Those itching, red bites driving you and your pet insane may be fleas, small blood-sucking insects that can infest homes and commercial buildings to the point that colonies appear all over, including the ceiling. Control severe flea infestations with constant cleaning and other home remedies and use chemical methods as a last resort only.
Fleas are a type of wingless insect that reach 1/8 inch in length when grown and have three pairs of legs, the hind pair of which is used for jumping. They are dark, usually black, and feed on the blood of animals, including human beings if there are no animals around, and they may multiply into colonies. Fleas lay eggs in the hair or fur of their hosts, such as dogs and cats, which develop into worm-like, hairy larvae. Fleas are also often found on furniture, around baseboards, in carpets and in pet bedding. They are not prone to living on ceilings. However, homes or buildings with large infestations may see colonies around the ceiling. Carpeted ceilings are also a possibility for flea infestation.
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One of the best ways to get rid of any flea infestation is through constant vacuuming. Go over ceiling cracks and corners where the ceiling and walls meet and thoroughly vacuum the rest of the home, including on and around furniture, under rugs and around pet bedding. Vacuuming gets rid of eggs, pupae and larvae, while the vibrations encourage pupae to hatch, which leaves them vulnerable to insecticides should you choose to use them. Remove the vacuum bag when you are finished vacuuming and discard it immediately to avoid hatching more fleas.
Flea sprays and bombs are another option for severe infestations. Look for sprays and bombs that contain Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), a protein that prevents pupae and larvae-stage fleas from reaching adulthood. This breaks the flea life cycle so they cannot produce more offspring. Note that flea sprays and bombs, as well as flea collars and other flea products, are hazardous chemicals, most of which contain permethrins, chemicals that may be carcinogenic to human beings. Organophosphate insecticides (OPs) and carbamates, two other common flea and tick product chemical ingredients, may also be carcinogenic.
Flea infestations will keep returning without diligent vacuuming as well as treating the source of the infestation, which often includes pets. Also look for cracks and other holes in the ceiling where fleas might be entering the home. If treating pets, use pennyroyal tea, a natural flea repellent, for bathing. Bathe pets in a mixture of 1/2 cup distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup liquid dish soap in warm water to remove fleas. Also try using corn oil to get rid of the bloodsuckers, as it smothers fleas and heals bites naturally. Lavender essential oil is another topical flea repellent that will also leave the pet smelling sweet.
- Cats of Australia: How to Get Rid of Fleas -- House and Pets
- Virginia Tech: Fleas; Eric Day; Aug. 1, 1996
- The Humane Society of the United States; Flea and Tick Product Ingredients: What You Should Know; March 2011
- Monterey Bay Spice Company: Pennyroyal
- Aromatherapy for Animals: Essential Oils for Fleas and Ticks
- Mother Earth News; Natural Flea Control; Christine Makowski, D.V.M.; May/June 1985
- Earth Easy: Natural Flea Control