Can Fleas Live in Houseplants (+ How to Get Rid of Them)
As an experienced gardener, you learn to live with bugs and insects in your soil – sometimes even learn to love some of them. However, for those new to this space, discovering fleas in your soil can be quite jarring. It’s even enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. But are they even fleas? Can fleas live in houseplants?
Yes – Fleas can live in houseplants for short periods. However, they cannot solely survive in a houseplant without feeding on a live host – like humans or pets. Houseplants do not have the nutrients fleas require to survive. Rather, they primarily use houseplants as a temporary residence, until they detect a more permanent warm-blooded place to set up their home.
In order to combat fleas in the home, we first need to learn how to live and the natural instincts they are driven by. Only then can we begin tackling the problem by treating these areas and limiting the opportunities for them to reproduce.
However before we jump onto the flea extermination methods, let’s first clarify one critical point – do you actually have fleas in your houseplants?
Do You Really Have Fleas Living in Your Pot Plants?
Before you start googling for the closest exterminator near me, let’s first establish whether you do in fact have fleas living in your indoor plants.
What do fleas look like?
Fleas are tiny insect-looking bugs that have thin bodies (2.5 mm long) that have a brown or maroon hue to them (depending on if they have recently fed).
They have large spindly legs, with the hind (back) legs being the largest. They do not have any wings, rather using their hind legs to jump over large distances to find their hosts.
If you look closely, fleas have fine hairs on their legs to help them attach to the hair on their hosts. It also helps them to easily crawl from hair to hair without risk of detaching from their host.
Fleas move extremely quickly, and are hard to catch. Once they jump, it is hard to catch them because of their tiny size and the large distances they can cover in a single jump.
If any insect is going to be mistaken for a flea, it would be fungus gnats.
From a distance, these tiny little houseplant pests look very similar to a flea. Small, insect-looking, and just as creepy crawly as every other houseplant insect. But with one distinct difference – fungus gnats have wings.
Adult fungus gnats fly around houseplants because they are in search of moist environments to lay fungus gnat eggs.
While fleas also like to congregate in damp areas, they do not have wings, and therefore cannot fly. It is also unlikely that you are mistaking a gnat for jumping flea, because they jump extremely quickly and are very hard to see mid-flight.
Juvenile fungus gnats do live in the soil, although when you see them up close they look more like miniature mosquitoes, rather than fleas.
If you believe you have fungus gnats, be thankful. They do not feed on humans or pets and are much easier to get rid of with traps – many that can be used with ingredients from the kitchen. Check out our favorite home-made gnat traps HERE.
Another common pest that can be mistaken for fleas are springtails. The primary reason being the jumping behavior of springtails is easily misidentified as fleas jumping in the soil of your indoor plants.
As the name suggests, when disturbed, springtails begin bouncing around as a defensive mechanism. If there are enough of them, it can even look like your soil has become alive!
The appearance of springtails can vary depending on their maturity. Immature springtails will appear like tiny silver bugs or translucent bugs, while more mature springtails will have dark-brown or black bodies.
It is easy to tell springtails apart from fleas when you get a close look at them side by side.
Springtail bodies are longer and thinner than fleas. Springtails also do not have the ability to jump as high and far as fleas.
How to Get Rid of Fleas From Houseplants
Okay, by now you should know if you have fleas or another type of insect pest in your house plants.
As we mentioned earlier, if you have a flea infestation in your pot plants, then you are also likely to have fleas in other areas of your home. Unlike outdoors, where fleas lie patiently waiting for days in moist, cool areas in the garden for their next host.
Inside, fleas are more likely to find opportunities to find a host (maybe once every few hours). This affords indoor fleas the luxury of inhabiting other parts of the house, like carpets and furniture. Environments that would be inhospitable if they had to wait for days, like outdoors.
It is for this reason that the treatment methods we will discuss below will not be isolated to houseplants.
Ways to Treat Fleas Indoors
If you do have fleas, here are a few methods for getting rid of them from your home and houseplants.
Organic Pesticide Oils
Neem oil is a natural pesticide and fungicide that is safe to use with plants. It should not be used directly on the leaves of any plant, as it can result in burns. But it is effective in controlling any pest infestations and also eliminating fungal diseases.
Plant Flea Deterring Plants
Believe it or not, there are some plants that fleas stay away from. It is easier to plant these outdoors where you have space and the right conditions. However, there are some plants that we can bring indoors to help deter fleas from setting up residence inside. Here is a list of some flowers and herbs you can try:
- eucalyptus (check out our guide for planting eucalyptus plants in pots),
- pennyroyal herb,
- rue herb,
- tansy, and
Where Do Fleas Live In and Around Your Home?
As mentioned earlier, if you have identified fleas in your houseplants, they are likely in other areas of your home, like carpets, on furniture, and even on your pets.
For this reason, after you have treated your plants, we recommend considering other ways to treat the remainder of your house.
Here is a helpful YouTube video showing you a home remedy for killing fleas in your home
Can Fleas Live in Houseplants – Final Thoughts
Fleas can live in houseplants for short periods. However, if you have positively identified fleas in your pot plants, it is likely that they are hiding in other parts of your home. Places like carpets and furniture are perfect hiding places for fleas.
Treating your pot plants and your home is the only way you are going to exterminate fleas. Try using organic pesticides like Neem oil for your plants, and other home remedies for your home.