It started with your dog scratching, but now they’re everywhere. In the carpet, in your clothes, and you have dozens of tiny bites all over your body. You even see a few crawling across your couch. And for every six fleas you see, there are 300 others hidden all over your house.

It’s bad enough that these tiny acrobatic insects bite you whenever they’re hungry, but fleas also carry diseases. They were associated with the black plague that killed 25 million people in Europe in the 14th century.

About 200 million people have died of this plague, which is carried by rats and transmitted to the fleas that bite them. Humans contract this disease from the bite of an infected flea. Nowadays, a few cases of bubonic plague are still recorded in the U.S. each year, mostly in the southwest states. So, how can you escape these gross critters?

Why won’t insecticides kill them? Where are their favorite hiding spots? And how could cedar chips help you get rid of fleas?

Step 1. Use heat

Adult fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of their host. Their life cycle lasts 18 to 21 days. Before becoming adult fleas, the larvae transform into pupae in a silk cocoon, and they remain in that state for 2 to 4 weeks. The cocoon resists insecticides. But only 5% of flea infestations are attributed to adult fleas. The other 95% is due to flea eggs, larvae and cocoons.

Steam cleaners can help you get rid of fleas at all stages of their life cycle. The combination of soap and heat is deadly for these critters, so you may want to wash all your bedding in hot water and dry at the highest heat too.

Step 2. Vacuum

Fleas are an average of 2.5 mm long (0.1 in), wingless and reddish-brown. And they have long legs for jumping up to 33 cm (13 in). Due to their tiny size, cracks and other tight spaces are their usual hiding spots. And since these could be hard places for you to reach, vacuuming will be your best ally. And don’t forget to dispose of the vacuum’s contents after using it. You don’t want those creepy insects coming back.

Step 3. Don’t go on vacation

These invasive suckers like to live in fabrics and carpets. And they reproduce extremely quickly, so if your pet has fleas, you don’t want to leave the problem unattended. Katie, a woman from Ashford, England battled a flea infestation for more than four years.

It started when she left for a holiday and left her dog Jet, who had fleas, home. When Katie returned, fleas had invaded the whole house. She treated her dog and used fumigation bombs, but the fleas kept popping up until she eventually had to recarpet her whole house.

Step 4. Comb your pet

Fleas are flexible with their meals. Cat fleas will bite and feed on dogs, cats, humans and some outdoor animals like rodents, foxes and opossums. To avoid getting them in your house, it’s a smart idea to treat your pets regularly for fleas. Wash your pet using a flea shampoo and a flea comb, and submerge the comb in soapy water after you comb through your pet’s fur. Give special attention to the neck and tail areas.

Step 5. Spread cedar chips

Tall grass is also a good hiding place for fleas. Mowing your yard regularly, raking the exposed areas thoroughly and removing all debris will help you get rid of fleas. Also, you can spread cedar chips where your pet likes to lie down since cedar can repel these jumping parasites.

Well done. You followed the steps and survived a flea infestation. But all it takes is one flea bite to transmit the plague to you. Would you know what to do if you caught it?

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