It’s Time for Sustainable Natural Flea Control
While bees and butterflies are struggling to survive the gauntlet of insecticide the human race has set out, it seems that pests and biting insect are thriving in spite of all our efforts to destroy them. It is more than likely these efforts to kill all fleas, ticks, & mosquitoes are creating a race of “super suckers” bent on seeking us out and draining us of our life source. On Future Farm this plague of Superbugs currently includes fleas, fleas, and more fleas.
The fleas started EARLY this year and got a jump on us, literally. We’ve been trying to get them out of the house for 4 months. We’ll be prepared for next year, starting NOW with some all natural flea prevention.
Before you read anything else, READ THIS. Cleaning your house regularly is the BEST and SAFEST way to both prevent a flea infestation and get rid of one. Soapy water kills fleas. Vacuuming (every 1 to 3 days) removes them. I put a little DE in my vacuum to ensure their demise. Sweeping and mopping regularly will prevent or eliminate an infestation in your house. Combined with the suggestions below you can effectively prevent and remove fleas without the toxic chemicals that cause cancer in pets and children. Keep in mind that even natural remedies can cause issues for sensitive individuals and pets, so introduce natural remedies with caution.
Apple Cider Vinegar (Detterent)
Let me be clear. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) will NOT kill fleas. But they don’t like the way it smells or tastes, so it is a good way to help keep them away if you’re pets and home are not already infested.
A one to one mix of ACV and water can be sprayed about on pets (cover their eyes!), rugs, bedding and furniture (not plants or the lawn!). Soaking items in vinegar might seem extreme, but once an item is dry you really don’t smell the vinegar unless you get real close…or unless you are a flea.
You can also bathe your pets, rinse and then use a one to one mixture of ACV as a leave in conditioner. This is good for their coat and will help deter fleas.
Some sites on the internet claim that drinking ACV will also deter them from biting since it will make the blood more acidic. The body is very good at regulating it’s acidity level, so it would be very hard for you or your pet to drink enough ACV to change your blood acidity. However, if you can get your pet to drink a lot of ACV, it will affect the acidity of their urine, and if they are peeing in the yard (rather than in a litter box) that might help deter fleas. Spoiler alert, pets do not like the taste of vinegar. So your best bet is applying the vinegar to their coat which has the added bonus of making it healthy and shiny.
Essential Oils (Deterrent)
Much like ACV, essential oils are simply a deterrent to fleas. Effective essential oils include Cedar, Lavendar, Peppermint, Clove, Lemongrass, Citronella (not for cats), and Thyme. I do not recommend actually putting these on your pet due to sensitivity. ACV is probably the safest option for pets, but there are many sites with instructions on how to “safely” use EO for pets on the web. One could also plant Peppermint (beware it will take over), creeping Thyme and Citronella in the yard to ward off hungry fleas.
There are also some commercial natural options that use essential oils in both powder and spray form. You can create these yourself. Here are two generic recipes:
Carpet Powder = 1/2 c baking soda + 1/2 c food grade diatomaceous earth +10 drops essential oil
Flea Spray = ¼ cup of distilled water + ¼ cup of witch hazel + 15 drops essential oils
But they are relatively inexpensive at the store (always review the ingredients). When you work full time, have fleas and a toddler, it can be hard to find time to make them yourself. If you have time, a quick internet search will bring up loads of recipes on the “best” flea powder and spray recipes.
First, clean up your yard, porches and carport and mow your lawn. Fleas like nice damp warm areas to lay their eggs, so the more stuff they can get under, the more fleas you will have.
Deter wild animals (and the neighbors outdoor cats) from coming near your house. We have a nuisance raccoon on Future Farm and he is part of the problem.
Using a hose end sprayer featuring dial settings to automatically apply the precise amount of a product, you can treat you lawn with several natural options. You can also treat by hand if you have plenty of time and no hose end sprayer.
We’ll start with dish soap because this is something everyone has around the house. In the evening, fill the hold on your hose end sprayer and add approximately 1 oz of dish soap. It is best to spray in the evening, because the dish soap is most effective when it is wet. This will give the soap the evening, overnight and hopefully into the morning to work on killing the fleas in your lawn. The next day, water the lawn to keep the roots and ground moist. In the evening repeat application of dish soap. Repeat for 10 to 12 days to the next generation of fleas as they hatch.
WARNING: This will kill bugs in the lawn indiscriminately, though it is most effective on soft bodied arthropods such as aphids, mealybugs, psyllids and spider mites. It is not well understood how soap kills bugs. Some say the soap coats bugs and suffocates them, others that the soap removes a bugs protective wax/oils and the bugs dry out (dessication).
WARNING: Dish/hand soap can damage some plants (depending on the make-up and concentration), unlike insecticidal soap which is essentially potassium salt of fatty acids which have been selected to minimize potential plant injury. Learn more about how to make a soap solution that is safe for your prized plants from your local state extension online or from the Colorado Extension.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is basically the fossilized remains of diatoms (a type of phytoplankton). Use food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Why? Because it is safer to accidentally inhale food grade DE. Non-food grade DE can cause health problems if inhaled. Food grade DE is about as dangerous as regular old dust (which honestly could be more dangerous than DE down south, if you have that insidious mold we get here).
Food grade DE can be found online, but call your neighborhood farm supply store first (shop locally!). DE is used to treat worms in farm animals and deter pests in barns and chicken coops. I have a 50 lb bag. If you are a homesteader like me it will come in handy. In addition to those uses listed above there are TONS of ways you can use this around the homestead and even ways to use it for health and wellness. A quick search on DuckDuckGo will find all kinds of ways to use DE, some more credible than others, but your giant bag of DE won’t go to waste. And you don’t have to worry about bugs getting into it…
It’s still a good idea to wear a mask if you are sprinkling it dry to avoid inhalation, especially if you are asthmatic. You can sprinkle the DE around by hand or using an old yogurt container with holes poked in the lid. Just fill it up, secure the lid and give it a good squeeze well away from your face, it puffs out the holes giving a nice spread and getting in all the cracks and crannies, but creating a bit of a dust cloud.
For a faster more even way of spreading DE, use a hose sprayer, of the type found in home and garden stores to spread fish emulsion. Be sure to agitate the sprayer regularly to re-suspend the DE which will want to sink to the bottom. The DE will not be effective at killing the fleas until it is dry. So doing this on a nice hot day will help evaporate the water as quickly as possible leaving behind dry DE.
If you live in South Mississippi like I do there is a good chance the DE will NEVER dry out, so I use the yogurt squeeze method. I apply in a ring about 5 ft wide all the way around the house and along the interior and exterior walls of our screened in porch.
WARNING: DE will also kill bugs indiscriminately. DE will kill any bug with an exoskeleton by compromising their waxy coating so that their innards dry out.
The nematode Steinerma carpocapsae is a flea parasite. Nematodes bore holes into the host insect’s body and release a bacteria to predigest the insect, killing the bug within 48 hours. Nematodes do not harm pets, humans or plants. You can likely get this nematode at your local home and garden center, but if not you can order them online. Again you are going to apply these nematodes with a garden hose end sprayer. The nematodes will come with instructions on the amount of water to use and some even come with their own end hose sprayer.
The nematodes will have the highest survival rate if you spray them in the evening or during a cool overcast or rainy day. The more nematodes that survive, the more adult fleas, larvae and pupa they can kill in the grass and soil. Make sure to apply the nematodes soon after adding water, as they will not survive for an extended period of time in the sprayer.
Your House is Infested! Now What?
Clean Like You’ve Never Cleaned Before! Vacuum, mop and wash bedding religiously. Seriously. It’s the only thing that really works to get rid of the fleas. Especially if you have a pet (or spouse) that is constantly going in and out of the house and between rooms carrying in new fleas.
You can use a light trap (a trap with a small light and a sticky pad or dish of soap underneath) to capture and kill fleas. This really does more to tell you if there are still fleas in the house than it does to actually get rid of the fleas. But it makes you feel good to see all those dead fleas.
Keep a jar of soapy water nearby to drop fleas in when you find them crawling on you or your pets. I always have one of these handy since we are constantly fighting fruit flies. Fruit fly trap = one part vinegar + three parts water + squirt of dish soap.
Expert Tip: You can sweep Food Grade DE into all the cracks and crannies or work it into the carpet and just leave it there to kill fleas continuously. This works really well on old hard wood floors.
This is actually our second round of defeating a flea infestation. The first time was on Cape Cod, and now in South Mississippi. So I can speak to the effectiveness of these techniques for us both in a Northern and Southern climate.