Some of the worst flea cases you’ll ever have to deal with are those found in empty homes. You can do all the right things, treat as thoroughly as a professional and still have fleas weeks or months later.
The most common scenarios for the empty house flea syndrome is when people go on vacation. You lock up the home take Teddy to the kennel and it’s off to Disney for a well deserved respite. When you left you had no idea that you had fleas and it’s the last thing on your mind. Arriving home you put down your luggage and begin to unpack when you begin to notice a few fleas hopping on your pant legs. Brushing them off you make a quick call to the kennel to have Teddy flea dipped before you pick him up tomorrow. The fleas continue and may even get worse until you decide it’s time for action. You may call a company or do it yourself but you are none the less surprised to find your home has fleas. When Teddy comes home the fleas settle down quickly and you’re convinced your spray has solved the problem.
If you called a professional and the dog was treated with more than just a flea bath you may have solved the situation. What happens more over is that the fleas who were inactive while you were gone got busy looking for a blood meal the minute you stepped back in the house and finally when Teddy came home their lives could return to normal. Teddy scratches a bit but as long as they don’t jump on you everything is fine.
The other scenario is a home that is left vacant on a more long term basis. Vacation homes or rental properties can be empty for quite some time so it is very surprising to have fleas jump on you like this when you haven’t been in the home for months on end. I do a lot of bank repo homes and they can be the worst infestations to treat as people come in infrequently looking for a good buy or to do some service. The fleas will hop on them in a almost desperate way and the people will run out as fast as they came in.
Adult fleas only eat one thing and that is warm blood and if they do not have a host they can go into a dormant like state which can last up to two years. Eggs under normal conditions hatch in one to twelve days and the larva eats debris from animal hairs or vegetable matter. In about two weeks the larva pupates and that stage lasts for seven days. The adult will emerge and immediately seek a blood meal. When no one is present however the adults in their pupal stage will just stay and wait until a host is present. This emergence is triggered by vibrations and some research also suggests c02. If no one is home walking about and Teddy is not sniffing around (exhaling c02) there they sit. This is why an empty house can be so infested and nobody is the wiser. Of course the flea is mighty hungry after this so it stands to reason that people report getting swarmed on at times entering an empty home.
Treating empty homes
In scenario one the job is not so difficult because the constant activity has the fleas hopping around and coming into contact with your residual insecticides. Teddy is treated as well so the fleas are doomed wherever they go. It still may require some time to have things run there course but relief comes quickly for the home in this case.
Scenario two can be a on going nightmare and many do it yourself pest controllers will spend a lot of money on foggers and sprays only to get jumped on each time they come back. Without activity the adult fleas will settle in and not be so apt to contact the products laid out for them and the pupal stage won’t complete itself until you walk back through that door. I tell my clients to picture their flea treatment like a mine field and the fleas are in it. You can have a thousand mines in the carpet but if the flea does not move he won’t make contact. Unlike a mine the flea won’t die from first contact. The pesticide needs to get on the flea, work it’s way in and then eventually kill it. This is why there are very few over night success stories in flea control under even perfect circumstances.
Ways to get the fleas moving
To get your fleas on the move and speed up the extermination process you can really only do a couple of things. You could go to the house once or twice a week and create activity by vacuuming or just walk around. Of course this means getting jumped on so put a rubber band around your pant legs or wear some rubber boots. The other way is to put in several flea traps and let them attract the fleas. Remember ‘green’ lights seem to work the best and I would put one in every room or area and shut the doors so that’s all the flea has to look at. In my repo homes there usually isn’t electricity and batteries won’t last very long. In this situation I am often called to retreat but rather than respray we’ll stop by and just walk around the home or instruct the management company to have the carpets cleaned first and then retreat.
In any event ‘activity’ is the key and without it you’ll have a long two years to wait for a flea free home. Follow the blue links above for detailed information and if it seems to much give a call to your local professional. They’ll be happy to help.