We moved into a house 5 weeks ago where there had been two cats living for ten years. There are carpets throughout apart from wooden floors on the ground floor.
Within five days, my toddler and I had been being bitten. Within a week my toddler had 50 flea bites. I spotted live fleas on my toddler’s neck, my legs etc. (probably six fleas were spotted). We had the council come out and spray with I think something called Flucam. He told us we must not hoover or clean the area for two – three weeks as this would significantly reduce the efficacy of the treatment.
After two weeks we were still being bitten, so they came back to respray. This time they used Cimetrol I believe.
A week on and my toddler was bitten four times yesterday and me once. We seem to be being bitten less than before but we are still getting gnawed on! I have only seen one flea since – hopping on the wooden floor. I’m also six months pregnant and my bump has also been bitten a few times, so I’m getting quite emotional about it.
We have called a private pest control company and they have said that as the UK is having a heatwave at the moment which would make the fleas more active, the council should have been back to do weekly sprays not after 2-3 weeks as they did do.
I’m not sure what to do next. Whether to pay a private company to come in, or book another respray from the council, or do a heat treatment (which the private co says will cost £1000).
I would so appreciate your help.
Sorry to hear about your troubles. It sounds like it was a fairly severe infestation.
It usually takes around 8 weeks to eradicate fleas. This is because of the immature stages in the environment, which make up 95-99% of the infestation. They are often protected deep within carpets, cracks in flooring, or other refuges. It’s difficult for insecticides to penetrate into these areas, so many of these young stages won’t be affected. Your problem won’t be completely resolved until they mature, emerge, and die. Luckily, without animals in the home now, the fleas won’t be able to reproduce.
There probably isn’t much benefit in hiring more professional sprays. Insecticides are primarily effective against the adult stages, which only account for 1-5% of the population. Cimetrol has an insect growth regulator (IGR) in it, pyriproxyfen, which is the most important ingredient. It will remain active indoors for 7 months. The IGR will prevent eggs and larvae from reaching adulthood, and will sterilize adult females. It may not be all that useful at this point, since most of the fleas should be pupae or cocooned adults. However, the IGR is beneficial for prevention.
The life cycle from egg to adult completes in 17-26 days. However, a big problem with flea control is the pre-emerged adult stage. After maturing, adults can stay quiescent (dormant-like) inside their cocoons for up to 5 months. Heat and pressure are the two cues that force pre-emerged adults to emerge, as they indicate a host on the cocoons. Vacuuming and walking around the floors can simulate these host cues and trigger emergence.
Exterminators often give the advice not to vacuum for weeks after an insecticide application. However, I’ve read multiple studies showing that efficacy isn’t significantly decreased from dry vacuuming. And adulticides have a relatively short residual effect, so emerging adults may survive soon after treatment anyway.
In infestations with a host in the home, adult fleas are targeted on the host with adulticides and IGRs. And immature fleas are targeted in the environment with IGRs and vacuuming.
Personally, based on the research I’ve done, I’d ignore the advice about waiting to vacuum. Vacuuming will force cocooned adults emerge, and also remove/kill fleas from the carpets. However, I am not licensed professional. It may be wise to follow the advice of the exterminators.