Who hasn’t been intrigued by the idea of a Flea Circus? Fleas have been playing instruments, pulling chariots and performing circus stunts under the Big Top since the early 1800’s. As entertaining as they can be, the flea’s primary gift to mankind has been the plague. In fact, the term Flea Market is thought to have originated from the large outdoor bazaars of Paris where critter infested goods were sold to the unsuspecting public. Bacterial disease transmitted to man by fleas is believed to have done more to change the course of history than any other force. Three major periods of plague pestilence have been recorded. The first was in 542 and lasted for 60 years, the second circled Europe from 1346 to 1665 and the third began in the 1880’s and was killing 1,000,000 people a year in India before it was wiped out by modern medicine.
To this day the little “entertainers” continue to infest our animals and homes. Most of us are hesitant to use harsh sprays, shampoos, and powders that contain harmful pesticides on our animals or in our houses, yet we are unsure about the effectiveness and availability of more natural methods.
First of all, how do you tell if an animal has fleas? If you run your fingers through its coat and spot just one flea then the animal has fleas. A flea comb is effective is picking up live fleas as well as the tiny specks of dried blood left behind after a fleabite. Unlike a mosquito, a flea will continue to bite long after it’s hunger has been satisfied in order to produce these droppings high in protein and iron to feed the young larvae left on the animal’s coat.
An animal with a healthy coat and body is the best defense against fleas. Include Brewers Yeast along with 1 clove of garlic daily in your animal’s diet to help repel fleas. In addition to watching the animals diet, non-pesticide topical sprays and powders are available.
In addition to treating the animal with shampoos or sprays it is important to wash all bedding immediately if it has been treated for fleas, and weekly as a precautionary measure.
How do you tell if your house has fleas? Fleas are attracted to vibrations. Put on a pair of white socks and walk around on the carpeting, checking for fleas that will have “jumped” on for a ride. A flea can jump 150 times its body length and 80 times their height. Or, plug a nightlight in a wall socket close to the floor and put a dish of water with a few drops of dishwashing detergent in it just under the light. The fleas will be attracted to the light, jump into the soapy water and be unable to get out. It is also important to frequently vacuum carpets and furniture, remembering to dispose of the contents of the bag. Another method is to drop a flea collar into the vacuum cleaner bag to prevent the hatching of new fleas. Of the entire flea population only 5% are actually biting adults. 50% of the population are eggs, 30% are larvae and 15% are young fleas.
Outside the house fleas are drawn to sand and gravel-type areas such as the soil under shrubs or in crawl spaces. There are several products on the market such as Diatomaceous earth and Lime that can be sprinkled in the yard. These products will dehydrate the fleas. A lawn that is cut short and areas free of leaves and debris will also help to reduce the breeding areas of fleas.