Protect Your Home From Fleas

David Deem

Every once in a while, your home, or the home you want to buy, can get infested with fleas. These little vampire-like creatures actually spend very little of their time on your pet; the female flea prefers to lay her eggs in dark, damp places such as cracks in the floor or a corner of the basement. The flea lays up to 20 eggs at a setting and may deposit as many as 400 during her lifetime.

It takes only about a week for the eggs to hatch into small, white, toothy-mouthed worms. This larval form feeds on feces, debris, hair and vegetation. Each larva then spins a cocoon and pupates for a period that can range from seven days to a year. The adult flea then jumps onto your pet to feed and the cycle starts over again.

If you find fleas inhabiting your carpets and furniture, begin your treatment with a thorough cleaning. Frequent vacuuming of the house, especially pet areas, is necessary to keep fleas at bay. Pay special attention to dark, damp places where fleas may have deposited their eggs.

After vacuuming, empty the bag and burn the contents, or seal the sweepings in a plastic trash bag and dispose of it properly. Next, wash your pet's bedding and finish off any six-legged survivors by tumbling the wet bedding in a hot dryer.

Unfortunately, in cases of severe flea infestation it may be necessary to "bomb" your house with a commercial insecticide. Be careful though. Many of today's synthetic insecticides are nerve-paralyzing agents capable of causing convulsions, nausea and respiratory arrest in host animals as well as in the insects they're intended to destroy. Consequently, there are many cases of pesticide-related poisoning each summer, many involving not only pets, but also children who handle pesticide-treated animals. Also, most commercial pesticides kill only adult fleas, leaving healthy deposits of eggs scattered around your home.

There are some natural treatment options, such as d-Limonene. However, not all of the natural products are completely safe. For instance, Diatomaceous earth is a type of fossilized algae that resembles chalk dust. The fine, sharp-edged particles attach themselves to and penetrate the waxy coating on a flea's shell-like exoskeleton, causing the little bloodsucker to dehydrate and die. However, Diatomaceous Earth can damage eyes, both your pets' and your family's, and may be a carcinogen as well. Natural remedies like Pennyroyal, Wormwood and Citronella oils can be toxic and may also burn the eyes.

Controlling fleas on your pets and in your home requires endless attention; it's never a one-time or occasional thing. Also, it's important to keep in mind, and learn from, the fact that parasites do have a function in nature's scheme of things, to weed out and finish off unhealthy members of the various host species.



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