Saturday, 1 October 2016

Fleas

Ugh... I so hate fleas and so does my dog. Most years we have no trouble at all. But this year and last year we really had a problem. The reason for that is that our tenant left our house flea infested, and in a bad state overall when we had to evict our tenant,and that tends to become a battle for quite a while I have noticed. I have never had to deal with a flea infestation so it was quite a steep learning curve to get this sorted. We first tried silicon flea killers. It did work, but not to my satisfaction. Then we added the lights with the sticky paper below it. That worked as well and when I combined it with the silicon flea spray it was even better, but still not ideal as they were still there, just in a hugely minimised amount.

So earlier this year I actually resorted to using the drops in the neck of our dog, this stuff was called advantage. That actually worked well for a bit, but since they have come back, despite having done it for the amount of time recommended. I guess they became resistant to the stuff. So this wasn't all perfect either and because that stuff has a huge list of potential risky effects mentioned in the insert I really didn't want to use that again and I also wondered whether it would do the job again as I am thinking the fleas may have ended up resistant to the toxins used in the drops. So I went on a search and found something that I love! The ingredients are natural and non-toxic, that really works well for me. It also has no chance of creating resistance, what's more to want :-) 
And because I love it so much and because it works so well I really had to share with you all :-) So here it goes!

The first ingredient we need is Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (also called DE)
DE is powder, which is quite soft, is made up of the fossilised remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. It quite resembles dry clay powder. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica. Under a microscope, DE is quite sharp, therefore it punctures the exoskeleton of insects and therewith causing them to die because they dehydrate. DE kills insects by physical action, not chemical, which is awesome, because that means that they cannot become resistant to it. The DE particles are so small so it just feels like a fine soft clay to humans and pets. It is simply the mineral silica. Food grade, fresh water DE is harmless to humans and pets.  

Next we need Neem powder. Neem is a herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a very effective herbal insect repellent, repelling fleas, ticks, lice, mites, ants and mosquitoes. Neem has a natural active ingredients that makes it effective . One substance of neem is called azadirachtin, it disrupts the metamorphosis of insect larvae, which means that they do not mature. So by preventing them from molting, Neem keeps the larvae from becoming mature and they then die without creating babies. Azadirachtin seems to so repulsive to insects that they won't touch anything with traces of neem on it. They would rather starve to death. 
Another neem substance is called salannin and that is just as effective of a repellent. In a few studies, it’s been shown to be more effective at repelling biting insects than those repellents containing the chemical concoctions containing deet.
Neem also has many moisturising properties and helps get rid of excess dryness and scaling. It helps with irritated skin as it calms the skin. The anti-bacterial properties of neem prevent any subsequent skin infection. Because DE can be quite dehydrating, neem helps protect your pet from dry skin as a consequence of its usage.  

And then you need Yarrow powder. Yarrow has been used for a very long time and all over the globe. See my other post on yarrow. It is very well know as a wound healer. Therefore it is considered a sacred herb by many cultures. Yarrow also has anti-inflammatory properties, which is great with insect bites and skin conditions. It calms irritated skin. It is also anti-microbial and has pain relieving properties. Because pets with fleas tend to get secondary infections from flea bites, yarrow protects your pet from those and also helps calm the red, irritated skin that tends to happen because of the flea bites.  

And last we need Eucalyptus Essential Oil (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus citriodoro). Eucalyptus oil is a natural bug and insect repellent. There is evidence that some of the components of eucalyptus oil are similarly effective as deet.  Eucalptus oil also has great antiseptic properties for healing after bites.  If you prefer you could substitute with tea tree oil. It works similarly. I just prefer the scent of eucalyptus.

So how do we make this. It is actually quite easy.

Here is the recipe for homemade flea powder:

Ingredients:
1 cup food grade diatomaceous earth
1/2 cup neem powder
1/2 cup yarrow powder
20 drops eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil, leave this out when you are using it for cats.

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together and put it in a jar and shake. After that you need to find a way to get the powder distributed somewhat evenly over your house and pet. So a sieve or a flour sieve would work well. If you have a icing shaker jar or such, that would be ideal. 
Put it on your pet from head to tail alongside its spine while its coat is dry. Brush its fur going the opposite direction so the powder comes very well in contact with the skin. Make sure you avoid the eyes and nose. Rub the powder on the belly and legs. Try to get the flea powder on as much skin as you can.
Fleas like the warm areas of your pet, so they are more likely to be in the oxters and around the tail and on the belly, so make sure you get those areas well covered.

How often do we need to reapply this.
To use it during the normal flea season, spring/summer, just applying once a month should do. When your pet gets wet from the rain or so you need to reapply.  

If you have a flea infestation, like we ended up with.
Then you will need to do it more often. I have found once a week to be working well, but I have heard from people who do it daily to make it work. It just depends on how bad the infestation is I guess.
You will also need to put this flea powder to your floors, windowsills, door sills, your pets bed and such. Make sure you put it properly in the ares where your pet spends the most of its time, fleas and their eggs will be the mostly found in those areas. Just dust it over those areas in your house and leave it there. Vacuum the next day. Do this once a week for 4 weeks and you should be rid of them.   

I have read that this mix also works well against ticks and other insects. I haven't noticed that yet as our dog doesn't often end up with a tick. Usually once in a blue moon and we just remove it. So I'm not too fussed about that. 

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. I'd love to hear from you.