Houston's Ultimate Guide To Flea Prevention: Keep Your Pets And Home Safe
Close up picture of a Flea

Houston's Ultimate Guide To Flea Prevention: Keep Your Pets And Home Safe

Fleas are common pests in the Houston area, but you may still not know all that much about them. For instance, seeing a tiny flea and a larger flea might make you think that one is a baby and the other is an adult. But, what you're actually seeing are two different species of flea. Misconceptions like this can lead to improper flea control. That is why we recommend having your flea problems dealt with by a licensed professional. If you need pest control services in Houston for fleas, contact us. Your Modern Pest Control team uses advanced solutions that provide a residual impact and fully arrest flea activity in your home. If you don't have a flea problem yet, there are ways you can prevent one. Join us as we outline all the facts you need to know to deter fleas and guard against the health risks associated with these pests. We're digging deep today and sharing some facts we're sure you've never heard about fleas. Let's get started! 

Flea Identification: What Do They Look Like?

If you're hoping to keep fleas off your pets and out of your home, the first step is learning to identify them in all of their stages of development and understand what warning signs they provide in each stage. We'll cover more than what fleas look like. We'll drill down and unpack all the details you need to understand flea problems.

Flea Eggs: The best place to start thinking about flea control is before a flea hatches. But flea eggs aren't easy to detect. They are small white specks that look a bit like dandruff. If you scratch your pet and notice tiny white specks on your fingers, you may have discovered a flea infestation. However, you're likely to brush the debris off and disregard it. We hope you don't.

Flea Larvae: When fleas emerge from their eggs, you would expect them to look like little tiny, six-legged insects, right? Actually, they don't. Flea larvae are tiny, wiggly worms. When you brush your pet's fur and part it enough to look at the skin, you may see these tiny worms on your pet. You may also find them if you closely examine pet bedding. But they're smaller than 1/16 of an inch which makes them hard to see. What you're more likely to see is black flea dirt, also referred to as flea dust. This is the waste matter of adult fleas and is about the size of baby fleas. Flea larvae don't spring through the air and don't bite you to draw a blood meal. They feed on the flea dirt to get the blood they need for development. Often, eggs and flea larvae fall off, and larvae develop away from the host animal. Look for the flea dirt to find the baby fleas. It is much easier to see black fecal matter than tiny, white worms, even though their dirt-colored gut is visible through their skin.

Flea Pupae: When a flea has eaten enough flea dirt, it passes through the pupal stage. In this stage, you won't see the flea. What you'll see is the cocoon material. Flea cocoons have a crystalline appearance, but due to their size, you may not notice this and mistake them for lint balls or food debris. They are sticky to the touch and roughly a 1/10 of an inch long. The flea will develop into an adult within the cocoon and wait for a potential host to come near. They can wait in this stage for up to five months under the right conditions. Inside your home, fleas won't stay cocooned for long, particularly if you have a pet. 

Adult Flea: Once a flea reaches its adult stage, it will be about ⅛ of an inch long. The size will vary with the species, but it won't vary drastically. The variance is only enough to make you wonder if one species is a baby flea and another is an adult. But you know better now. All adult fleas are insects with six legs; their back legs are oversized and powerful, allowing them to spring through the air to get onto their hosts. They don't prefer humans as hosts, as their bodies are designed for moving through hair or fur. While many insects are flat with a low profile, fleas are flat with a high profile. What this means is they are much taller than they are wide. They use this shape to quickly slide between hairs. They are a reddish-brown color, and their black fecal matter is visible within the abdomen. To the naked eye, a flea looks like a smooth, hard-shelled insect, but their bodies are actually covered with hairs. They use these hairs to hold to the hair or fur of the host animal. The hairs act a bit like velcro, making them difficult to remove from your pets.

Do you see how each stage of flea development is unique and how understanding these stages helps you to control fleas? Do you also see how frustrating fleas are to deal with when they get into your home and start biting you to get blood meals? But frustration is only the start. Let's look at the health risks associated with fleas and how you can protect your pets and family.

Health Risks Of Fleas: Protecting Your Pets And Family

Most of the time, fleas in Houston are just annoying. They bite you and your pets and leave itchy wounds on the skin. How do you stop flea bites from itching? There is no complete remedy to that itch. Health professionals suggest washing the wounds with soapy water to reduce the risk of infection. Take an antihistamine to block histamine receptors in your body. Doing this will reduce the allergic reaction. Apply hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, aloe vera, or rubbing alcohol to help with the itching and swelling. You can also apply a cold compress to help with the swelling and irritation. But these steps may not make that irritating itch go away completely.

The annoying itch is enough to make you want to keep fleas out of your home, but it is important to know some of the other risk factors. Fleas are able to spread diseases such as murine typhus, tungiasis, tularemia, and bartonellosis. Along with these diseases, fleas can give tapeworms to dogs and cats when ingested.

Not every flea is infected with a disease. In fact, the fleas that hatch inside your home and plague you with bites aren't likely to have come in contact with a diseased animal and contracted a disease. The risk level rises when pets are routinely bringing fleas in from outdoors because they can pick up fleas that have been contaminated by wildlife. It is also possible for your dog or cat to contract a disease, and when fleas bite them and subsequently bite you, they present a danger to your health. Some diseases have a low impact on dogs and cats but a high impact on human physiology.      

The best way to guard your health is to reduce fleas around your home. You can do this by managing wildlife activity, reducing moisture, and addressing flea habitats. Let's take a look at some specific examples.

Effective Flea Prevention: Tips For A Flea-Free Home

Whether you've found signs of fleas inside your home or you're hoping to keep fleas from harming you and your pets, these flea prevention tips will help. We'll start on the outside of your home, where wild animals carry flea eggs and flea dirt to key locations. Remember that the larvae that hatch from the eggs can't survive without the fecal matter from adult fleas. There are somewhat unique conditions that promote the development of fleas from larvae to adults, and you have some control over these potential breeding zones.

Wildlife Management: Since animals bring fleas into your yard, deterring wildlife can reduce flea populations. Here are some specific tips for birds, rodents, raccoons, deer, and more.

  • Refrain from feeding the animals: Do you put nuts down for squirrels, hang feeders for birds, or put out some other food source to attract animals? Keep these food sources away from your landscaping and shaded hiding places where animals like to live. 
  • Protect trash: Animals get into your trash. Some have the ability to open the lid, get what they want, and put the lid back down. If you open your trash and see your bags torn up, that is an indication that you have a wildlife pest rummaging in your trash. Use an elasticized cord to hold the lid tight. 
  • Remove yard clutter: Rodents prefer yards that have objects sitting on the soil or grass. They use these objects for navigation. Removing the objects will make it hard for rodents to move across your yard.
  • Move objects away from your exterior: Animals hide under, in, and around objects that sit near exterior walls. When they do, they're going to leave conditions for flea development. The simple solution is to store things away from your exterior.
  • Elevate wood: Animals hide inside brush piles, stacked wood, logs, junk piles, and more. If you create a structure that lifts these items off the soil, you can deter animals. A simple solution for brush piles is to store dead branches in a plastic tote.
  • Protect gardens, berry bushes, and fruit trees: Animals love natural food sources like these. Use fencing material to keep them from getting to their prize. If you have fruit trees, you may consider girdling the tree with sheet metal. Animals use their claws to scramble up tree bark. They are unable to dig into sheet metal. If the band of metal is high enough, they can't jump over it either.
  • Many animals love nuts: If you have trees that produce nuts, make sure to clean them up routinely.
  • Protect the void under your deck: Some animals get under decks and create nests. Apply hardware cloth or fencing material to keep them out. 

You don't have to completely rid your yard of animals. The goal is to reduce animal activity and prevent nesting.

Moisture Control: Fleas need moisture to survive. They're going to have a greater chance of survival in areas that tend to stay damp or humid. Here are a few examples of ways you can address moisture.

  • Clean your gutters. 
  • Install gutter breaks. 
  • Repair downspouts where there is leakage. 
  • Fix splash blocks where water is spilling over.
  • Trim bushes and shrubs.
  • Remove weeds and grass in your landscape.
  • Fix plumbing issues, such as leaking fixtures or sprinkler hoses.
  • Keep grass cut low.

All these tips will reduce the humidity around your home and deter fleas from finding appropriate habitats for development. If you need more protection than wildlife management and moisture control afford, consider getting flea control treatments.

Total Flea Elimination: Call The Pros Right Away!

Flea control in Houston is about more than eliminating fleas in your home. If you get rid of the fleas in your home, what is to stop them from continuing to come back? If you want total flea elimination, you'll need a complete solution. At Modern Pest Control, we can certainly eliminate the fleas in your home, but the greater service we offer is routine flea treatments around the exterior of your home. When conducive conditions are hard to correct or animals are hard to deter, routine treatments are essential. These treatments effectively control simple organisms and will not cause any harm to your dog or cat. If you have questions, we'd be happy to address them. We offer a simple and stress-free way to get answers. Navigate to our Contact Us page and fill out the short form. We can converse with you by email to get you what you need to make a decision about your flea control needs. Connect with us today for help with fleas and to learn more about our residential and commercial pest control services in Houston. Our friendly service team looks forward to assisting you.

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