleas reach the trap, they will fall through the grid surface top side and stick to the glue board underneath where they will be held tight. Here is a picture of a flea pad from a trap that captured over 10,000 FLEAS in less than a month!
Granted this was a bad infestation. But it did exist and the people living there were unaware it had gotten to this point. The sheer number of fleas on this glue pad confirms that fleas can breed to an incredible density if given the chance.
HOW TO TREAT TILED OR HARDWOOD FLOORS
Since tiled, linoleum or hardwood floors can be “messy” to spray with a liquid, you’ll be better served by instead using FLEA AND TICK SPRAY. This product is ideal for any place you don’t want to spray with a liquid. Its water based but comes out “fine” so you can lightly treat sensitive areas without having to make a mess.
To treat, hold the spray around waist high and start in a corner of any room. Lightly mist it out like hair spray working the can back and forth as you exit the room. The can will release a light mist which will cover the floor with enough product to both kill adults and stop developing young.
When used right, the treatment should appear to be dry. Flea and Lice Spray has a slight “cedar” smell and should barely be noticeable when used properly. This is so you can tell its been applied and give it a good 2 hours to do its job by drying before walking over treated surfaces.
Flea and Lice spray works well on all surfaces and it’s so safe, it can be sprayed on dogs! Unfortunately, not cats (probably cause they are so afraid of anything that is sprayed) but for puppies 12 weeks or older, use this on them too once a week to break the flea cycle that can be thriving in their fur.
One can will cover up to 1000 sq/ft and can be used as needed. Plan on retreating once a week until the problem is gone; use it every 3 months to ensure fleas don’t return.
HOW TO TREAT AN EXTREME FLEA PROBLEM IN CARPETING, GARAGES, BASEMENTS OR UNDER A DECK
For living areas like carpets where liquid spraying is only providing a few days of control, get FS MP AEROSOL. This oil based aerosol is the only product that can penetrate eggs and pupae so it can effectively kill all stages in the home. But it does have an odor and its oil based so be aware it will leave a lingering odor for a day or two. And on come surfaces/fabric, it can stain.
FS MP comes in a 15 oz can and will cover up 1000 sq/ft per can. Spot treat problematic rugs, carpeting, floor mattes, basements, garages and other areas where water based sprays aren’t working.
A can of FS MP will run for about 5-6 minutes so plan on using 30 seconds per 100 sq/ft of area (that’s 10 ft x 10 ft).
CRAWL SPACE OR UNDER THE DECK TREATMENTS
If your flea problem is in the basement or under a deck, liquid sprays won’t be effective since they’ll be absorbed by the porous surface. Same is true for areas with dirt floors.
So for cement or dirt areas like crawl spaces or under a deck, go with DEMISE DUST. This desiccant acting dust looks a lot like baby powder. It’s well suited for areas like crawl spaces and under decks where liquids get absorbed. Demise is actually a solid dust and unlike a liquid or aerosol, won’t break down quickly or get absorbed leaving the fleas behind so they can do as they want. Instead, a good application of Demise to a crawl space or cement floor can last 6+ months and it will constantly be “drying up” all stages of the fleas ending their reign that much faster.
Use 6 oz for ever 1000 sq/ft of area. For dirt floors, lightly sprinkling some out and then using a broom to push it over all surfaces is a good way to get it applied. Be sure to wear a dust mask as Demise will cause you to sneeze.
FLEA CONTROL FOR PETS (Pets with sensitive skin see below)
Now that the home is being properly treated, you can change your focus to the pets. This is important since fleas can live their whole life on a pet. For this reason, its imperative the pet gets treated too.
But its important to understand that treating the pet alone is not going to solve a local flea problem. The main reason for this that flea eggs can grow and hatch in carpeting, on furniture and in the yard. And as your pet moves around the home and yard, flea eggs will be dropping to the areas it visits.
So even if you’re applying a topical treatment to your pets skin or if the pet is taking some kind of monthly pill, this is just one part of the flea treatment process.
You see, pets that are treated this way will still be picking up fleas from the home or yard. And even if these fleas won’t be able to lay eggs, they will be able to bite making your pets life miserable. Additionally, it will only take 1-2 fleas biting a person (who isn’t being treated) to cause an infestation in the home! In the end, treating the home and pet is the least amount of work you should expect to do when battling this pest. And if the pet spends any significant time outside, treating the yard will most likely be required too.
So for a pet heavily infested with fleas (dogs only), spray them with our FLEA AND LICE KILLER. This water based aerosol will kill fleas on contact and can be used as needed to keep your pet comfortable.
Flea and Lice Killer is gentle enough to use weekly and will end the flea cycle on the pet within a month. Use it for their bedding, carpets and other areas where fleas are active as well. Use as needed.
Use the Aerosol as needed but at least once a week, shampoo with TRIPLE PYRETHRIN SHAMPOO. This shampoo will clean the pet and it has an amazing fresh smell that is “salon” like. Triple Py will kill any fleas the dip missed plus it will help by removing pet dander flea larvae like to exploit.
FLEA PRODUCTS FOR PETS WITH SENSITIVE SKIN
The Flea Dip above is actually quite gentle since it only uses permethrin for an active. But if you already have the fleas removed from your pet and are reluctant to use anything which may irriate their skin or fur, try MELALEUCA SHAMPOO. This shampoo will help by washing away pet dander and removing flea feces. Plus the melaleuca helps by soothing the skin and fur and by promoting the healing process.
And if your pet is already suffering with itchy, dry skin that doesn’t seem to heal, get some OXY MED ITCH RELIEF SPRAY. This ready to spray comes in a small spray bottle and works immediately by removing the itch and calming your pet down. Use it as needed; treating your pet several times a day with a few spritzs will not hurt it and if anything, help to ensure faster healing time.
Ideally, once your pets skin is healed, you should try using the Petcor above to ensure fleas don’t return. But Petcor uses an alcohol base which can be irritating to some animals. But not treating your pet would be a big mistake too so if you don’t want to risk irritating your pet with Petcor, consider this WATER BASED PERMETHRIN SPRAY.
True, this spray does not have an egg killing agent. But its gentle enough to use as frequently as needed since it is water based. And unlike the Petcor which only leaves the Precor behind when you spray, this Permethrin spray actually leaves a residual on the animals fur to help keep fleas, tick and biting flies away.
Designed for use on horses and other “show” animals, it also contains special fur conditioners which will help keep the skin well maintained.
FLEA PRODUCTS FOR THE YARD
Last but not least, don’t forget the yard. True, most flea problems can be traced to the pet and the home. But if you go out in the yard and find fleas on your legs or clothing, its definitely time to treat.
Like the home, if your pet spends time outside fleas will actively breed in these areas.
Remember to your yard is vulnerable to every animal that walks through it. Animals like squirrels, raccoons, opossum, deer, dogs, cats, mice, rats, birds, chipmunks and even other people can all bring an egg laying flea around and this is all it takes for a problem to develop.
BEST LAWN GRANULES FOR FLEAS
So to stop an active flea problem or prevent one from starting, get the common area of the yard treated with MAXXTHOR SG. These granules are “sand like” and go a long way. When applied properly, a 12.5 lb jug will cover about 6,000 sq/ft and not be noticeable in the turf.
The following video shows how to use them around the home.
Maxxthor needs to be activated with water to start working. You can rely on the rain to start releasing the active but if you have fleas already, water them in using the spray below.
Use 2.0 lbs per 1,000 sq/ft. And plan on treating once a month when fleas are active; once gone, treat once every 3 months to ensure they don’t return.
You’ll need a good GRANULE SPREADER to get them applied evenly. Any walk behind push type lawn fertilizer spreader will work. For small areas around bushes and shrubs, our little hand held unit is handy.
STRONGEST FLEA SPRAY FOR THE YARD
Once granules have been applied, you’ll want to spray over the top to get them activated. This is especially important if you have active fleas.
For small yards, if you are getting the BITHOR (listed above for use inside the home), you can apply it in the yard as well. Bithor is super refined so it can be used inside but works great outside too.
But for yards 5,000 sq/ft or more, get our HOSE END SPRAYER below and use 2.5 oz of Maxxthor to treat up to 5,000 sq/ft.
The following “short video” (less than 60 seconds long) shows how to prepare our Green Topped Hose End but for lawns, the Yellow Topped Hose End is the better option. Add the same amount of product as this video shows to treat 5,000 sq/ft:
Add 1 oz per gallon of water per 1,000. You can use the same pump sprayer to apply it over the granules and you don’t need to use the Nylar outside as the Granules work in place of it outside.
Now if your yard is 5,000 sq/ft or more, go with MAXXTHOR EC. This particular formulation is extra concentrated so it goes a lot further outside making it more cost effective. Maxxthor is “invasive” too so it does a great job of getting all areas where fleas might be hiding. Maxxthor can be sprayed most anywhere outside including flower beds, pet kennels, on shrubs and trees but its not labeled for use on vegetables.
Use 2 oz in 5 gallons of water for every 5,000 sq/ft. Our quart jug will cover up to 2 aces so it goes a long way. Plan on treating every 2 weeks until the fleas are gone. Now if they come back in a few days following your initial treatment, its okay to spray more.