Fleas are a common issue, especially in properties with cats or dogs. You may even discover signs of a flea problem if you’ve never had pets, if previous owners of your property kept them and flea larvae or flea pupa are still hidden in carpets or cracks in walls or flooring.
They can survive cold weather by staying in the pupa phase of their lifecycle for up to a year, even in unoccupied buildings. They emerge from their pupae only when they sense a potential host. The simple acts of turning the heating on in autumn to keep your property warm and the vibrations of people moving around more inside (as we spend more time snuggled inside our warm homes in winter) can stimulate fleas to emerge.
Although fleas lay their eggs on pet’s bodies, they don’t remain there for long. The tiny, oval eggs fall off the animals and become hidden in carpets, bedding, gaps in flooring and soft furnishings. Eggs, larvae and pupae can unknowingly be carried around the house on the soles of our shoes. They can also be spread to curtains and even our vehicles carpets or upholstery via our shoes, clothes or pets.
Fleas will flourish in the warm, humid conditions of insulated, heated homes in winter. The shady edges of a nice fleecy carpet, rugs, soft pet bedding, upholstered furniture or crevices in flooring can offer fleas a safe harbourage. The larvae feed on organic matter, which collects in carpets, rugs and under large undisturbed items of furniture. They also feed on digested blood in adult flea faeces, known as ‘flea dirt’ whilst adults can survive about a month without a blood feed.
If you catch a problem early enough, there are several things you can do to help get rid of fleas in your property, but above everything thoroughly and regularly clean!
Vacuum daily – floors, carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture even curtains. This will help remove adults, pupae and eggs, but larvae can cling to the carpet and may not come out so easily. Vacuuming has the added benefits of removing the organic matter and adult flea faeces the larvae feed on.
Empty your vacuum cleaner outside – very carefully because the fleas will still be alive.
Wash pet bedding – at least weekly, ideally at 50°c or above.
Wash everything – clothes (particularly those left on floors) linen, soft furnishings and curtains if possible or get items professionally cleaned.
Groom pets regularly – with a flea comb, checking for small white, cat flea eggs and fine black droppings (flea dirt) that looks like ground black pepper.
Consult a vet – if your pet is scratching or biting its fur, as they can recommend the best treatment for your pet.
A single female cat flea is capable of producing up to 2,000 eggs in a life time. So if fleas keep coming back, and you want to make sure they are eliminated from your property you may need professional flea control.