General Question

Shippy's avatar

Advice for flea infestation?

Asked by Shippy (9857 points ) January 1st, 2013

For some reason our building, every year, when it get’s humid and hot, is covered in fleas. Any suggestions to keep them off me, or kill them. I can’t call pest control you wait at least a month, due to it being hot weather. Any help appreciated.

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38 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

Do you have any pets?

Shippy's avatar

@Brian1946 No, at night though a few crawl in and sleep on my couch. I have started to shut my front windows to stop them.

Brian1946's avatar

Have you actually seen them crawl in through your window?

The cat fleas that we get in Los Angeles are very small and dark. They resemble a grain of pepper and are very hard to see, unless they’re on a lightly colored surface.

If you have fleas inside your place, you should be able to occasionally see one on one of your lower extremities, from about halfway up your lower leg down to your toes. IIRC, the highest a flea can jump is about 13” (33 cm).

I’ve dealt with fleas before and from my experience, they usually gain entrance by hopping onto the host and riding the meal wagon into the host’s dwelling.

Shippy's avatar

@Brian1946 Yes its small and dark and on my lower leg. Then jumps off. I’ve been bitten like crazy and have red bites all over my feet and legs now. I often find the cats on the couch in the middle of the night. :(. For a while too I had a stray in here, she has since vanished.

Brian1946's avatar

Do you still have any cats or other mammals living with you?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
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Shippy's avatar

^^ Scat gnat? OK, someone has just advised salt all over my carpet. I put that down so far. And lavender on my feet to shoo them away. I have hope. I am in a terrible bitten state.

Brian1946's avatar

I’m not sure how well lavender works. If you apply it, I suggest that you keep watching for fleas.

If the lavender doesn’t work, wear light-colored socks. If you see any more fleas then, pick them off and flush them down the toilet.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

There is a product from Avon called Skin So Soft and it is apparently brilliant at stopping different things from biting. I know that a lot of people are now using it for the dreaded Scottish midge as there is something in the smell and oil that they just hate.

Alternatively eucalyptus oil added to the washing machine rinse works for some as they hate the smell of it.

Shippy's avatar

@TheProfoundPorcupine Awesome, I wonder what is added to the oil? Wondering if tea tree might repel them also

snowberry's avatar

You could try using borax on the carpet, then vacuum it up. You could rent a steam cleaner and put borax in the machine. I’ve had excellent results using borax on roaches, and I hear it works on fleas. Try googling killing fleas with borax.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@Shippy Tea tree oil may very well work. I would certainly give it a go either in the washing machine part or try some rubbed on your lower legs. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it.

Judi's avatar

Can you set off a couple of bug bombs and leave for a while? You have to do it again in a couple of weeks when the eggs hatch. They are probably in your carpet and dormant in the wintertime.

Shippy's avatar

@snowberry Thank you so much, will purchase some tomorrow. @Judi Thank you I did think of that, but I’m quite fearful of those for some reason.

Judi's avatar

I am going to pm you a product I use to repel bugs. It will at least keep them from biting you. I don’t know it it will make them leave your house. I don’t want to spam so I won’t put it here.

yankeetooter's avatar

If you have a dog or a cat, get Frontline, or another similar flea treatment. You only apply it once a month, and it kills all fleas in your house/apartment, as well as the ones on your pet. Unfortunately, I don’t know what you can do if you don’t have a pet…

snowberry's avatar

It helps to understand their life cycle. As I understand it, the egg is the most invulnerable to poison. So you may have to treat multiple times to get them all. In addition, it’s possible to re-infest your home, and not even realize it, which is another reason to plan to retreat regularly.

It’s one thing to not have them bite you, but it would be very awkward to have a guest get bitten, or to have to tell them, “I have fleas here. Rub this on your body to keep them from biting you.”

wildpotato's avatar

Dyson (or other bagless) vacuum, 3x per day. Also either keep the cats out or wash them with flea shampoo and then treat with Frontline.

snowberry's avatar

Whenever you empty your vacuum cleaner, remember you may still have live fleas in the bag or canister. One way to deal with this is to put the entire canister in a deep freeze for a until the fleas and eggs have frozen completely for a few hours, just to be sure.

Shippy's avatar

I’ve put the salt all over, also near the skirting boards. Will keep you posted in case you need the tip!

LuckyGuy's avatar

i would sprinkle boric acid or borax near the windows.

gailcalled's avatar

“Frontline” will take care of the fleas on the cat, but unfortunately will do nothing for the already present infestation. That requires the heroic measure already mentioned (the chemical solutions are draconian, but may be necessary.)

When my ex- discovered his small house was awash, he had to move out for three days in order to be able to breath after the exterminators had to come. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy, but not to Shippy.

yankeetooter's avatar

Maybe it’s not Frontline, then, but there are definitely treatments out there similar to Frontline that kill the infestation too.

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gailcalled's avatar

Frontline requires a lot of caution and is squirted between the cat’s shoulder blades so that the cat cannot lick it off. The applicant (me) needs to use rubber gloves and wash hands.

All the info you have just provided apply only to dealing with the animal (and its nervous system) itself. I have been applying it monthly for five years. If a dog showed up and dropped fleas in my house, I would be in trouble. My cat would be fine.

yankeetooter's avatar

They have it for dogs too…and it is very easy to apply. And it does kill fleas in the house as well. I have used it before and can testify to it personally…

submariner's avatar

I’ve been informed that the vibration from a vacuum cleaner kills flea eggs, so frequent vacuuming can help. And maybe don’t kill the spiders you find in the corners—they’ll catch some of the adult fleas. You could also lay an old sheet down where your pets sleep, and then shake it out every day. A white sheet will show you flea dirt (excrement) and blood specks from bites, so you’ll see how your pets are faring. A dark sheet will show the eggs.

You said “our building”. Do you live in an apartment? Maybe another tenant’s pet is bringing them in. Maybe you could ask neighbors with pets to consider using Frontline.

Pingu's avatar

I’ve had this problem before. It’s awful. I live in a small apartment with a cat, so my infestation was particularly bad. (As bad as it was for me, it was much, much worse for my cat. When we finally got him deflead, I pulled hundreds(!) of the little sons of bitches off of him. Tens on his face and neck alone! I felt so guilty.)

I eventually did what Judi recommended with the bug bombs. It’s not dangerous, just set one or two off in your apartment right before you leave for work one day. Make sure you leave your windows open, as well as your pantry doors and cabinet and dresser drawers so no flea gets away unscathed. Wash your couch cushions or their covers and avoid putting them back on the couch until you’re sure you have the situation under control. Wait two weeks, because that’s about how long it will take the remaining eggs to hatch, and then let another one or two bombs off. The problem will not go away immediately, but soon you’ll start to see their numbers dwindle to a small insurgence.

Also, as snowberry correctly pointed out, there will be lots of live fleas in your vacuum cleaner, and they will immediately start to breed. Make sure you change the bag frequently and dispose of it in a place that is well removed from your building, such as in the dumpster on the street.

snowberry's avatar

I’m not going to do the research required to find out the details, but I talked to a lot of experts in the field when I was dealing with this. I cannot remember for sure, but I think the pupae, not the egg is most invulnerable to pesticides, and it also is capable of going into dormancy until signs of life show up, sometimes even for years!. These signs of life can include the vibration from a vacuum cleaner, as well as the vibration of footsteps (which indicate the source of food from a warm blooded animal). If only vibration from a vacuum cleaner would have been enough to kill fleas, I’d have left it on day and night for years!

This is why you must be pro-active in your attack. You have to consider their life cycle, as well as re-treatment options, and be prepared to continue treatment long term.

wildpotato's avatar

What we did was cut up a flea collar and put it in the canister before vacuuming. We did not walk the vacuum canister over to the dumpster or anything, just emptied it in a trash bag and took the bag out right away. But it definitely can’t hurt to be more careful.

We bug bombed twice and it didn’t seem to help. Buying the Dyson Animal vac (thanks, Fluther!) and using it a lot for a month made all the difference. @snowberry took the words out of my mouth – being proactive with whatever method you choose is the most important thing, because they reproduce so darn quickly.

submariner's avatar

@snowberry I’m not disagreeing with you. The vibration from the vac kills eggs, but not other stages, and only when it sucks them up, not from across the room. Not sure why this clarification was necessary, but there it is.

Shippy's avatar

I’m just reminding everyone that the cats have gone, there are no cats.

syz's avatar

@submariner Vibrations from a vacuum cleaner do not kill fleas or flea eggs. The effectiveness of a vacuum cleaner is limited to the physical reduction in numbers due to being trapped in the machine.

The eggs are extemely hardy, and as pointed out above, a successful campaign usually requires a repeat treatment in 14 days so that you kill one of the vulnerable life cycles (larvae, pupa, imago) before new eggs are laid.

A less toxic option is to treat with borates or silicates or diatomaceous earth used as desiccants . It’s fairly effective. A faster, more effective option is a commercially available fogger. Follow the directions carefully for best effectiveness.

Various natural treatments may lower numbers or act as a deterent, but will not eliminate the problem.

snowberry's avatar

I have read numerous articles that the war against fleas took a huge turn for the better with the invention of the vacuum cleaner.

Shippy's avatar

@snowberry Yes, also reading that it helps loads. By the way, since I put down salt no fleas are jumping on me. A fluke? I don;t know, will keep you posted.

Bellatrix's avatar

If you have a flea infestation you are going to have to take a multi-pronged approach to eradicating them. Chemical measures (and almost certainly repeated) to kill the existing fleas and their eggs. Cleaning, I would vacuum or wash any soft furnishings before using the chemical treatments. Then blocking measures to stop the cats coming in. If you don’t stop the cats entering your place they will bring fleas back in with them and the cycle will begin again. In the meantime, use products to stop them biting you.

rooeytoo's avatar

If the cats are gone for good, I would buy some containers of flea powder and sprinkle it over the carpet and even upholstered furniture, let it set for a good while then vacuum. If that doesn’t work you can go stronger, but that is easy and cheap. You can also make flea traps that work okay. If you go to youtube, there are numerous vids about it. The most effective type I have seen is the light bulb over the sticky paper or tray of water. As @syz said, it is not a one time deal, it is a war of many battles.

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