Natural Flea Control
Fleas plaguing you
and your pets can be effectively eradicated
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The age-old scourge of fleas, usually associated with pet dogs or cats, can affect many of us. And while chemical-based flea treatments can be effective, they may pose health hazards to occupants as well as pets. Natural and non-toxic flea control methods are safer options. Most of the fleas are living in your pet's environment, rather than in its fur. Every flea found on your pet may mean that there approximately 30 more living in your home. A single flea can lay as many as 60 eggs per day. The lifespan of a flea is about 90 days, but the hibernating cocoon can survive up to a year without feeding. Controlling fleas does require effort, but there are safer and more effective ways to control fleas than chemical-based commercial flea control products.
Controlling Fleas Indoors
Combing your cat or dog daily with a flea comb is an important part of flea control. Bathing animals regularly is also advised. There is no need to use chemical flea shampoos. A water bath with a gentle soap that won't irritate their skin is sufficient to eliminate existing fleas. The best way to check your pet for fleas is to comb your pet with a fine-toothed flea comb, especially over the lower back near the tail base. You may pick up an adult flea, or you may collect black, pepper-like material.
Set a Trap
You can trap fleas by placing a dish of soapy water under a night light near where your pet sleeps. Fleas are attracted to warm light and will drown in the soapy water. This works for adult fleas only, but with diligence, can be effective at reducing the flea population. Fleas already residing on your pet aren't likely to leave, so you will still need to flea comb and/or bathe them in a mild shampoo. If the idea of keeping a soapy water dish near your pet is not attractive, plug-in flea traps (also called electric flea traps or lighted flea traps) are available. These electric traps are very effective.
Sanitize Your Pet's Environment
Fleas lay their eggs everywhere--in carpets, curtains, upholstery, animal bedding, cracks, and crevices. Destroying the fleas' eggs by thorough weekly vacuuming and frequent washing of animal bedding goes to the source of the problem and will help eliminate the flea population in your house. After vacuuming, be sure to replace the bag right away and take the old bag out of the house.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
Once your home is sanitized, defend against a recurrence of fleas and other insect pests by applying small amounts of diatomaceous earth throughout the home. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a remarkable, all-natural product made from tiny fossilized skeletal remains of unicellular plants called diatoms. But while DE may look and feel like talcum powder to us, to insects it is a lethal dust with microscopic razor-sharp edges which cuts the flea`s protective outer covering, leading to dessication and death. And while DE spells death to insects, it is harmless to humans and pets. (***Note: Do NOT use "pool grade" DE which is made for use in pool filters and treated with heat, causing the silicon dioxide to crystallize into free silica. Pool grade DE should never be used for pest control.)
Apply DE in places where fleas seem most prevalent: a dusting on the pet's bedding and the carpet or couch, a teaspoon under the baseboard heater, beneath the stove, near the sink, garbage or wherever you suspect fleas. DE can also be rubbed directly into the fur of your pet dog or cat.
The application of diatomaceous earth should continue after the resident flea population is exterminated. This is because tiny hibernating fleas in the cocoon stage may survive in the home environment up to a year without food. This stage can survive most treatments and can emerge to reintroduce the flea population in your home.
It only takes a small amount of diatomaceous earth to cover a large area indoors if it is strategically placed near problem areas or where fleas would likely hide. Since diatomaceous earth usually comes in a fairly large bag, the leftover can be saved since DE stores well, but it can also be used outdoors as an effective slug repellent.
Controlling Fleas Outdoors
While you can't kill off the fleas that your pet is going to encounter when it goes outside, you can keep the population down in the area around your house by using nematodes. These microscopic worms eat flea larvae and are therefore a natural way to control the flea population. You can purchase nematodes online, or at some pet and garden stores. Place them in moist, shady spots near your house; neither fleas nor nematodes survive in the hot sun. A lawn sprayer is commonly used for application, and within 24 hours the resident flea population is reduced up to 80% depending on area sprayed. As nematodes multiply rapidly, you have only to introduce a small initial number to have residual benefits.
Flea control nematodes, however, are not uniformly effective in all outdoor environments. Although research is inconclusive, evidence suggests that nematodes are most effective against fleas in moist, sandy soil. In most cases, nematodes will become dormant during cold weather, and any survivors would be few in number to provide adequate insect control the following spring. If your flea problems return the following year, another application of nematodes may be necessary.
Toxic products often masquerade as "natural." Even if all the ingredients in a flea repellent product are natural, this doesn't ensure that they won't be toxic to your pet. For instance, d-Limonene, which is derived from citrus peels and found in many natural anti-flea products, can be highly toxic to cats. Herbal flea collars, though they don't contain the poisons that conventional flea collars do, come with the same warning: do not let children play with the collar. If it's not good for your child, why would it be good for your pet?
It is advisable to read product labels carefully. For example, one line of supposedly natural flea sprays and dips contains "all natural synthetic Pyrethrin." Pyrethrins are insecticides derived from the African chrysanthemum (Pyrethrum). Pyrethroids are synthetic derivatives of pyrethrins. Both are commonly used in conventional preparations which make the product sound innocent because it's derived from a flower. But pyrethrins alone can be toxic to the animal and pyrethroids expose your animal to more chemicals.
Other natural ingredients known to cause allergic reactions or have toxic effects in some animals include Tea Tree oil and Pennyroyal oil. Cat owners take special note: the use of essential oils with cats is a potentially volatile combination. Cats do not efficiently metabolize essential oils and their use can lead to symptoms of toxicity. In addition to essential oils, cats have known metabolic sensitivities to certain herbal preparations and allopathic medications.
To learn more, and find non-toxic flea control products, please visit Eartheasy.com
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