How to Catch Fleas




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

Having been laid up on the couch for a couple of weeks, I have come to discover what I had suspected all along, my apartment is infested with fleas. I've been making various efforts to get rid of the fleas, but it has been slow going since I have one arm in a sling and combatting fleas requires ungodly amounts of house cleaning.

Since I've been such a good host to these fleas, so many have moved in that I once in a while I might see one around. I've taken to catching them on pieces of tape and throwing them away (they are too small and too tough to crunch in your fingers). My girlfriend saw me doing this the other day and suggested that I should keep them in a jar (I suggested, in turn, that she should clean my apartment).

Anyhow, I took to her suggestion and have been catching fleas and placing them in a glass vial. Follows is everything you need to know to do it yourself.

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Step 1: Get Fleas

Before you can catch fleas, you have to get fleas. To do this I highly recommend having your roommate get a cat.

Make certain that she never brushes, cleans, or cleans up after it in any regard. It particularly helps if she doesn't give the cat flea medicine regularly. This will help increase your chances of getting fleas in your apartment.

Step 2: Become the Host

In order to really catch fleas, you need to become the host.

I found the best way to do this is to have a two prong approach:

1. Get rid of the old host (the cat)
2. The next day, get shoulder surgery and lay on the couch for two weeks where the cat used to sleep

Step 3: Spread the Infestation

Once your shoulder starts to heal, you can move from the couch back into your bed, bringing the fleas with you to establish a new colony.

The more you sleep in your bed, the more fleas there will be!

Step 4: Bait Them

Using yourself as bait, move all of your blankets to one side of the bed and yourself to the other.


You may want to spend the meantime doing physical therapy stretches. When you are done, ice your shoulder for ten minutes, and then sit up and look at your feet. With any luck you will find one!

If there are none on your feet, check your ankles.

If there doesn't appear to be any there, scan around you on the bed.

If you are unsure what a flea looks like or how to distinguish it from a piece of black fuzz or lint, you can tell something is a flea because unlike fuzz or lint, fleas dislike being poked with wooden skewers and hop away. Try experimenting by poking various black dots and see if any hop.

(I recommend wearing socks if you are going to use your feet as bait)

Step 5: Catch Them!

The easiest way to catch a flea is with a small piece of gaffers tape. Swiftly press the tape down upon the flea.

This will cause the flea to be stuck to the tape.

Step 6: Put It in the Vial

Open the glass vial and place the piece of tape over the top such that the flea is in the center. Wait a few minutes and the flea will usually manage to escape on its own and trap itself at the bottom of the vial. Quickly peel off the tape and cover it back up with the lid, as fleas are expert jumpers and prone to escape.

If the flea doesn't free itself on its own, you can use the wooden skewer to help it along. Simply slide it between the piece of tape and the glass jar and gently poke at it a few times.

Be extra careful with this step, because as mentioned, fleas are expert jumpers and looking to escape. It helps to do a count after you have the lid back on to make sure they are all still there.

Step 7: Use Your Fleas

There are so many uses for a glass vial full of live fleas, that I could not possibly list them all.

I have yet to decide what to do with my vial, but "circus" is definitely high on the list.

Other possibilities include sea exploration, random number generators and exposing them to gamma radiation (and then getting bit by one, hence acquiring for myself superhuman powers).

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    42 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent use of tape. During a recent epic battle against fleas that my tenant left behind, I found that diatomaceous earth is the most effective deterrent. It's available in gardening centers as a soil supplement. It's basically finely ground seashells. It looks like talc. On a microscopic scale it's like shards of broken glass. Simply sprinkle on the carpet (or whatever) and wait (I waited several days). Vacuum. Repeat. It works by literally cutting the fleas to death. The flea's shells are hard and provide protection, but they also keep the flea from dehydrating. Once cut, it's only a matter of time (minutes, hours) before they die. This is pretty much the only safe way to break their cycle. Good luck.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I second the diatomaceous earth recommendation, for anyone reading this. Spray it on your pets, for one thing. When I had a flea problem, I applied it to myself as well. [WARNING: it is considered potentially hazardous to breath the stuff in while you're applying it, especially if it is in powder form, as opposed to having been mixed with water and then sprayed on. So as you apply it, just hold your breath, or keep it away from your nose and mouth face -- same goes for your animals. Read the safety information before applying it to yourself or your pets, to make sure you know what you're doing]. I don't know that I would apply it to carpet(s), unless you only have a small carpet or happen to know exactly where the breeding ground is (neither were the case for me). If they're attacking you and/or your pet(s), then the most efficient means of getting rid of them is to put the diatomaceous earth on yourself and/or your pet.

    It stops their reproduction and kills them, but it only kills them after they've had time to contaminate their "nest" and the larvae (or whatever baby fleas are called), so it's your one-stop solution and it also works faster than probably anything else. And, as anyone who has a flea problem knows, the faster the better. At least if you plan on retaining your sanity.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Just to add something to this conversation (7 years late!) if you buy the "food grade" DE it's not harmful to breathe in. The other type (used in pool filters, etc) is a little more course and is harmful, like you said. I got a 10 pound bag from ebay for like $20 or some crazy cheap price. That was two years ago. It's still full...

    Animal rescuer tip (first one's free!): After you treat your pets, be certain to treat them AGAIN after 2 weeks. That should go a long way to killing them all.

    Animal rescuer tip #2 (this one will cost you $0.99, I take paypal!): If you buy the cheap kind (pool filter stuff) you can carefully put it around your house (where your pets can NOT get to!) and it will not only help keep fleas out, but ants and any other exoskeleton-type of insects as well.

    It's also noteworthy to mention that DE doesn't kill anything on contact. It ends up messing up the insides of the insect and they actually dehydrate (if I remember correctly). So you won't see them dying immediately as you watch them walk across it. But they don't last long at all...


    1 year ago

    I do have to add a comment though about fleas being hard to kill directly with your fingers. Although it is hard for fleas to be picked and killed one on one with your hands, using your fingers, there ARE techniques that you can do when you pick them off your pet if you're cautious enough. Our family dog is a small Maltese and because it's almost winter and we're now in the month of November, fleas have become a big problem for our dog Abby. I was so irritated to see her dig and scratch that once we got her hair cut from the groomers, I picked the fleas off as much as I could though because they are fast as lightning and jump within a second, I could only pick one at a time (catching multiple ones is not possible for me). Although they're feisty little parasites, I can grab and pull one off of her by pinching very firmly and not let go to avoid them jumping from my grasp. The key to killing them is that once you have one firmly between your fingers (ideally your thumb and your index finger), begin to roll them between your fingers and grind them very tightly so that not only can they not escape by being firm but grinding them by rolling them between your fingers can ensure that they're dead. I've killed many this way, one at a time though (as I've mentioned) because it's very hard to do with your hands and it's a task on it's own to catch and kill one with this method but it works. Once I roll and grind them, and stop and see the dead flea resting on my finger, I toss them out. Also it does help it you have long nails to crush them which is a more efficient way but my nails are now short and this is the only way to kill them hands on for me.

    To be realistic and efficient, if you want to get rid of fleas off your pet; you're going to have to do the necessary treatments such as flea baths, collar, medicine, pill, etc what have you and make sure your pet remains indoors as much as possible to prevent further infestation. I have already been bit in multiple areas myself just from being around our dog and it's driving me crazy that I itch so much at once to the point where I scratch my ankles, legs, top of my feet and arms raw. I can't imagine how my baby Abby is feeling with this problem. Having bowls of vinegar sitting around on your floor is a remedy we've used to get them out of our carpets and floors. I DO recommend a lice comb cause even though the lice comb is specifically stated for lice, I just tried it on our dog and it zaps and kills the fleas off of her surprisingly so bare that in mind too that a lice comb can be an efficient way to rid an ideal number of fleas in a quick manner although this is not a solution but something that I found that works and is something you all can do. Hope everyone sorts their issues out! ~Monica


    Reply 3 years ago

    Fleas live off blood and with no pets around , yes they do live off people. Either that or they go out to eat and return to taste my blood. No I doubly that but I do need a remedy for the itchy welts that are consuming me.


    5 years ago on Step 7

    You know what also works? Imidacloprid. "Advantage" topical flea medication. Just rub some on yourself. Fleas are paralyzed by it, and die of heart attacks (fleas have HEARTS? Okay, not really, but they do have a tube that pumps fluid around their bodies, and if this tube stops pumping, they die, and that's what imidacloprid does). Just for future reference.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    If you are looking for an alternative way to attract them,I believe using carbon dioxide attracts many small blood sucking insects (ticks, chiggers, fleas, bed bugs). They smell the carbon dioxide in your breath sooo anyways... whatever works


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is a cool Instructable I thought you'd like. Check it out!
    If you want to get rid of the fleas even in a sling you can do do it youself pest control, go to a professional pest control supply place-they will sell to you. Get a flea killer and precore, precore steralizes the fleas so they cannot have anymore eggs. I week later do it again to get the eggs that are now steralized and that should be the end of the problem


    9 years ago on Step 7

     i've had fleas loads of times. one time it got so bad that i couldn't walk across the carpet without finding at least two on my feet and/or in my socks. i put out glasses of water around my house so that, when i found a flea and trapped it between my small fingers, i would drop it into the water, thus keeping the flea there until it drowned. this didn't solve the problem, but it did keep me a little saner.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This happened to me when my cats got fleas and then slept in my bed. I used masking tape (I hadn't learned of the awesomeness of Gaffers tape at the time) and just folded the piece of tape over onto the fleas, sealing them in the tape. Worked pretty well for me.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    when you grab a flea from your arm or leg, you cannot simple crunch them with your fingers in a tightning motion. becuase if this is all you do then when you open up your fingers they will jump away. what you do is crunch tight with you fingers and then roll the flea between you fingers verry hard (simular to when your checking dollar bils that may be stuck to each other) and this will kill them. what this does is actually twist them up and crushes them.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    These ideas are all very brilliant, house got infested when I brought my parents dogs over while they were on vacation. My parents have a huge black lab that lives outside and I don't have a fence so inside she stayed. My parents assured me they had flea stuff, but in a single day, our two kittens, who had fresh flea med and haven't been outside yet were completely covered and the meds weren't working because there were so many. I am thinking of trying this as an incentive to get my room mates to clean up after themselves.