Fleas are irritating for you and your pets. They are annoying and seem impossible to get rid of unless you resort to flea sprays that have harsh chemicals. What if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals in your home or on your lawn? Thankfully, there is an effective, organic alternative to eradicate those pesky fleas.
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural substance mined from the earth. We’re digging into what it is, how it can combat fleas, and how you can use diatomaceous earth in your home. It’s typically a more natural option than flea foggers or a flea trap.
First, let’s talk a little bit about fleas and how they survive. Understanding a little about fleas helps when we talk about how diatomaceous earth affects them.
What You'll Learn
- 1 Why FLeas Are Trouble
- 2 What is Diatomaceous Earth?
- 3 Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas
- 4 Using Diatomaceous Earth on Your Lawn or Garden
- 5 How to Use Diatomaceous Earth
- 6 Wrap Up
Why FLeas Are Trouble
Fleas are small, wingless insects that don’t look frightening at all on their own. However, you don’t usually come across a solo flea. Fleas mean trouble for homeowners because they multiply quickly and cause problems for everybody in the household.
Why are fleas so problematic? These tiny insects carry and transmit an array of diseases and parasites to unsuspecting hosts. Fleas spread one of the most horrifying pandemics in human history, The Black Death, which killed more than half of Europe’s population during the 1300s.
Today, fleas don’t kill millions of people. However, they can still carry three types of plague, typhus, and parasitic tapeworms. It’s extremely rare for humans to die from a disease contracted from a flea, but many flea-borne illnesses affect smaller mammals and birds.
To understand fleas, you need to know how they grow, develop, and reproduce. Fleas survive on the blood of a host, which means they are parasites. Adult fleas actually develop a dependence on host blood.
Fleas progress through four life stages. These stages are egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Each stage means something different for the flea in terms of appearance and diet.
- Flea eggs hatch within a few days up to a few weeks.
- Newly hatched fleas are called larvae.
- Larvae have no legs but remain highly mobile during this phase.
- Larvae exist on the excrement from adult fleas.
- This stage lasts from five days up to two weeks.
- The pupal stage involves the flea retreating into a cocoon.
- Fleas can survive in the cocoon for up to five months.
- During this time, they wait for a stimulus.
- This could be a vibration, to alert them to the presence of a host.
- As a flea emerges from the cocoon, it immediately seeks a host.
- It’s looking for its first blood meal.
- It takes a few days for the flea to fully mature.
Once fleas mature into adults, they can survive several months on the blood of a host. Further, mature female fleas can lay more than two dozen eggs per day and can consume more than 15 times their body weight. Factoring in the average lifespan of an adult flea, one female could lay more than 2,000 eggs in a lifetime.
Signs of an Infestation
You don’t want to think about it, but catching the signs early is in your best interest. The sooner you tackle a flea problem, the better.
- Jumping fleas can be visible on pets, furniture, and carpet.
- Pets may scratch, itch, or bite their fur more than usual.
- You may even notice fur loss in response to the fleas.
- Look at your bed and your pet’s bedding for signs of flea eggs.
- They are powdery, white mounds.
- Also look for flea feces (brown flecks that look like pepper).
- Fleas leave physical evidence of their bites.
- Flea bites appear in the form of red welts and bumps that sting.
- If you notice the spots on you or your pets, you may have fleas.
How Fleas Get Into Your Home
It’s easy to figure how a fly or mosquito works their way into your home, but how does a tiny, wingless flea make it through the door? Fleas hitch a ride on pets and people. They love furry animals, so your dog or cat could easily pick them up outside and carry them in without you knowing.
Fleas can also lay dormant for months during a specific stage of development (pupal stage). If you move into a home that sat empty for a while, you could have a flea infestation on your hands.
Why Fleas Are Hard To Kill
Fleas are tiny, but they are surprisingly difficult to kill. Unlike other insects, they have armored bodies for protection. Fleas also jump surprisingly far for such small insects.
You can’t squish them and they’re extra mobile. Factor in the ability to reproduce at an alarming rate and a small flea problem can evolve into a full infestation fast.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance that looks and feels like sand. It’s extracted from the earth and made up of diatoms (fossilized microscopic algae skeletons). Diatomaceous earth is primarily made of the chemical compound silica, but it also contains trace minerals.
Types of Diatomaceous Earth
There are two types of diatomaceous earth, food grade and filter grade. It is necessary to understand the difference between the two types because one is toxic to humans and other animals.
Food grade diatomaceous earth is used as an insecticide. It is approved by the EPA, USDA, and FDA for use in the agricultural and food industries. Some people also suggest that diatomaceous earth has wellness properties when ingested, though not inhaled because it could damage the lungs.
Filter grade diatomaceous earth only has industrial applications, like the production of dynamite. Since it contains 60% or more crystalline silica, it is toxic to mammals.
Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas
We know that flea infestations wreak havoc on a home and that a quick reaction is critical. Now that you understand the basics of fleas and what diatomaceous earth is, it’s time to apply it.
How Diatomaceous Earth Kills Fleas
As noted above, fleas are notoriously difficult to kill because of their hard shells. However, diatomaceous earth takes a mechanical approach to eradicate the insects.
Though diatomaceous earth looks powdery, it is scratchy and comprised of microscopic particles with rough edges. The powder is small and sharp enough to cut through the shell. As the diatomaceous earth sticks to the flea, it absorbs moisture from the insect. Eventually, the flea dries up and dies from dehydration.
Diatomaceous Earth Safety
Diatomaceous earth is a popular insecticide for dealing with fleas, but you need to exercise caution to use it safely. It has been approved for use as an insecticide. People have used diatomaceous earth since the 1970sprotect agriculture and control a host of insect species, including fleas, cockroaches, and ants.
Today, many people choose diatomaceous earth because it doesn’t contain poisons, making it safe to use in gardens and around pets. It’s also easy to apply and effective at eradicating even the hardiest insects.
Using Diatomaceous Earth on Your Lawn or Garden
Fleas love the warmth of a good lawn, and they hitch a ride with local animals and birds. It doesn’t take much to pick up those pesky buggers and carry them into your home. Of course, you don’t necessarily want to cover your yard with chemicals, especially if you like to spend time in it.
Choose the Right Diatomaceous Earth Product
Every treatment starts with the right tools to do the job safely and effectively. You want to choose a product that targets fleas, so be sure to read the label to make sure it’s a food grade form that works on fleas.
To treat lawns, diatomaceous earth comes in three forms – dust, wettable powder, and pressurized liquid. You can choose the type that works best for your needs and what you’re most comfortable using.
You need to properly mix wettable powders and pressured liquids as instructed on the product label. They both require a garden sprayer to apply the product to your lawn. For dry diatomaceous earth products, you can sprinkle the product using a bulb duster or even a flour sifter.
Treating Your Lawn with Diatomaceous Earth
Start by seeking out hot spots to get the most out of your treatment. To find target areas, put on a pair of tall white socks, and systematically walk your lawn. Fleas, and some other insects, hop on your socks, and you can find hot spots to focus on.
Wait for a dry day to apply the treatment. Diatomaceous earth only works when it is dry. If you have heavy rain, strong winds, or excessive dewfall, you probably need to do another application.
Make sure you wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and goggles to apply the diatomaceous earth product to your lawn. Since it contains silica, you don’t want to inhale it diatomaceous earth in any form, so wear a respiratory dust mask for protection.
Remember, you don’t have to cover your entire lawn (and probably don’t want to), so target the hot spots and be methodical about your application to avoid harming beneficial plants and insects. You want to avoid beehives and applications during periods when bees are active.
Bonus Benefits of Using Diatomaceous Earth
Just because you chose diatomaceous earth to eradicate fleas doesn’t mean you can’t reap other benefits from using the product. Diatomaceous earth is an organic substance that has other uses.
- It will mprove your soil quality.
- Diatomaceous Earth improves water and nutrient retention.
- Sprinkle a little in your recycling and trash bins to eliminate odors.
- Deter slugs and snails from your garden.
- Diatomaceous earth doesn’t feel good on their skin, so they avoid it.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth
It makes sense to use diatomaceous earth in your yard because it’s an organic substance, but what about your home? Diatomaceous earth is safe to use around your pets and your family, even inside.
Using diatomaceous earth inside is slightly different than applying it outside. You still want to use gloves and a respiratory dust mask for protection, but there are some additional steps to ensure you eradicate all fleas.
Start with a Clean Slate
No, you don’t have to move everything out of your house, but you do need to thoroughly clean your home before using diatomaceous earth. Make sure you reach every crevice, nook, and cranny to collect as many eggs, larvae, and pupae as possible. Move your furniture around to get those tough-to-reach places.
Tip: use a vacuum with a bag so that you can dispose of the debris without handling any of it or risking exposure.
Apply the Diatomaceous Earth
Choose a spray bottle, squeeze duster, or Wilcox applicator to spread the diatomaceous earth on carpets, furniture, and curtains. You may want to sprinkle some in your linen closet if you know that you have fleas.
Let the product sit for at least 24 hours, up to four or five days. It is safe to sleep in a room with diatomaceous earth on the carpet as long as it has had time to settle.
You want to give the diatomaceous earth plenty of time to kill all of the fleas, but you don’t want to have eggs, larvae, pupae, or dead fleas hanging around. When you vacuum the carpeting and furniture, try to use a shop vac because diatomaceous earth is hard on regular vacuums. You can also use a carpet cleaner for a thorough clean.
For hardwood floors and baseboards, use a damp towel or broom and dustpan. Make sure you also wash all curtains, sheets, towels, and other linens that you treated. You don’t want to leave behind any remnants to restart the process.
If you don’t feel comfortable handling diatomaceous earth or have more questions about it, you may want to contact a professional exterminator. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional to handle your problem because they have knowledge, experience, and tools that you don’t.