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Fleas
 

 

Common Names: Flea

Scientific Name: Order Siphonaptera, family Pulicidae, Ctenocephalides spp., 
Cat flea - Ctenocephalides felis, Dog flea - Ctenocephalides canis Human flea - Pulex irritans

Size: Pin-head size 

  

Identification: All species are wingless and all are external parasites of warm blooded animals. They are flattened from side to side, their legs are long and adapted for jumping. Bodies are hard and polished with backwardly directed hairs. Their mouthparts are piercing and sucking. The backward direction of the hairs allows the fleas to move easily and quickly through thick fur on animals.

Biology/Life Cycle: The most common flea is called the cat flea. It attacks cats, dogs, rats, chickens, opossums, raccoons, squirrels and other warm blooded animals. Optimum conditions for egg hatching and flea development are 65 to 80 degrees and 70 percent humidity. When it's 95 degrees this summer and you have fleas, the problem may be in the house - not out in the yard. Fleas like dark, damp, cool spots. Complete metamorphosis - eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Female fleas lay several hundred eggs shortly after a blood meal. Eggs fall off the animal host into the environment and hatch into larvae in two to twelve days usually. Larvae are little wigglers 3-4 millimeters long and can live up to 200 days, pupae up to a year. Legless larvae feed on dried blood, flea feces, other animal feces and other organic matter. The larval stage lasts 1 to 5 weeks. How many times they molt is unclear because they eat their molted skins. When full grown, the larvae form a small oval cocoon of white silk which sticks to dust and debris. Adults emerge in 5 days to 5 weeks and are short-lived. Flea larvae live wherever the eggs have fallen, not on the animals. They do not bite animals or humans. They do, however, grow up to be adults unless you murder them while they're young.

Habitat: Dark, moist, cool, dirty areas. Dogs, cats and other animals.

Feeding Habits: Larva feed on dry blood of fleas, mice, rats and other animals, excreta and other organic matter. Adults feed on fresh blood.

Economic Importance: Hard to control, expensive pest. Can cause severe skin problems for dogs and cats. Flea allergy is the most common skin disease of pets. Fleas can transmit tapeworms.

Natural Control: Keep sites clean and animals healthy, beneficial nematodes, and fire ants.

Organic Control: Orange oil or other citrus products. Flea control requires a comprehensive program. Use banana stalks under decks. The most effective flea control device is the vacuum cleaner which will remove flea eggs, flea larvae and flea food. Put towels down where pets lay and wash those towels weekly. Use natural diatomaceous earth in dry weather and beneficial nematodes when moisture is present or can be applied. Pyrethrum products are no longer recommended..

Insight: FACTS - A female flea can lay over 1,000 eggs during her lifetime. A pair of fleas can produce 20,000 fleas in 3 months. Flea allergy is the most common skin disease of pets. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms. During the cocoon stage they are invulnerable to typical pesticides. The most common flea is called the cat flea. It attacks cats, dogs, rats, chickens, opossums, raccoons, squirrels and other warm blooded animals. Optimum conditions for egg hatching and flea development are 65 to 80 degrees and 70 percent humidity. When it is 95 degrees this summer and you have fleas, the problem may be in the house - not out in the yard.


HOWARD'S COMPREHENSIVE FLEA CONTROL PROGRAM:

No, there are still no silver bullets for fleas or ticks - no magic organic or chemical product exists that will completely control these pests all the time and leave the beneficial insects, your pets and your family alive and healthy. Control does however continue to get simpler and more effective.

Holistic or comprehensive programs work and are less trouble in the long run. Trouble comes from continuing to spray toxic materials and poison yourself, your property and your animals and never get the pests under control.

The secret to controlling fleas is to control the eggs and larvae. They are far more numerous than adults. Adult fleas usually make up only about 2 percent of the total population. Larvae don't feed on animals as do the adults. Flea larvae feed on organic debris, primarily dry blood. That's why keeping the pets and the environment clean is so important.

1. Organic grounds maintenance. Allow biodiversity to reestablish to create competition. Insects and microbes compete with each other for territory and food. When toxic pesticides are used, the competition is reduced.

2. Diet. Animal nutrition is an important part of a comprehensive flea control program. Feed your pets a balanced, nutritious diet of your own cooking or an organic pet food. Avoid processed foods, especially those that contain chemical preservatives. Ethoxyquin, for example, is a pesticide used as a preservative in many pet foods. BHT and BHA are other chemical preservatives to avoid. Vitamin C is a more acceptable preservative to look for.

I give my dogs food supplements daily - garlic, diatomaceous earth (DE), food-grade kelp and essential fatty acid products. Garlic helps repel fleas and the DE is a natural wormer and aids in digestion. If the mixing sounds too complicated, just use natural food-grade diatomaceous earth daily. Use about a teaspoon for small dogs and cats and a tablespoon for large dogs. For livestock, about one to two percent of the food ration should be DE. It can also be fed free choice along with salt and mineral supplements.

3. Cleaning. Vacuum frequently, rake and sweep dog runs and sleeping areas regularly, pick up and thoroughly compost pet waste. Flea larvae must have organic matter. Keeping the pet areas clean helps to starve out fleas. Remove trash, lumber and other debris that can harbor fleas. It's best to establish a regular sleeping area for your pets and restrict their access to areas that can be cleaned easily and often. Carpeted areas are the hardest to keep clean.

4. Grooming. Bathe pets weekly or as needed but only with mild, non-toxic soaps. Herbal shampoos and neem shampoos are the most effective, but any low-phosphate, biodegradable soap will work. I also like products that use a coconut base. Shampoos containing citrus oil are also effective. Avoid all soaps containing harsh pesticides. Leave shampoo on pets for 5 minutes before rinsing. If not done too often, bathing pets helps greatly because soap kills fleas. Brushing regularly is even better because it cleans and stimulates the natural oils in pets' coats. These oils help to repel fleas and other pests. The regular use of a flea comb is another effective aid. Its small tines remove fleas which can be dipped in a bowl of soapy water between strokes to kill the fleas caught in the tines.

5. Exercise. Make sure the pets get plenty of natural exercise from running and playing or walk them around regularly. It's good for the animals and for you.

6. Pet treatment. Apply herbal powders of pennyroyal, lavender, eucalyptus, and/or rosemary. Pennyroyal is too strong to use on cats.

Diatomaceous earth, is an inexpensive and effective tool to use as a dry powder on the pet's fur. Don't use it regularly because it's very drying to their skin.  Citrus oil products can also help control fleas. Chop orange, grapefruit or other citrus skins or cut them into small pieces, then place in a pan of water. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool thoroughly. Pour into the animal's fur and cover the skin thoroughly. Pay special attention to areas that are hard for the pet to reach. All other forms of citrus also work but oranges seem to work best. This treatment is effective for skin rashes caused by flea bites. Commercial  citrus products are also available.

7. Indoor treatment. Treat infested carpets with diatomaceous earth or boric acid, but don't overdo it. For heavy infestations spray D-limonene (citrus) products on carpets and furniture.  Baking soda dusted on carpets will also help. Dirty, infested carpets should be water extraction cleaned or completely removed from the house.   Avoid all products that contain pyrethrum.

8. Outdoor treatment. Dust or spray diatomaceous earth and / ot orange oil.  Apply beneficial nematodes to the entire property and keep the treated areas moist so that the microscopic worms don't dry out and die. There are several brand names of beneficial nematodes. These beneficial animals also control roaches, termites and grubworms. See Nematode for more information.



Homemade Fire Ant Mound Drench - mix one part compost tea, one part molasses, and one part citrus oil concentrate. Mix at 4-6 ounces per gallon of water for treating fire ant mounds.  Add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar per gallon water to the pets drinking water. Brush and exercise them regularly.

Spray the infested site with one of the organic mound drench products such as  Nature's Guide Mound Drench or any citrus oil, compost tea, and molasses mix. For tick problems spray up on shrubs, trunks of trees, sides of buildings, etc.
  1. Treat the site with beneficial nematodes. These are living organisms so use before the date deadline on the package.
  2. Dust pet sleeping quarters, if necessary, with natural diatomaceous earth.
  3. Bathe pets with herbal shampoos. The most effective products contain citrus (d-limonene) and tea tree oil (melaleuca).
  4. Spray the site regularly with Garrett Juice.


Listener tip:

"At night my mother in law places a cool-whip container of water with 1 drop of dish washing soap on the floor under a nite light.  (add the soap last to avoid bubbles)  The next morning you can collect your trapped fleas.  Does the trick and is kinda fun, too! "  T.W.


Question: We are having a problem with fleas in our house. We acquired them recently when we tried to assist a stray cat.I am so desperate that I am thinking of using chemicals everywhere just to get rid of the fleas. M.R., Frisco

Answer: Spray inside and out with an orange oil product. Then apply beneficial nematodes to the soil outdoors.


Question: Can you tell me whether or how to use Frontline for flea control in dogs? The staff at our vet's office says it is not toxic. I believe you have talked about this before. S.H., Keller

Answer: I think that product is too toxic, and I would not use it. The only "spot on the back" flea-control product I recommend and use as a last resort is Revolution. It is a pharmaceutical product rather than a pesticide and must be purchased from a vet. If he or she objects, change vets.

LATEST BASIC SOLUTION

Apply beneficial nematodes to the entire property now, Spray and clean surfaces in the house with orange oil or Bio Wash and bath the dogs with mild soaps. Bio Wash is a good choice. The rest of the overall flea program is on the web site.


  1. Spray the infested site with one of the organic mound drench products  or any citrus oil, compost tea, and molasses mix. For tick problems spray up on shrubs, trunks of trees, sides of buildings, etc.
  2. Treat the site with beneficial nematodes. These are living organisms so use before the date deadline on the package.
  3. Dust pet sleeping quarters, if necessary, with natural diatomaceous earth.
  4. Bathe pets with herbal shampoos. The most effective products contain citrus (d-limonene) and tea tree oil (melaleuca).
  5. Spray the site regularly with Garrett Juice.


Homemade Fire Ant Mound Drench - mix one part compost tea, one part molasses, and one part citrus oil concentrate. Mix at 4-6 ounces per gallon of water for treating fire ant mounds.  Add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar per gallon water to the pets drinking water. Brush and exercise them regularly.

 


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