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Can you vanquish fleas? May 4, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I expect all pet owners share with me a horror of flea infestations. A single flea and its offspring can apparently produce 8 million fleas in a single season. Yowie kazowie!

Our black German shepherd, Shiloh, receives her dose of Frontline, or poison as I call it, the first Sunday of every month to keep fleas and ticks at bay. I hate poisoning our best-beloved dog, but having experienced a flea infestation before, I know that I must subject her to this treatment. And by giving her Frontline, I don’t have to douse her two indoor companion cats with toxic chemicals every month, too.

I learned my lesson the hard way. When I bought this house years ago, the previous owners had a flea-infested indoor-outdoor cat, something they neglected to mention. I moved my two indoor-only cats in, and didn’t think a thing about it. Until they began scratching uncontrollably and my legs became covered with red lesions.

I tried spraying the house with organic controls. I took the poor cats in for flea shampoos, which almost killed one of them. The only thing that ultimately worked was the Frontline-like fluid that emulsified on their skin and killed adult fleas and kept juveniles from maturing. I can’t now remember what that pre-Frontline product was called, but it did do the trick. The cats, the house, and I were finally flea-free.

As an amateur historian, I’ve of course wondered about the flea situation in pre-Frontline generations. How did the courts of the kings of old, who allowed dogs into their great rooms, deal with the flea issue? How did the sentimental, pet-owning Victorians deal with fleas? Just this morning, I read that even the dinosaurs were infested with fleas, giant fleas with sharp, rasping mouthparts and clinging legs.

We now believe that we can vanquish fleas with our Frontline-like products, which keep juvenile fleas from maturing, making it impossible for them to breed new generations. Perhaps we can use these techniques to vanquish recurrent scourges like bedbugs as well. I’d just love to think that these toxic products wouldn’t have to be doused on our pets or us.

‘Til next time,




1. rumpydog - May 4, 2013

Jen treats our yard with food-grade Diatomaceous Earth to kill fleas outdoors, then uses products from the vet with us to ensure there are no fleas on us. Fleas can be a huge problem. When we once had an infestation, Sevin Dust swept into the carpet did the trick.

Oh, dear, rumpydog, sorry you had to resort to Sevin. But at least it sounds like, thanks to the DE and other measures, you’re now flea-free!

2. Frater Zee - May 4, 2013

Many flowers and leaves contain natural “aromatic” oils which are repellent or toxic (more or less) to bugs — fleas included. Evergreens, mints, and marigolds come to mind for starters. Ancients back in the day no doubt stuffed such leaves into the bedding of their dogs and themselves.

According to Plutarch (the historian), Homer (the poet) died of “exasperation” at being unable to guess the answer to this (flea-inspired) riddle:

“What we caught, we threw away; what we could not catch, we kept.”

The world’s shortest poem — titled “Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes” — addresses to your question directly:

“Adam had ’em.”

All this from a pre-internet (1950’s) edition of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”. Cheers.

Hey, Frater Zee! I know the mediaevals strew their floors with sweet rushes and aromatic herbs, but I’d assumed that was to cover the rotting smell of the bones and other detritus they tossed from their dining tables—and perhaps encourage the breakdown of same into compost—rather than as flea control. (Ironically, a modern restaurant chain, Logan’s Steakhouse, prides itself on strewing its floors with peanut hulls. Hmmm.) Interesting theory, thanks!

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