A house infested with fleas! What to do?

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!

Update: I’ve gotten a lot of questions about outdoor habitats, so I thought I’d add what I do whenever I move to a new place.

I have dogs and cats. These dogs and cats love going outside and bringing back whatever critters they find (the least of which is fleas!). Fleas are often found in the yard, especially in areas where an animal sleeps on a regular basis. This is a very common place to find flea larvae, in fact. As your pet sleeps outside, he will allow the adult fleas to drop flea dirt into the soil, and feed the flea larvae. If you don’t treat the outdoors as well as the indoors, you will end up reinfesting your house every time your pet walks outside.

When I move into a new place with a yard, the very first thing I do is treat the yard. Since I have pets and a garden, I HATE using chemical sprays outdoors (besides, I don’t want to kill off the fireflies and other awesome things I have back there!). So, I instead rely on flea nematodes–a microscopic worm-like organism that feeds on the flea larvae and lives in the soil. I buy mine from Amazon, and sprinkle the entire back yard, focusing on the areas where my dogs and cats sleep.

Now, keep in mind that this is a long-term treatment, and won’t completely eliminate the fleas in your yard right away. Instead, the nematodes will reproduce from year-to-year, providing long-term control. Bonus: these nematodes also feed on other undesirable plant pests like plant-eating beetles and some flies. Excellent!

Once you have treated the entire back yard, you can keep an eye out for where your animals sleep. After my pets have settled on an area, I buy another box of nematodes and heavily treat the preferred areas. I repeat this step every two years or so (depending on the flea infestation I notice each spring and summer). I tend to have no fleas in the back yard by the end of year three, and only have to spot check every once in a while. Good luck again!

77 thoughts on “A house infested with fleas! What to do?”

  1. I came home from two weeks on holiday without children and my wife who stayed on for an extra few days. Settled in to bed late and started to read. 5 minutes later I felt insects crawling on my ankles. I pulled back the duvet and there they were. five fleas. In sheer disbelief I got out of bed and put on my jeans. By the time I was in the kitchen I felt more on my neck. Two more. I completely stripped naked and using the mirror could get them off me. Got straight to the Internet and discovered an old wives tale – take a saucer,nplace a tea light in it. Pour soapy water around the tea light and then ignite. Shut off lights and be amazed as the fleas head to their doom. It’s temporary but at least better than running out of your home in the middle of the night. Following day get acclaim of similar from your vet clinic. They always carry most extreme version. Then nuke them, vacuum, nuke. It’s a serious pain, stripping beds, gathering cuddly toys etc but get it done. Treat your pet!! We left a two month gap treating our cat and are paying a big price. Wash everything sixty degrees plus preferably at the laundrette. It’s quite incredible how disturbing the fleas are. Good luck and best wishes, Anthony. P.s. thank you to that person who put up tea light saucer info. You are a great person.

  2. We have horrid amounts of fleas in the house and they seem to favor my 2 yr old daughter over everyone else. We found keeping her sprayed several times a day with OFF family care (gentler on skin) keeps them off her. Its a temporary fix but at least she can sleep now without scratching so we can focus on getting rid of these little boogers. Hope this helps someone else.

  3. my sister came to visit me for 4 days and brought her dog with her and her dog didnt have fleas when she brought her untill she went outside, after just treating my dog with fea and tick solution she jumps on him to play with him and the fleas transfered from him to her and now we have fleas in my house i dont have very much carpet nor do i have animals in my house. my 6 yr old and i are the worse bitten. we bombed the house already and it didnt work.. so please someone help me with a solution!! this isnt healthy for my kids! i need some kind of relief.. like asap.. i seen a flea come and land on my leg and bite now i am paranoid that they are crawling all over me!! i am currently in school to become a massage therapist and i cant really have anyone do hands on, on me because of all of my open flea bites.. so its making it really hard for me! HELP!

  4. I’m getting married in September and my in laws are staying with us. His brother is as well with their 2 little girls. I have a little over a month to get these things out of my house. I’m freaking out!!! How do you get them out of your basement?!!! Help meee!! I hate them!

  5. Hi I have two dogs and two cats love them but one of my dogs just goes crazy scratching. I’m laying in bed and feel like my head and legs are crawling. Am I just being stupid or is my bed infested? I got a used matress 6 months old no spots anything. I’m sick of it can’t sleep we vacuum and they never go away all animals have them ugh it’s terrible

  6. i use program , its great, cleared my house and property. No spraying for fleas. i also used a half dose of capstar once a week because we go to the dog park.. My dog running the dog park will eventually clear the park also because his hair and skin drop off and fleas eat this . Less drugs for my dog .

    We are happy. I will try to skip Program this month because there are no fleas at this time. Comfortis made my dog sick and it stays in their system to long , capstar clears the system in 20 hours or so. I would never give my dog capstar everyday though. We live in tampa, fl and i swear by Program and capster. A generic capstar i have use is so far safe i’m on my third order, from luvmypetssuppystore.com. Do your own research on these two products but my dog and i are happy and he is safe from harsh drugs and dangerous sprays.

  7. i feel like my hair is itching!! what can I do about that? Is there a flea shampoo for humans?

  8. I have a dog and she got fles from out side and fro other dogs and when I first discoverd it I gave her a fle bath and I spraed the whole house and I did it over and over again and it is not working now they are in my 3 kids hair oldest is 11 next one is 7 the last one is 3 and we can’t even have company over cause the fles are so bad

  9. My 5 kids Justin Tiffany Dyillin Jennifer Layla are all fighting fles the first to oldest are twins and the last 2 are twins and dyillin is the middle child and age group is 11 11 7 3 3 all of them are coming up to me and saying mom please get rid of fles even the 2 3yrs old r saying that

  10. I’ve always had animals and never had fleas before, now the dogs and cats and house are infested and they only bite my daughter, she is miserable..we have been cleaning and steaming and washing but somehow they are not leaving…the holidays are coming and I don’t want my guests to get fleas as well…help…

  11. I have been fighting the fight of the flea as well. I have to go all natural becsuse i have two young children. First I make a apple cider and water mix with a lemon oil added,u can put it everywhere,even childrens hair,works great,use botox on carpets two times a week at Night sleep in the morning,does great,its a little work but it does the trick. good luck out there with there nasty pests! Rlp Ohio

  12. We Recently moved into a new trailer. Myself and my 2 daughters. A 3 yr old and 18 month old.. we were here I suppose about 4-5 days before they started messing with us. The ppl that lived here before us had 2 dogs. I heard from one of my neighbors that one of thir dogs had mange, and eventually had to be put down. Well, over the past week I’ve noticed an increasing number of bites on my 18 month old daughter. I want 2 take her to the doctor, but I’m afraid they will involve dss. That’s the last thing I want, or need. I’m a very clean person. I lysol bleach, febreeze, and vacuum everyday. Are there any natural remedies I can use to soothe the bites?

  13. I read on Pinterest that blue dawn dish detergent kills on contact, but it has to be the blue, not green

  14. I could relate to these horror stories we had Fleas infestation in our home i`m going back at lease 20 yrs. ago but it seems like yesterday. We tried everything i was willing to walk away with my family
    and just leave everything behind and start fresh. My wife and i were watching the home shopping network on TV about these plug in little squarebox with a high pich frequency, by this time we had nothing to lose so we purchase about 4 of these little boxes in a matter of 2days we had no more fleas!!!!

  15. This is the most informative bit on fleas I have come across yet. I’m currently dealing with an infestation and my parents have done absolutely no research on fleas or how to get rid of them. I flea comb the cat twice a day and they’re both baffled as to why I’m still getting fleas off of her. I knew if would take a while to see a decline, but now I know that I’m getting the fleas that are hatching from those cocoons that are surviving my daily vacuuming. Thank you so much!

  16. I have a rental house that is completely infested with fleas. The “ex-renters” never cleaned and the place was a complete wreck after eviction. Since there is nothing in the house now, I can take stronger measures to kill the fleas. Currently, I poured Sevin dust all over the carpets and bombed one room where the carpet wasn’t savable. Am I going about this correctly? Is there anything better to use since no one is living there and there is no furniture? I need to be aggressive as I have brought the fleas back to my house and am now dealing with them here also. PLEASE HELP!! I hate fleas and am all bit up!!

  17. I’m ill from bombs and spray. We lost our son who had two cats. We took them because our grandson couldn’t have them where he was moving to. They do not come in the house but, my husband goes & comes from feedings and cleaning their litter boxes on our screened in porch where the cats live. The fleas don’t go near my husband, but love my blood. Once just one bites me the enzyme spreads through out my system and I feel that 100 are biting me at one time. In 30 days I have only had 2 days without with no bites. Then yesterday they were back with vengence. LOL. I know thats silly talk and don’t believe in reincarnation, but that is how it seems. I am allergic to insects, so the 6 Bengal bombs have made me so ill also. The cats have had the stuff put on their necks behind their heads from Vet and they still are scratching like crazy. The info about fleas I have just read has helped me understand their life cycle, but now where do I get these productsto use? I remember using seven dust 40 yrs ago when my daughter had a cat. We had no pets since then until these cat grandchildren came to live w/us. It is so sad to watch them through the window beg us to pet them & can’t understand why we have abandon them. My husband sprays the porch with Bengal spray but it doesn’t seem to help. I will try anything, please tell me where to get these products.

  18. I’m moving out of a room rental in a farmhouse; asses failed to mention they have an ungodly flea infestation. I moved in, here 2 hours the first day when i took my dog to groomer to have his coat clipped off, routine for hot weather. The first pass of the clippers on his chest, dozens of fleas fell out, dozens more came off in the tub. Got home,.mentioned.fleas, response: ”oh yeah! We have a borrible flea pro mem.”
    So… 1. Treat all pets with a name-brand topical. ( you should be doing this already). Don’t use no-name brands, they don’t have insect-growth-regulators. Use capstar, it’s safe. 2. Get a pest guy to look and give an estimate. You can break a lease or recoup $’s spent. Don’t tell bug guy it’s fleas, just that you’re getting bit. 3. Buy at least a couple Vicktor’s Best flea traps, extra sticky pads for them, and a couple extra 7 watt bulbs (also for the flea traps). You’ll want them running all the time. If you plan on breaking your lease, save the flea trap discs in a 1 gal Ziploc bags with date, location, time range or number of hours. Empirical proof of fleas. Save those receipts. You have rights if you move into an infested apartment or home.

    Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Don’t leave laundry on the floor, put it in plastic garbage bags. Bug somee long, white tube socks so you can see where the fleas are hanging out. Throw a patternless, light-colored sheet in your beds as top layer. There are great essential oil powders and sprays that are safe to use on carpet, pet’s bed, etc. Be aware, cloth, nylon shoes can easily become breeding grounds. Think before you go to someone’s house, you’ll be taking fleas in different life-stages with you if. you’re not careful. Spray the vehicle several hours before you go. Where shoes you don’t where in thehouse. Give the dogs capstar the night before.

    The vicktor flea traps really work, not a bad nightlight either.

    Wash and dry laundy on hot. If you can’t wash in hot, or have things that can’t be washed, throw it in a hot dryer for an hour.

    I’m boiling down what I’ve learned, there are great websites out there.

    Now I’m trying to figure out how to move out of here and leave the fleas behind!

    PS DON’T USE DAWN, OR OTHER DISHSOAPS ON DOGS, CATS THAT HAVE TOPICAL FLEA PRODUCTS, IT CAN REDUCE OR REMOVE THE PRODUCT (PER MERIAL AND OTHER MANUFACTURERS).
    GOOD LUCK TO US ALL!!!!!

  19. I use raid and its the orange box… I. Like that and it works for me… let me know how it works for you

  20. Its so reassuring to know that this is a common problem as it makes you feel dirty anddisgusting :-( I have had 3 cats for 7 years and they have had fleas before which have always been successfully treated with Spot-on and similar products. However, they brought a rabbit in the house a couple of weeks ago (I blame the rabbit!!) and since then we have a major problem. None of the usual treatments seemed to work (flea collar, spot-on, flea spray etc.) so we contacted the vet who recommended a prescription treatment called ‘COMFORTIS’. I cannot stress how good this treatment was at killing the fleas on the cats. They had 1 tablet each (mixed with food) and 4 hours later I brushed them all and didn’t find a single living flea. I removed numerous fleas from each cat but they were ALL dead! I was so relieved, felt like a weight had been lifted! 4 days later and still not finding anything living on the cats so all good there. However, I am now finding them around the house, jumping about in the bathroom, and me and my daughter have both found them on our feet/ankles! It’s so depressing- I just don’t know whet else to do??? The cats are absolutely fine but clearly I am doing something wrong. I know it’s a cycle so it might just be a matter of time but any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    In the meantime, if anyone needs a quick fix (one of my cats was totally swamped in them!!) I thoroughly recommend Comfortis. It was £55 for a months treatment (for 3 cats) so not too bad, and the results were truly amazing!
    Hope this helps- good luck everyone :-/

  21. I entered a flea infested home. We were there for two hours, did what was needed and then left a d spent night in hotel and then drove 8 hours home. Animals had been removed for over a week. Is there any chance we could have transferred them home with us?

  22. be certain you are deaing with fleas and NOT scabies. The skin can look very much the same but you may notice red tunning under the skin on humans..around the inner elbows, webs of fingers..scabies can be tranfered to humans from animals with mange

  23. It’s awful being allergic to these things… Me and my Granddaughter (2 1/2) are being eaten alive….. I am now on 5 medication one of which is Antibiotics for the infected pus filled bites…. We need help…. we have had it professionally treated and a few days ago and were told to vacuum everyday for the next 2 to 3 weeks…. This is so hard to do I am disabled and only have myself to depend on….. We are still both getting bit…. I don’t understand this at all….. We do have two cats but they are 16 years old and have never gone out of the house and never had fleas before…. so where did they come from??? I’m told they can jump on your clothes and shoes and then go home with you…. This is insane and very hard work or anyone not to mention the expense….
    My Heart goes out to all of you…..

  24. We are also dealing with an infestation! It is making me CRAZY!! And FYI ^^ my sons dog is on trifexis so he never has fleas. We have been seeing stray dogs in our yard & they are the source of our problem, they are covered with fleas. We’ve bombed three. times, covered all floors with borax (and furniture), sprayed ortho home defence & maylothyon in the yard. Still have a problem in the house.Good luck everyone

  25. URGENT: For those of you suffering from a flea infestation, trust me when I say “been there, done that.” I can tell you, from first hand experience, that the best thing to use in order to get rid of a flea infestation is IODIZED SALT. Best of all, you can buy it at the grocery store for less than a buck. Fleas can’t survived in salt. Salt absorbs their internal liquid through osmosis, ultimately dehydrating and killing the fleas. Sprinkle iodized salt all over your carpet and vacuum it up after two or three days, then repeat. I promise, if you do that, within no time at all you’ll notice your flea infestation beginning to clear up. Works like a charm for me every time I get a flea infestation (which is usually about once a year during summer).

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