Ninja fleas can't be killed?
November 11, 2008 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Yet another flea question. I know it's been asked many times before, but nothing has worked. We've tried bombing, professionals, borax, buying a new vacuum, capstar, frontline, flea shampoo, but they keep coming back. How can we rid ourselves of these pests for good?

We're going totally nuts. I say we just skip our lease and bulldoze the place, but the wife wants to "fix it" :). Here's some specifics:
* We have 2 dogs and 1 cat
* In their own room, we have a bunny and a chinchilla
* We have a 16 month old daughter, so I'm weary to introduce any more poison than we already have

We've been vacuuming non-stop for weeks, we even bought a canister vac with a bag (more suction and containment of the little buggers).

The professional (Western Pest) said they couldn't do much without knowing WHERE they were living. He ended up spraying around the house both inside and out, but wasn't too hopeful.

Please, any ideas, we're listening.
posted by slactoid to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Revolution? We had flea problems for months (2 cats) because Frontline stopped working, but Revolution did the trick.
posted by junkbox at 10:25 PM on November 11, 2008

OK, the experts I've consulted disagreed with my rationale, but it's worked for me in two separate cases. In one case, the infestation was so bad (newly purchased house) that the exterminators were bragging to each other about the place. The other time, I let my poor cat's fleas get out of control before I reacted strongly enough. Both times were Permanent Fixes.

Fleas can live an amazing amount of time without food, BUT - they cannot hatch and survive the larval stage without a fairly moist environ. In the case of the house, that was the damp basement. In the kitty case (poor girl!), it was her litter box (pee = always damp).

Find the source of water - it might be nothing more than a fairly humid part of the house: a carpeted area under "sweating pipes", a damp sill, etc. Do all you can to keep it dry (continual fan blowing, for instance).

Next, declare chemical warfare. Not the COMPLETELY USELESS foggers - I've used 5x the legal dosage of not-OTC pro foggers; they do NOTHING. Not pro exterminator sprays - they'll kill 95-99% of the critters, but that's not good enough.

Fill an insecticide sprayer with a 50/50 bleach and water solution. Put on goggles, and some sort of breathing protection to keep the mist out of your body. Work quickly, and inundate the moist area with bleach. It will destroy any carpet in the area, of course, but spotting to woodwork will probably be light to negligible. Kill their young, eggs & all.

Leave the area closed up overnight, letting the deadly chlorine gas do its ominous work. Did I mention you should remove all pets first, especially birds? Oh, and depending on where it is in the house, you might need to sleep with windows open & a fan on.

Show no mercy. Find their nursery (the damp spots in your house), and go all Saddam on them with chemicals. Then keep the area as dry as possible.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:04 PM on November 11, 2008

The only thing that's going to work is thorough, daily vacuuming, and treating or separating all blood reservoirs -- i.e. putting all animals on Frontline or Advantage or housing them in the garage until you break the cycle.

Also be aware there will be leftover eggs hatching from carpets and bedding for awhile, so be patient and persistent.
posted by crapmatic at 11:04 PM on November 11, 2008

(also I don't mean all or nothing for Advantage or Frontline... I mean put the dog and cat on it and put the rabbit in temporary quarters, or some such)
posted by crapmatic at 11:06 PM on November 11, 2008

Fleas are heat sensitive, at night they tend towards the walls, during they day they move toward the center of the room, you can catch a bunch by using a trap at night, a desk lamp over a big pie pan of soapy water in the center of the room. Tapeworms sometimes play a role in all this too.
posted by hortense at 11:21 PM on November 11, 2008

Tapeworms sometimes play a role in all this too.
posted by hortense at 2:21 AM on November 12 [+] [!]

posted by IAmBroom at 11:28 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

105 degree heat will supposedly kill flea eggs. Don't ask me how that is practical in NJ, but if you can't heat the whole apt to that temperature, at least throw bedding and area rugs in the dryer for 10 minutes or so. Plus the advantage and vacuuming.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:26 AM on November 12, 2008

Nthing trying a different topical flea killer (Frontline/Advantage/Revolution).

For temporary relief that won't poison any of your wee cohabitators, try mixing up lavender essential oil and water in a squirt bottle and spraying it on your bedding/ankles/etc. The last time we had a flea infestation, this was actually more effective for us as a get-the-hell-off-me measure than Deep Woods Off, Skin-so-Soft, etc.

Plus, it smells nice instead of chemical-y, and the smell's theoretically relaxing, which you may need if you've been going mental from fleas all over you all the time.
posted by Gianna at 4:39 AM on November 12, 2008

Can the pets live outside until the baby is older and better able to handle being exposed to nasty chemicals?

Can you get rid of the carpet? If you provide free labor the landlord may go for this and put in laminate at least.

Can the pets sleep in one room by them selves at night where the baby never goes?

When we were in the same situation (having fleas and not wanting to expose a bay to harsh chemicals) we had a lot of luck with putting pie tins on the floor filled with soapy water. Maybe just at night when the baby is sleeping. It helps to have a light shining on the water. This will kill many fleas.

But we finally just gave up the battle and made the cat live outside.
posted by cda at 4:45 AM on November 12, 2008

In my first college apartment, it was totally infested when I moved in. I tried a lot of quickie fixes that failed. The solution was to buy about 4 cans of flea powder (you know, the kind with the perforated top that you shake the stuff out of? Yeah, that stuff) and completely coat/saturate every single floor surface with it.

Then I moved into a friend's place for a week. When I came back, I vacuumed up the thousands of little flea carcasses. I never had another problem after that.
posted by empyrean at 5:11 AM on November 12, 2008

Sounds wierd, but it works. I had 'em real bad a few years ago. Could not get the stalks so put peals in aluminum pie pans under the furniture, etc. Worked in the car also.
Google 'bananas flea control'
posted by raildr at 6:53 AM on November 12, 2008

Crapmatic has it. You need to vacuum everything (carpet, drapes, furniture) daily, and treat the critters with Advantage or Revolution, and be patient. Vacuuming sucks up the eggs and pupae, Advantage or Revolution (and sometimes Frontline) gets rid of the adults. The important thing to remember is to throw out the vacuum bag in the outside trash (or empty the canister) immediately after vacuuming. If you don't do this the fleas will crawl out of the bag back into the environment. Bombing and household chemicals don't provide long-term solutions.

I have a friend in Alabama who has to rotate the different topical flea treatments (Frontline, Advantage, Revolution) because it appears that the fleas there show resistance (despite what studies are saying).

Fleas do transmit the flea tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. Easy to treat as well.

Patience and persistence are the keys to success.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:37 AM on November 12, 2008

Another point that Frontline has stopped working. We went back to Advantage and that still seems to work. Your vet would be able to get dose information for the chins and bunny.
posted by dilettante at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2008

Rabbits are very sensitive to chemicals, so while you can't necessarily use something on them, you can use things near them. I used to use flea powder like this back when I had a problem. I imagine your rabbit/chin set up has them off the ground a short ways, so you can dust under them without getting powder in their cage.

Also, you can try boric acid or diatomaceous earth around the bun and chin instead. I've never used it, so I can't say for sure how well it would work.

Oh and pretty much everything is toxic to people. Breathing diatomaceous earth is pretty hazardous.

posted by fiercekitten at 9:09 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and you can wash your rabbit. It's not like washing a cat at all. They try to get away, but it just doesn't seem to bother them as much as the same treatment bothers a cat.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:10 AM on November 12, 2008

There needs to be flea powder in the vacuum. I always dusted the carpets with it, then vacuumed, but if it's toxic to the baby, just put it in the vacuum bag. Otherwise, you may be distributing them. The flea powder kills the ones in the vacuum bag.
posted by theora55 at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2008

If flea powder is in the bag or on the carpet it is going to be airborne for up to two hours after vacuuming.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:30 PM on November 12, 2008

Try using an oral like Program in addition to Frontline and/or Advantage separated by a couple of weeks (talk to your vet about how to do this safely). Wash ALL bedding in hot water at least weekly (beds, cushions on the couch, anything that can go in the washing machine). It can take 3-4 months of topical/oral meds for the pets, plus daily vacuuming (make sure you are either taking the bag out to the garbage, or spraying inside the vacuum with something like Vet Kem or Zodiac every time), plus indoor sprays like Vet Kem or Zodiac everywhere, plus at least weekly hot water bedding washing to kill off a big infestation. This has been a very good year for the fleas.
posted by biscotti at 3:57 PM on November 12, 2008

I agree with Biscotti about using Program in addition to topical treatment such as Frontline or Advantage. One good way to do this is to start the Program first and then wait a bit ( as long as you can tolerate), the reason for this is that Program is basically just birth control for fleas. You want to start the Program prior to using the topical treatment, because the product only works if fleas are biting the treated animals which they will not do if said animal is also being treated with a topical (at least an effective topical) treatment. Now the reason I say to do this for as long as you can tolerate, is because the average life span of the flea is 2 to 3 months. Alternatively, you could just use the Advantage topical product and after about 6 months you will see some environment control as well as fleas on the actual animal control. Supposedly this is because the product adheres to animal dander even after it is shed. This can take a while, and isn't the most effective way to address an out of control flea infestation. Watch out for Advantix v.s. Advantage though as Advantix can be toxic to cats. If you must use this product on your dogs, then make sure you can isolate them from your cat for at least 24 hours. Also, are your dogs primarily inside or out? What about the cat? Do your neighbors have pets that are primarily outdoors? Are you routinely treating your backyard for fleas?
posted by citizngkar at 12:05 AM on November 13, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the responses!
We've started implementing some of the ideas already.

A few updates on our situation:
* The cat is only indoors. He does sit in the window (with a screen) in the warm months, and we've heard that it's possible to get fleas that way
* We are renting, but it's a whole house
* The dogs go out many times each day, and we give the big dog a long walk each day

citizngkar: how do you suggest I treat the lawn?
posted by slactoid at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2008

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