Ickyology


A house infested with fleas! What to do?
September 2, 2008, 6:16 pm
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My friend Jory is having problems with a flea infestation in his new house. Here’s what he has to say:

So, I moved into a new place a week ago Sunday. The woman there before me got two kittens about 3 weeks before she moved out. And there are friggin’ fleas.

So far, I’ve tried the following:

* I bombed the place with foggers TWICE. Within 20 minutes, the fleas were jumping around in the kitchen again!

* I put flea powder on the carpets

* I had the carpets steam-cleaned

* I have put diatomaceus earth around the kitchen and other places I’ve seen the fleas.

* I’ve got a flea collar in the vacuum and have been vacuuming about 6 times each day. (Pretty much every time I need to walk into a room or leave it again.)

I’m not even sure where the hell the fleas are coming from anymore, but it seems to me they’re living in the kitchen, which doesn’t even make sense. The kitchen has a linoleum/vinyl floor. The edges curl up to the kitchen cabinets, so I’m theorizing that they’re living/laying eggs under the lino, which is protecting them from the foggers and allows them to jump out moments later and appear under the kitchen cabinets from seemingly nowhere.

What do you think? Ever heard of fleas living under lino?

Thanks for your help!

Jory

Ah, the never ending battle against blood sucking insects. Fleas have got to be some of the most annoying, because they seemingly appear out of nowhere and last for ages! Well, onto the questions.

First off, a little bit about fleas. Fleas are a wingless, blood sucking insect that feed on animals (and therefore humans). There are good number of different flea species, but the most common flea causing problems in a household is the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis.  The good news with this flea is that it doesn’t transmit plague (unlike the rat flea which spreads bubonic plague). Since I don’t have a specimine to identifiy, I’m going to assume that Jory has C. felis.  The bad news is it is still a blood sucker, and therefore still really annoying to anyone unlucky enough to get infested.

Most fleas spend their time on animals, blood feeding for several days or until they are groomed or knocked off. The cat flea doesn’t infest humans (i.e., doesn’t stay on humans for long periods) but can and will bite humans for a blood meal. Flea bites present as small, round, red marks, usually on the ankles or lower legs. People who are sensitive may see raised bumps and experience intense itching and rashes. Sever allergic reactions take approximately 12-24 hours to develop, and can last over 7 days. In the case of a bad reaction, a topical antihistamine cream, and an oral antihistamine may be used to treat the symptoms.

Fleas have a relatively simple life cycle, which makes interrupting said life cycle easy. The female flea must take a blood meal in order to produce eggs. She then lays her eggs within 2 days of her first blood meal. The eggs are found in pet bedding, carpet, upholstery–that sort of place. The eggs are tiny (1/50th of an inch), white, and generally round. They are rather delicate, and can be dried out by many products. A single female flea can lay up to 27 eggs per day for around 9 days.

The female flea also excretes what she doesn’t use of the blood meal as feces, often termed “flea dirt” which serves as food for her young. The feces looks just like dirt, and can most easily be seen in the fur of infested animals. FYI–if you were to place this dirt in water, it would rehydrate and turn the water bright red. Science is fun AND interesting!

The eggs hatch between 2 days and 2 weeks after being laid (depending on temperature–optimum temperature for this species seems to be between 80 and 90 F, with a relative humidity of 70%. They will hatch at lower and higher temperatures, just not as quickly or readily. They don’t seem to hatch below 50 F) into a small, worm-like larvae. These larvae are the most vulnerable stage. The larvae live in the carpet, bedding, or upholstery, feeding on flea feces in those same areas. The larvae go through several stages, or instars, in this form, and stay as larvae for as few as 6 days, to well beyond 2 weeks, once again depending on temperature.

Once the larvae have finished their instars, they begin to collect debris in their immediate area–things like hair, dust, dirt, fibers, etc. They use these debris and a silky material produced by their saliva to construct a hard casing around their entire body. This casing is almost impossible to see, because it is to completely camouflaged with its surroundings. The flea undergoes a complete metamorphosis inside the casing, where it breaks down its body into its basic components and reforms it into the adult flea form. This stage is very hardy–it can take a lot of stress and abuse without dying. In fact, most insects use the pupal form to survive adverse conditions, such as winter or drought. Fleas are no exception, and it is very, very hard to kill the pupal stage.

Pupae take between 7 and 10 days to emerge into adults. However, if conditions are adverse, they newly formed flea may stay in the pupal casing until it is all but guaranteed a blood meal after emergence. This is why an empty home can suddenly have a flea infestation right after you move in. Fleas can stay dormant in the pupal stage for months at a time, waiting to sense a blood meal. Vibrations caused by walking and moving appear to trigger the dormant insects into emerging all at the same time. Fun for all involved!

Newly emerged adults must have a blood meal to survive. They will attach to any animal that happens to be in the area, feed, mate, and repeat the cycle.

So, in an indoor habitat, let’s assume that the average temperature is 75 F most of the time. This would put the life cycle at 1 week for the egg stage, 10 days for the larvae, and 10 days for the pupae (approximately). That’s about 27 days for a flea to go from egg to adult. Assuming Jory moved into his home and didn’t notice any adult fleas when he went to look at the place, then all the fleas he’s dealing with now were in the earlier stages of development–egg, larvae, or pupae. So what should he do?

Provided you don’t have a pet that is re-infesting the house, fleas are rather easy to control. The simplest thing to do is vacuum. A recent study showed that vacuuming up any stage other than pupae kills the flea (so eggs, larvae, and adults are all killed by the vacuum) so the first step to control is to vacuum any and all areas that are infested. Make sure you include upholstery, beneath furniture, and along edges. Jory mentioned that he thought there may be some fleas beneath the linoleum. Remember that all an immature flea needs to survive is flea dirt, so it’s very possible for fleas to live in all kinds of habitats. Vacuum wherever fleas are suspected.

Flea bombs are a way to quickly kill adult fleas, but they present their problems. They must be used in a tightly closed area, and are designed for specific square footage. If you attempt to use a bomb incorrectly, it will not kill the adults at all. Secondly, there are really only a few pesticides licensed for indoor use. Fleas have this annoying ability to evolve, and the more they are exposed to a pesticide, the more likely they will become immune from it. Jory has tried the flea bombs, and says they fleas come jumping out right afterwards. This tells me they have been exposed before, and are now immune to whatever is in the bomb. I suggest finding another type of bomb with a different pesticide in it, or simply physically remove the fleas with a vacuum.

Diatomaceous earth is a great way to kill eggs and larvae. The fossilized diatoms act as razor blades, cutting the integument of the fleas to ribbons, and causing the fleas to dehydrate or bleed to death. This doesn’t work as well on adults, but works a bit. Spread the DE around any areas where fleas are found, wait a bit, then vacuum it up.

The biggest thing to do is wait. Remember the life cycle–you can easily kill the eggs and larvae, but the pupae are a pain. You may have to wait them out for up to 2 weeks. Vacuum at least twice a day, wash bedding, and clean upholstery, and within a month you should have interrupted the life cycle. Good luck!


15 Comments so far
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The use of a good residual insecticide around the edges of the floor/ skirting boards should do the trick

Comment by pestek

Oh my gosh fleas ARE the BIGGEST pain in the world. I had this problem and tried everything just like Jory. Wish I would’ve had this sight to read about them. You hit the nail right on the head with the life cycle and the fact that they are constantly evolving. I found that out the hard way, but with enough searching I did eventually find a solution that really works. Wondercide is the best treatment around, and the great thing is that I don’t have to worry about spraying it around my lil’ ones…it’s completely chemical free!
I know how hard those little boogers are to get under control once it’s out of control. I hope I can help anyone in that situation by telling them about something that really does work. So look up Wondercide and you’ll be happy you did!

Comment by Lily

hi lily

i found your paragraph most helpful!
me and my household have managed to catch some fleas from (supposedly) my next door neighbour’s dog! (though we don’t mention anything to her). the first time i realised that i had them was when we came back from a holiday in egypt, nearly 3 weeks ago, and we were just settling back in. when i was in egypt, i had no bites anywhere at all. but soon after the day i decided to collect my pet gerbils from my next door neighbour, these bites started appearing, out of no where! i couldn’t think what it could be. the last thing on earth i thought it would be, was fleas, because we don’t have a cat any more (sadly she passed away recently)
so the answer didn’t spring to mind at all. then i started to see them jumping around the place, and more bites were appearing everyday (now i’m infested with them! and can’t stop scratching!) my family didn’t actually believe me, until this morning, when my dad actually killed one. i honestly am just about fed up of the little paricites! back to the point anyway, so wondercide does work then? where do you put it? is it spray? cream? or what?

thanks alot, look foward to hearing from you.

kate.

Comment by kate

My neighbor has fleas on his house. They are all over the siding. This has been attracting woodpeckers who are taking chucks of sliding off as they eat the fleas. What do you use for fleas ON your house?? Have never seen this before.

Comment by bmc

My sister has two dogs and one cat that goes outside and visits the field across the street. Her dogs keep getting fleas and she swears there not in her house because the animals are not infested so she says. I believe that if your animals have them there in your house. She said that if the animals are not infested there not in her house at least she has’nt seen any on her or her family! Her house is full of carpet and I always thought if you treat your animal you have to treat your house. I have dogs and I will not take them over anymore unless she treats her house. She is going to put some kind of salt in the carpet, what the hell does that do?

Comment by Jenelle

I have had the bug man over 3 times in 2 weeks to my little cottage I have for rent. I have vacumned a bunch of times and the new renter put off bug bombs at least 5 times. Still have alot of fleas and the renter asked for the money back that he paid to move in. This was because of the last renter with a dog, but I’m wondering how he lived in there, even though I know the fleas had a dog to live on while he was there. I’ll try the borax or the boric acid and I’ll let you all know how it worked.

Comment by Annamarie Reed

My exterminator has always told me to use straight undiluted Pine Sol to kill fleas, and it used to work. I recently have had another infestation, btw we don’t have animals in the house. He told me to use Borax detergent booster, this helped but they arent gone. My exterminator came and sprayed, they are still here. I am going to keep trying. Last time we bombed the house and it worked, but that is such a messy clean up, and only kills the adult fleas anyway.

Comment by Tina

I am puzzled…

We seem to have suddenly received fleas. Now, my partner has nine cats (I know, but…) and we have three small dogs, so we do have too many pets. We live in the north were fleas are not native. But…

My partner seems to have all the problems. I have not noticed any of the pets scratching and all have been treated with Advantage. But my partner says her room is infested – but nothing in the rest of the house. I thought if the home was infested, they would be everywhere, not just one room. I have no bits, have not seen any fleas in my room, and yet she seems to find fleas or flea eggs every night in her room. We have tried every product available and borax on all carpets in her room. The mattress spent a week in below zero weather. I wonder at times if it is all her imagination after the initial infestion seems to have disappeared.

Do they stay in only one room, or attack only one person?

Comment by Northern Light

I have been fighting fleas for the past 2 weeks. I am now going into my 3rd week and they seem to have died off…I hope! We have a Siberian Husky who goes to the groomer every 3 months. He was also on Frontline and we switched to Advantage because the Frontline didn’t really work. I have treated outside the house and inside with gallons (and I mean gallons) of spray chemicals. To top it all off, we also have a 7 month old son. So, needless to say, the wife and child moved out when the spraying began and haven’t been back since. Thankfully, we have the luxury of going elsewhere, but this fight has really been a battle!
I have tried various Hartz products, Raid products, Bayer products (they make a lot of chemicals!) and Ortho Home Defense Max (this one is pretty damn good a killing the adults and pretty much any other living creature). I am not sure which product worked, but after spraying and vacuuming for 2 weeks they really seem to have gone away. I also removed my pet from the home to avoid reinfestation.
I’d also like to point out, we have hardwood floors in 90% of the home. The other rooms are tiles. These critters setup shop in the cracks in the floorboards and under my baseboard molding. In addition to the chemicals, I also placed flea traps (made by Victor) in several rooms in the house. These little traps continue to capture the little vampires when nobody is home.
My last phase of this nightmare is cleanup. I have mopped every floor with Pine-Sol. I plan on doing this again before I reintroduce the family back into the home.
Maybe one day soon, I’ll have my life back.

Comment by Steve O

Thanks for all the info. Fleas, Fleas everywhere. The battle begins. :)

Comment by James

Somehow the garage got infested with fleas and then they started coming in the house, we’ve been using spray and vacuuming and we’ve bombed the garage twice!! The house is getting there but how do you get them out of the garage if you dont have alot of money to spend on products. We also got the animals under control and the garage is off limits until we can figure something out. Will they die in the cold weather? Someone mentioned salt, does it actually work????

Comment by Ashley

My daughter puts a bowl of water with dish detergent on the floor, the fleas jump in but they don’t jump out. It’s like a magnet

Comment by Laura

I have fleas in my apartment and i get bitten all the time. I do not have any animals and they do like my blood so in my desperation i sprinkled baby powder on both of my legs and in my carpet. Seems to be working, I haven’t been biten since and I will vac the carpet in a day or two

Comment by Gloria Gordon

Does anyone know if you take your bedding (especially comforters) and place them outside when it’s below freezing-will that kill the flea’s?

Comment by Lisa

if my cats and my dog have fleas wat happens if my pet rat gets them?? i mean he didnt have them till he got here and i dont know if he has them but hes straching himself raw?? i called the pet store they said to use nix headlice shampoo but dilute it. and just spary him wit it. hes was bread in captivity so if he dose have them they would only be cat fleas right im sorta worried cause my 7 year old son constantly plays wit him same as my two year old niece. as well my bfs roommate says they have fleas that i brought over there and they are constantly gettin bit but only at night and when they are in bed but when my bf stays here he never gets bit wat does that mean?

Comment by Jessi




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