How do I know I have a problem?
When a house has a flea problem it is usually the case that people will experience bites. These are concentrated on the lower leg areas. Bites can occur on other parts of the body and on children are often more evenly distributed as they are nearer the ground and more likely to be playing or lying on the carpet areas. Different people react in different ways to bites. Some experience itching, swelling, some do not. Some people will react immediately to bites others it may take several hours.
You may see fleas in the carpet or on your pet. The Flea infestation may have been caused by your own animals (if you have any), by a visiting animal, by previous occupants animals, or occasionally brought in by humans on their clothes. The Fleas live in the carpets and leave the carpets only to feed on the host animal, (usually cat or dog); if the host animal is not available then they will feed on humans, often preferring women and children to men. They will move on to beds & clothing but soon return to the carpet.
This is a picture of a Cat Flea. Real size is 2-3mm and they look darker than this magnified photo.
Why should they be treated?
The reasons for treatment are obvious: they cause discomfort to humans & pets. They can transmit tapeworm. Visitors will be bitten and may take fleas back to their homes.
Flea treatments will not work unless proper preparation
is carried out. Hygiene is paramount, the floor area of the house should
be vacuumed and the whole floor area be sprayed with a residual insecticide,
particular attention should be paid to the edges of carpets at the
floor/wall join, underneath static furniture, under beds & the
resting and sleeping areas of any pets. Upholstered furniture should
be vacuumed and similarly treated (although not essential as fleas
will eventually move onto the treated carpet surface) taking care to
treat the space under the cushions of chairs and settees where debris
has collected. If available, the bedding of the cat or dog should be
replaced, washed or failing these very thoroughly sprayed. Baskets
must also be treated thoroughly. The vacuum bag must be removed after
this & placed
in an outside bin. The pet should be treated with a formulation to
treat fleas on an animal such as a flea collar, powder, spray or formulation
such as Frontline. This must be ongoing. NEVER TREAT AN ANIMAL OR HUMAN
WITH ANY PESTICIDE NOT SPECIFICALLY LABELLED AND CLEARED FOR SUCH USE.
The floors must be clear of books, toys, boxes, magazines etc. areas under beds, settees and other furniture must be clear. The pet must be kept out of the house when treatment starts and people out of each room while the treatment is being carried out.
We treat all floor areas & some times furniture & animal beds with one of the following insecticides: Demand CS'* which contains Lambdacyhalothrin, Ficam W which contains 80% Bendiocarb w/w or K-Othrine which contains Deltamethrin. Also a powder might be used called Ficam D*. This contains an insecticide in a dust formulation @ 1% w/w Bendiocarb. All insecticides are biodegradable, almost odourless, non tainting & do not corrode or stain. They are not highly toxic towards mammals but are extremely so to all forms of crawling and flying public health pests.
What do I do afterwards?
Do not let domestic animals walk on treated surfaces until dry and if bare skin comes into contact whilst wet then wash. Do not vacuum for at least two weeks, after the first vacuum change the bag and dispose of bag away from the house. For this first week of vacuuming, vacuum at least once a day but preferably twice. The flea infestation will not be controlled immediately and may even increase slightly after initially seeming to die out within a 7-14 day period. So fleas may be present for up to 21 days after the spray. It is advisable that lawns are mown soon after treatment as in warm weather fleas may survive in outside areas. It is important to reduce humidity & keep the premises warm, so leaving windows open or using a de humidifier makes eradication more likely & quicker. The animals should be fitted with fresh Flea collars, treated with Frontline (or similar) or sprayed/dusted with a spray/dust made for this purpose. Any remaining fleas will feed on the animal rather than humans. If the premises are not occupied there may be flea activity for up to 3 weeks from the date of occupation. Do not avoid infested areas as fleas have the ability to remain dormant in their pupae cases for up to a year unless they stimulated by warmth, movement and carbon dioxide. As long as any animals have been treated, keep them indoors so that any remaining fleas present in the 21 day period since the treatment will then feed on the animals & not humans.
Domestic treatments are guaranteed (treated areas only) for one month after the first spray, and are only valid as long instructions and advice on hygiene and other matters are adhered to, the guarantee does not apply to premises where more than 2 animals are present. In some cases it may be necessary to spray on a monthly basis until the infestation is eradicated especially in shared, communal or multi occupancy buildings. Insecticide treatments will only work on clean surfaces. Commercial offices are not guaranteed.
Fleas in an Office
In the case of an office type environment being infested with fleas it is vitally important that people with animals (especially cats) at home get their homes & animals treated. In most instances fleas will only feed on humans if the host animal is absent (or the infestation has built up to large numbers) so the person(s) with animals bringing the fleas/eggs into the office may not realise they have a problem at home. If this concern is not addressed flea problems will continue. For this reason office type environments are not guaranteed.
Fleas - General Information
Fleas are a relatively small but distinct group of insects known as
the Siphonaptera. All fleas are parasitic as adults on warm-blooded animals
(mammals or birds) and most are adapted to living on one type of animal
(or close relations). Some species are able to feed on a range of hosts
but may only be able to breed when feeding on their primary host. A number
of species are important pests but the cat flea is by far the most common
flea found in domestic premises. The cat flea is usually found in association
with the domestic cat, but it is often found on dogs and will bite humans.
Fleas cannot jump higher than 6 inches.
The adults spend only some of their time on the host animal, usually only to feed, the majority of the time is spent in the hosts bedding or carpets from where they can climb or hop back onto the host when they require a feed.
Fleas have a distinct larval (or grub) phase and an intermediate pupae
stage between the larva and adult. The life cycle is therefore very different
to the bed bugs and lice whose young are similar in appearance and habit
to the adult and are called nymphs. The female flea may lay as many as
25 eggs per day with a total of about 800-1000 eggs during a lifetime,
which may last over a year. The eggs may be laid in the host’s
bed or lodge in the fur before dropping off onto the floor. They hatch
after about 5 days and the small white larvae which emerge feed on organic
debris and on adult flea faeces, rich in partly digested blood After
about three weeks, during which time they molt twice, the fully grown
larvae spin a silk cocoon covered in debris in which to pupate. They
moult after three days and change into the pupae stage. A gradual transformation
now takes place and after about 2 weeks the adult emerges from the pupa.
It does not immediately leave the cocoon, however, unless stimulated
by vibrations, which indicate the presence of a host. It can remain in
this ‘waiting state’ for up to 1 year. Thus, a heavy flea
infestation may appear in a building room, which has been unoccupied
for some time. In good conditions in heated premises the life cycle takes
about 4-6 weeks from egg too adult but longer at lower temperatures.
Once they have emerged from the pupa, adults normally live for 2-4 months
if feeding regularly. They can survive over a year at lower temperatures.
Both males and females require blood for nutrition and feed on nothing else. The female also requires blood from her preferred host in order to lay viable eggs, so an infestation where no domestic animals are present will not breed but will still need treatment as the fleas will feed of humans in the absence of domestic animals. Fleas will often prefer women & children to men, no one knows why.
Where conditions are favourable fleas will eat more than they need excreting
more semi-digested blood than usual for their grubs to feed on. This
ensures that the population expands when conditions are right.
It is often the case that a flea infestation will go unnoticed by the human inhabitants until the removal of the host animal, after which the fleas are forced to look for alternative food, i.e. humans. It is common that previously empty houses or houses where a cat was living will have a flea problem once the new occupiers move in. The original owners may have not realized there was a problem, as the fleas would have been feeding on the animal leaving the people alone.
The eggs of the flea are comparatively large, 0.5 mm in length and oval or round in shape, pearly white in colour and are sticky which attracts debris from the surrounding habitat, thus camouflaging their appearance.
For every flea found on the host there will probably be a hundred or so in the bedding (if there is any as most cats are allowed to sleep any where in the house) and carpets, hence the effectiveness of insecticidal collars on the animal without a full treatment is very limited. The cat flea commonly causes domestic infestations in Britain.