Forget the Fleas

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Are fleas the bane of your and your pets’ existence? Don’t have pets and yet you still have fleas in your home and don’t know why? 

The little buggers are notorious for being hard to kill.  One reason is that they don’t just live on cats and dogs.  Their eggs can also be found in your yard and in fields, just waiting to be dragged into the house on your shoes or pant legs and into your carpets, waiting for warm weather (and a warm body to go by) to hatch and start feeding. (And don’t forget your car – you may have picked up some from the house or yard and gotten some in there, only to bring them back into the house after they’ve hatched to start the whole thing over again!)

So, if you’re really serious about ridding yourself of fleas, you have to treat all the sources:  your house, your car, your yard and your pets.  You also have to stop the cycle, which means that not only do you need to get rid of the fleas you can see, but also the next generation, the eggs. Many treatments will kill the adults, but the eggs are usually a bit hardier and will make it through to spawn another cycle.

Unfortunately, most of the treatments involve some type of poison.  One such treatment is called a fogger, which does just that: it sends out the pesticide in a "fog" throughout the air, coating anything and everything it comes into contact with an insecticide.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like using anything that strong around me or my pets. And foggers can’t be used around fish tanks – they get into the water and can kill your fish.  (Not only that, but you need to wash all your dishes and surfaces afterwards to get rid of residue – more work than I want to do.)  And foggers require that you and your family leave the premises as they’re just as deadly to humans when fired off; again, not my idea of a fun time.

Insecticide sprays have more control over where they go, but are still just as poisonous in most cases.  So what can you do?

I like to use borax.  Yep, plain old simple borax, sprinkled throughout the carpets and yard.  It’s non-toxic when used correctly, can be used inside and outside and kills both the adult fleas and eggs.  Fleas, like most insects, breathe through holes on their underside called spiracles.  Borax clogs ups their breathing holes as they wander around the carpets, causing the adults to suffocate.  Borax is also a dessicant.  That means it pulls moisture out of whatever it comes in contact with. Flea eggs need a certain amount of moisture to survive.  Dry them out, and the egg dies.

To use borax, sprinkle about 1-2 cups per room into the carpets of your house and car(s) and use a broom to work it down into the fibers where the little critters live. (If you have expensive carpeting, you may want to do a spot test first – sprinkle a little into a small area and wait a couple days to make sure you get no color changes before doing the whole thing.) Borax isn’t a wonder drug.  It does need to be left on the carpets for usually at least 2-3 days, but a week is even better. Then you just vaccuum it (and the dead fleas) up. Note: vibrations can cause flea eggs to hatch (that’s how they know it’s time to come out – something yummy like a dog or human just walked by and it’s time to bite). You may need to treat a 2nd time to catch any missed with the first treatment that suddenly appear after vacuuming.  

To treat your yard, make sure it won’t be raining for a few days and that you’ve turned off any automatic watering systems.  Then sprinkle borax throughout the grassy areas and especially around the base of the house and walkways. (Not only will it kill fleas, but it also is great if you have ant problems!  Usually they won’t cross through borax dust and if they do, they die also.) 

And if you have pets, especially ones that go outdoors, you’ll need to also make sure any fleas and eggs they have are dealt with so you don’t end up with a reinfestation. For that, I like Frontline.  It’s a flea, lice and tick treatment that you only have to apply once a month and it’s "waterproof."  After treating your pet, it works its way into their fatty tissues, and so can’t be washed off by rain or bathing.  Then, if any fleas do bite your pet, they die.  Usually, all the adult, egg-laying fleas will die within the first day, and hopefully the borax in your carpet will catch any eggs waiting around.

By the way, you don’t have to wait for warm weather to try these tips.  If you treat now during colder weather, you’ll have a lot less trouble since you’ll be killing off the dormant eggs before they get a chance to hatch and drive you insane for another year.

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