Flea Extermination - A Potential Secondary Issue of Rodent Infestations


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A rodent infestation can result in damage to the home as well as potential health risks. If that's not bad enough, rodents often carry fleas into the home as well. These types of fleas prefer to feed off rats, mice, and other rodents, but will also bite humans and domestic pets. Fleas that have bitten diseased rodents pose a small risk of transmitting these diseases to humans or pets that they later bite, so should be done promptly after all rodents have been removed from the house.

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Fleas are a nuisance and can cause a lot of irritation with their bites. Bites are small, red, and intensely itchy. Fortunately fleas do not fly so most flea bites are on the lower extremities of the body (with dogs and cats, often in the 'armpits' or clustered around the neck and head). Most of the time the reaction to the bites will go away on its own. However, some people are more allergic to flea bites than others and may need to see a doctor to get relief from the itching.

Fleas progress from an egg, to a larva, to a pupa, before finally maturing into an adult. The adults are the ones that bite but all life stages need to be eliminated so that more adults do not hatch. An exterminator service may propose a poison or chemical solution, but there are a couple of safe and natural ways to get rid of fleas that can be done by the homeowner. Honestly, they're time-consuming and require effort but the key word here is safe.

  • Get some food-grade diatomaceous earth. Do not use the type for pool filters, and make sure the type you buy is food-grade. Diatomaceous earth is a natural substance that is non-toxic to humans and animals, but useful for killing insects with an exoskeleton (a hard outer shell). On a microscopic level, diatomaceous earth is like glass shards - when insects crawl over it, the shards cut into their shells. This causes the insects to dry out and die.

    Wear a dust mask when handling diatomaceous earth. Spread a thin layer in hard-to-reach places, like along the edges of the room where vacuums can't easily get to. Don't toss it in the air - it's flour-like in texture and tossing handfuls of it puts a lot of dust in the air. Try to place down handfuls and then spread it out into a thin layer. You could sprinkle it, but sprinkling doesn't give as much coverage as spreading.

    One of the great things about diatomaceous earth is that insects don't develop a resistance to it - it kills them by physical means (the microscopic 'shards'), rather than by chemical means.

    Diatomaceous earth can be safely left in hard-to-reach areas until you get around to vacuuming it up. It will still continue to work, so long as it stays dry. Once it gets wet, it will be useless for killing fleas.

  • Vacuum regularly. A day or two before vacuuming (try for at least overnight), sprinkle or spread diatomaceous earth over the carpet and rugs. Then vacuum thoroughly. Repeat the process every day or two until the fleas are gone. Vacuuming is very effective in picking up fleas... and even if they haven't crawled over the diatomaceous earth, when they get picked up and tossed into the vacuum bag with the earth, they will still be exposed to it and die.
  • Launder your bedding. A good soak in soap and water will kill fleas. You can optionally dust with diatomaceous earth several hours before laundering if you like. Wash your bedding (and your pet's bedding too) at least once a week, ideally every few days, until the flea infestation is resolved. Laundromat services will have large machines you can use to launder bedding if you don't have appropriate machines at home.
  • Check your dogs and cats (and other pets) for fleas too. A flea comb (a fine-toothed comb) is great for removing eggs and adult fleas although it is time-consuming. Place any you find in a jar of soapy water to kill them. If your pet continues to become infested with fleas, ask a veterinarian for recommendations on safe, effective treatments. Fleas must be eliminated completely or they will simply stick around and multiply. That's also why flea extermination isn't started until all rodents have been removed from the house.

Households with rodent problems need to get rid of the rodents first. Many safe humane pest control methods are available to remove rodents from the house. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a rodent infestation to cause secondary problems like a flea infestation. Should this occur, it's best to take care of flea extermination as soon as possible - if only for your own comfort! No one wants to suffer the itching from flea bites (or the 'ick' factor!).