Do fleas live in clothes?

Summary

Cat fleas don’t live in clothes. Nor do they stay on people after taking a blood meal. However, fleas may briefly hide in the seams of clothing if they’re disrupted while feeding. In rare instances, a flea might not be to able to find it’s way out of the clothes and off the person. It’ll remain in the clothing for up to 24 hours, feeding periodically.

Details

Adult Fleas don’t Live in Clothes

Adult Fleas Stay on their Host

Adult cat fleas are permanent ectoparasites. They live on their hosts and rarely leave. They’ll feed and reproduce directly on the animal.

Humans aren’t Preferred Hosts

Humans aren’t suitable hosts of cat fleas. Bites on people are incidental. Emerging fleas will jump to the nearest warm-bodied animal, which could be a person if cats and dogs are absent. However, fleas can’t reproduce on human blood in natural settings. Also, fleas are poorly adapted for living on humans because of our lack of body hair. They’re often seen and killed before they can even feed.

Fleas Bite People & Leave

Fleas don’t stay on people after obtaining a blood meal. And they don’t breed on humans. They’ll often bite two to three times before leaving, with the meal lasting around 5 minutes.

In rare circumstances, fleas may get stuck on a person. They can’t bite through clothes. As a result, they’ll move beneath clothing to feed on exposed skin. If a flea is disturbed while feeding, it may hide in the seams of clothing briefly. This occasionally results in the flea being unable to find a way to leave. In these instances, it may remain in the clothing for up to a day and periodically feed.

Flea Larvae don’t Live in Clothes

Flea larvae develop in the environment. In homes, their usual habitat is carpeting. The larvae instinctively move away from sources of light, burrowing deep down into carpet fibers. They may also move under clothes if the garments are left on the floor. Just like carpeting, they seek refuge in the dark folds of the fabric.

References

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Discussion

  • Michelle January 11, 2017, 6:00 pm

    If an adult flea lives, feeds and mates on its host, then how does the flea “dirt” feces get to the developing Larvae to eat? Also, how long does it take the eggs to hatch into larvae and how long does it stay in that state before becoming a fully adult flea? Thank you!

    • Adam Retzer January 12, 2017, 6:16 pm

      Hello Michelle, good questions.

      Both eggs and flea dirt are deposited on the host animal. The eggs aren’t sticky and fall out easily. Flea dirt is essentially just host blood, and it’s more prone to getting lodged into pet hair when it dries. However, both eggs and flea dirt fall from the host when the animal grooms itself by scratching. The itchiness caused by flea bites helps aid in this. Flea hot-spots tend to be where animals rest and groom themselves.

      It takes 2-3 days for eggs to hatch into larvae. The larvae then develop through 3 instar stages, molting between each. At the end of the 3rd instar, around 7-11 days after hatching, the larva forms a cocoon and begins pupating. The pupation process takes another 7-19 days before the adult flea is fully mature. These durations may fluctuate based upon temperature and relative humidity. However, in most homes, the complete life cycle from egg to adult usually completes in 17-26 days.

      There is one more catch with the life cycle. After reaching adulthood, cocooned adults can enter into a quiescent state for up to 5 months. However, they’ll rapidly wake up and emerge once they detect heat and pressure on the cocoon, which indicates a host is resting on it. Most fleas won’t enter this quiescent pre-emerged state, but some do, and it causes control issues.

  • Rachel August 30, 2017, 5:52 am

    If i was bit whilst away for the weekend, and then put my clothes back into my wardrobe, will i need to wash everything in the wardrobe incase anything came home with us?

    • Adam Retzer September 28, 2017, 3:37 pm

      No, that shouldn’t be necessary, as it’s highly unlikely that fleas are on the clothes.

  • Jenn September 14, 2017, 7:09 pm

    We’re currently battling fleas. My husband found a couple pairs of socks on the laundry room floor that appeared to have eggs all over them, as well as mature fleas crawling around. I snapped a couple pictures, would you be able to confirm if they are flea eggs? I can’t seem to attach a photo with my comment. Thanks in advance!

    • Adam Retzer September 29, 2017, 10:33 am

      Yes, I can take a look. Sorry I don’t have image upload capability on this site quite yet. However, you can upload the photos to imgur.com and then post a link here.

  • Deb September 22, 2017, 8:38 pm

    we were out in the country and week later after going to groomer were told dogs have fleas 1 had 2 adults ,1 had few babies and the other 0 took them to the vet right away and they did not see any but were still treated ,my question I had clothes on the couch that I iron and put away this is the same couch my dogs sat are they ok or should I re watch everything??I am watching all bedding,dog toys,their bedding ,clothes we had on prior to this ,our car etc etc Thanks

    • Adam Retzer September 29, 2017, 1:13 pm

      The clothes should be fine, unless the dogs actually laid on top of them.

  • Jenni October 20, 2017, 10:03 am

    Been battling fleas in our home for a couple of months now. We are moving soon and I’m feeling the need to wash all of our clothes from our dressers and closets 🙁 Our dog sleeps on our bedroom floor. He’s at 1-2 feet away from one of my dressers. I know it wouldn’t hurt to wash all the clothes, but is it really necessary?? I plan to spray down all of our furniture in our new garage and letting it sit for a long time before putting into our new home. Any other advice for moving would greatly be appreciated!

    • Adam Retzer October 24, 2017, 1:53 pm

      You shouldn’t need to wash the clothes in the dresser. Fleas aren’t attracted to these kinds of things. When adults emerge, they immediately seek a host and stay on the animal once acquired. The eggs are laid on the host but they aren’t sticky, so they fall into the environment within a few hours. The fleas then develop where the eggs fall.

      Pet beds and area rugs are some of most flea-prone items. Take extra care with these items if you are moving.

      You may also want to consider spraying the new home’s carpets and floors with an insect growth regulator (IGR), such as Martin’s IGR. The IGR will remain active for 7 months, preventing any potential eggs from being able to develop. So fleas won’t be able to get a foothold in your new home.

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