Fleas on white hair

How to get rid of fleas 

It’s funny, as soon as someone starts talking about fleas; you can’t help yourself and get this weird feeling that somethings crawling all over your skin. 
 
I deal with all pests; rats and mice, squirrels, moles, pigeons and insects like … fleas and without a shadow of doubt, my absolute nightmare is fleas. You might think that the worst pest would be bedbugs but there’s nothing worse than fleas. 
 
Going back to squirrels, it’s the charming and loveable rogue that is the North American grey squirrel that carries the most fleas; if you spend a little time watching them, you’ll notice that they’re always scratching themselves – they are smothered in fleas! 
Often I’m inside a loft setting traps because they’ll do a great deal of damage up there and within minutes you can feel squirrel fleas crawling on you’re legs and arms, it’s not pleasant. 
 
Rats also carry fleas and recently, I was called out to a very large internal rat problem at a house in Earley, the reason rats had got inside was due to a structural fault, rats were getting into the cavity wall and from there inside the kitchen.  
 
I trap and so in the early stages of the treatment, I was catching one or two rats on a daily basis, and the one thing I noticed with these rats, was that they were all carrying a lot of fleas.  
 
This was worrying, as rat fleas still carry the bubonic plague. So, I thought it was high time to write a blog on what is my most hated of all the pests, the flea. 
rat with fleas

What is so horrible about fleas? 

For a start there’s nothing at all nice about any blood sucking insect, you just can’t make them ‘sexy’ can you? But with fleas, its got to be the itchiness of their bites which is what makes them so horrible. 
 
Why does a flea bite itch so much? 
 
This is something that all bloodsucking insects do, when they bite, to prevent the host animals’ blood from clotting they inject a anticoagulant into the bite area to keep the food flowing. Nice! 
 
Fleas have mouthparts that have two parts, a central needle like member that punctures through the skin and into a capillary, and a second part that releases its saliva into the wound. Basically, the fleas biting and spitting into you at the same time, and that’s certainly one reason why I hate them. 
 
It’s this injection of the flea spit; a foreign body which creates the inflammation and the itchiness around the bite area, your body identifies that foreign substance and releases a flood of histamine to combat the invader. 
 
How can I stop myself from being bitten by fleas? 
 
If you’re getting the occasional or worse still, regular flea bites, then take a close look at the family pet. It’s likely that they’re responsible for bringing fleas inside the house and so, before you reach for the phone to arrange a pest control treatment, you should begin with a thorough treatment of all your pets. 
 
If the situation is that you regularly treat your pets for fleas, you can still find yourself having problems with fleas, and that’s because of chemical resistance within the body of the flea. We pet owners have been fighting fleas with chemicals for many years and just like the other insect pests, the fleas are gradually evolving resistance to the active ingredients in our chemical weapons. 
 
 
If chemical resistance isn’t a factor another reason for continuing to see fleas following a pet treatment is down to the lifecycle of the flea. 
 
a flea on human skin
 

The lifecycle of the flea 

When it comes down to delivering pest control, fleas can be a problematic pest, and to really get to the bottom of any flea infestation you have to understand their lifecycle; fleas have four life stages: egg, larval stage, pupa and adult flea. 
 
So, what happens when your pet brings home fleas? 
 
OK lets look at my dog Max, he came home with half a dozen fleas on him, he’s probably been chasing fox scent again as he’s a Jack Russell. We didn’t notice him scratching and the first thing I knew about the problem was when I was getting bitten on my ankles. 
 
These fleas would have been breeding or, already pregnant, the females lay their eggs on his fur, but they don’t stick to him like human head lice, they drop off after a couple of days. 
 
Max has the run of the house and one of his favourite nap spots is on top of the stairs, head and front paws hanging off the top tread, why I don’t know as he’s got a comfortable bed downstairs. Anyway, these flea eggs drop off him and spread all over the house, they hatch and the larvae burrow down into the carpets where they’ll live for the next couple of weeks eating bits of skin, hair and possibly flea feaces. The females lay around 40 eggs a day and so in the few days of Max’s infestation we had potentially, upwards of 200 to 300 eggs from our handful of fleas. 
 
At this point Max was bathed, treated, ferminated ( a hair comb which he hates) and I treated the carpets with one of my insecticides. Although I knew that we had gotten rid of the adult fleas, I knew we still had problems. 
 
You see fleas have a great survival mechanism, the widespread distribution of the eggs means that they’ll be just about everywhere and by that, I mean, everywhere. Like we did, you’ll have to vacuum under every single piece of furniture to remove adults and whatever eggs you can. The hoover needs to be emptied immediately outside of the house as it’ll contain live fleas and you still have the pupa to deal with. 
 
The clever thing about fleas is that the pupa the larvae spin are waterproof; my chemicals would have no effect on them and I know that. 
The larvae can remain inside their waterproof shelters for up to three months and this depends on the environmental conditions, humidity is a factor as they don’t want to emerge in a dry period but when they emerge as adult fleas, they’ll start biting again. 
 
This is when a second pesticidal treatment is needed. 
 

How to achieve the perfect flea control treatment. 

Fleas aren’t clever, they don’t know we’re after them unlike rats so to get the perfect flea treatment, firstly, know your enemy. They have incredibly poor eyesight, and instead, they rely on vibration from movement and even your animal’s breath to let them know where the next meals coming from. 
 
Fleas are that sensitive, they can pick up minor differences in air temperature, so they’ll know when you or your pet is close by. 
 
The first task when dealing with any flea infestation is to sort out the pets, following that the next task is to vacuum like your life depends on it. Pull out everything, the sofas, the chairs, the cabinets, pull out the bed, that big old cupboard in the dining room, everything! Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum, and then empty the hoover. This will pull off the adults, you may get some eggs as well but you’re breaking the lifecycle and so getting a basis of control. The key to any pest problem is getting control and this is what you’re doing through vacuuming. 
 
Make sure that in this process, you wash all the pet bedding where the larvae will definitely be and this has to be a hot wash above 60 degrees, if washing the bedding isn’t an option, you could try freezing it, if you have access to a big enough freezer. 
 
Finally, this is the time to call out a pest control company for a residual flea spray, the chemicals that we use are designed to be active for many weeks, because of all that vacuuming, we don’t want you hoovering now for several weeks. The chemicals will remain active only gradually breaking down through moisture, 
Close up of a flea
 
Tagged as: fleas
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