If you’ve ever suffered a flea infestation you’ll know exactly how distressing and unpleasant it is. Some people get bitten more often and have a worse reaction than others, probably because of the different chemical make-up of their skin, but the very thought of being bitten by a flea is fairly disgusting and the bites can be quite nasty, extremely itchy for days on end.
What exactly are fleas, how do they get into your home and how do you get rid of them? Here’s our comprehensive guide.
All about fleas and how to get rid of them
Fleas are common parasites and are becoming more common as the climate warms. They can be a problem all year round these days, not just in warm weather, partly thanks to efficient central heating, although they still tend to be at their worst during September. Some experts suspect that some fleas are becoming resistant to the chemicals designed to kill them, which makes getting rid of them fast and early even more important.
Fleas live on the blood of warm blooded animals including humans, cats and dogs, and are also carried by a huge variety of other animals including hedgehogs, foxes, rabbits and mice. In Britain cat fleas account for 75% of all flea infestations. Cat fleas bite humans. Bird fleas are also an issue in this country, followed by dog fleas. Some other species of flea can hitch a ride on dogs, but actual human fleas are extremely rare.
How do you tell if your pet has caught fleas? It’s usually fairly obvious because the bites make animals itch and scratch, and a bad infestation can lead to them pulling at their fur in frustration. You might also spot fleas or flea droppings in the coat of your pet, which look like tiny black grains of sand.
If your pet has light coloured fur you can often brush back the hair and see the signs. If your pet has dark hair you can comb them standing on a sheet of white paper and see what drops out. If you see black specks that look like flea poop, you can test them by adding a drop of water. If they go red, it’s poop. If your infestation is really bad you might even be able to see actual fleas hopping around on the floor.
How to prevent fleas
One of the simplest ways to prevent infestations of fleas is through regular, thorough hoovering. This picks up the creatures themselves as well as their eggs, which can otherwise linger in carpets and furnishings for a long time, hatching out when the conditions are right. It’s also wise to regularly groom your pets with a flea comb and keep their bedding super-clean, washing it in the hottest possible water.
It helps to use special flea products on your pets, those recommended by a vet. And your garden is also a good place to start, keeping it neat, mowing the lawn and raking up grass cuttings and leaves.
What does a flea look like? And what about their eggs?
Adult fleas average are about 2mm in size. They’re wingless and the profile of their body is flat. They’re a reddish-brown colour and have strong, backward-facing spines and back legs designed to jump great heights.
Flea eggs are tiny, oval-shaped and creamy white, about the size of a grain of sand. If your pet is badly infested you’ll probably find drifts of eggs on their bedding, and in other places around the house where they rest or sit. The female fleas lay their eggs after feeding on the infested animal.
Female Fleas can live up to two years and can lay around 1000 eggs during their lifetime. The eggs take a few days to hatch into larvae which, once they’re fully grown, spin a camouflaged silk cocoon. Flea larvae eat everything from skin to feathers, but enjoy eating the blood-rich faeces of adult fleas best of all.
The fully developed adult flea sits inside its cocoon until it senses an animal nearby, via the vibrations living things make when they move around, then emerges. This life-cycle only takes about a month in the summer, which is why flea infestations can quickly get out of hand.
Where do fleas like to live
Fleas and warm blooded animals go together, so you’ll find the most fleas where your animals sleep. But you’ll also find them in carpets, pet bedding and upholstery.
Are flea bits dangerous to humans?
While there’s very little evidence that fleas spread disease in Britain, they do cause intense irritation and discomfort. Flea bits tend to appear on human ankles and lower legs, which are easy for the fleas to reach. Oddly the bites often seem to come in pairs, with two bites close together. You’ll typically see a small red spot about 5mm in diameter which itches more in the evenings.
How to get rid of fleas
It’s best to use a professional pest control company, ideally a properly-trained professional BPCA member. They’ll have all the necessary knowledge as well as access to the right insecticides, not available to the public. Before they arrive, there’s some work to do:
- Clear the floor of furniture, rugs and anything else so the treatment reaches as many areas as possible
- Hoover the room thoroughly to get rid of eggs, larvae and adult fleas – the hoover’s vibration will stimulate the larvae to hatch out because they think it’s an animal
- After hoovering, take out the hoover bag and throw it away in a bin outdoors
Your pest control expert will apply a residual insecticide, either liquid spray or powder, to the floor, whether it’s carpeted or not. It’s important not to hoover or wash the floor for a period of time – which your contractor will advise you about – so the insecticide can do its job properly. It can take up to two weeks for the treatment to fully work.
Call us for complete flea pest control, London and beyond
For a complete professional flea pest control solution, contact SafeKill. We’ll carry out a thorough inspection of your premises before choosing exactly the right insecticide for the job. We work across London and the home counties, including pest control Ashford Kent, Sittingbourne, Canterbury, Gravesend and more. If you’re in Kent or London, you’re covered.