- THE MAGAZINE
Fleas brought in by pets - particularly multiple pets - can be a major problem when they transfer from the animal to other fleecy materials, such as carpet and upholstery, and then lay their eggs and multiply. The problem is compounded when the fleas jump onto children and other occupants of the home and begin biting and feeding on them.
First a rundown on these pesky bugs: Fleas are wingless insects, with mouth parts adapted for piercing skin and sucking the blood of a host. Therefore, they can’t last long without a host upon whom to feed. They are external parasites that live off the blood of mammals and birds. There are some 2,000 species worldwide, which lay up to 20 eggs each, which take some 2 to 14 days to hatch.
Flea larvae emerge from the eggs to feed on any organic material available (soil), such as dead insects, feces and vegetable matter. They are blind and avoid sunlight, keeping to dark places such as the bases of carpet tufts.
Once a flea reaches adulthood, its whole life is about finding blood and reproducing. Its total life span ranges from one year to several in ideal conditions, which include the right temperature (70-85°F/21-30°C) and humidity (70% optimum) and an adequate food supply. Newly emerged adult fleas can live only about one week if no blood is available. However, completely developed adult fleas can live for several months without eating as long as they don’t emerge from their puperia or cocoons.
Obviously, animals in the home should be treated to kill the fleas on them. But things happen for one reason or another, which could lead to a flea infestation in the home.
To eliminate a flea infestation, carpet and household fabrics should be treated by a licensed exterminator. Ideally, a pesticide/insecticide should be worked into the carpet pile, followed by sufficient dwell time based on the exterminator’s recommendation. This pesticide application should be followed by a thorough cleaning, involving slow and meticulous vacuuming, detergent preconditioning and hot water extraction, which removes the dead fleas, pesticide residue and soil serving as a food source for newly hatched fleas.
Frequent vacuuming, using a CRI SOA vacuum, can control flea infestation in carpet quite effectively. Also, reducing humidity below 50% can control flea infestations in carpet. As already noted, carpet cleaning should include detergent application and hot water extraction, and collected soil from vacuum chambers or vacuum bags should be removed and disposed of outside the home to prevent the potential for cross contamination.
Similar procedures can be used on area rugs that are infested with fleas, beetles, moths or other insects. The only difference is that pesticide can be applied by the licensed exterminator to the back side of the rug, typically at least 24 hours before cleaning.
Fleas are a nuisance, but they are a fact of life in many homes with pets. The solution lies in knowing how to deal with them.