Hi, I wanted to post my story somewhere because I haven’t been able to find one that really speaks to what I’ve experienced in all my searching.
I used to have a very loved cat. She passed away four years ago. For a long time, every now and again I would get ‘night itches’ that would stop me from sleeping. I had no idea what it was and thought maybe there was something wrong with me/dust allergy/I needed to clean my bedding more. I began to notice that I was getting tiny little pinprick red dots on me, especially noticable on my knuckles (not between my fingers like scabies). My cat would violently itch her neck sometimes and I began to suspect fleas. When I brought it up with my vet however she said she didn’t see any signs of them, so I was left questioning again. Shortly after, my cat passed away and I was devastated enough that I wanted to leave my old place. (At this point my knowledge of fleas was nonexistant and I’m sorry if I left any traces of them behind.) I laundered ALL of my clothes, even putting my shrink-easy sweaters in the dryer. I then moved to my new place where a lot of my stuff remained in boxes for about two years.
About two years later, I wake up one morning and I find that my elbow is completely covered in little red dots to a huge extent I had never seen on myself before. A few months after that, I’m in my room when I see something on my wrist and quickly capture it between my fingers. It is definitely a parasitic insect with a little blood pocket that pops when I smush it and I am horrified. I told my brother who I was living with that I thought we had fleas and he completely did not believe me. A few weeks later I find one on my leg in the kitchen and this time for my sanity’s sake I put it in a jar and take pictures of it so I cannot be disbelieved. I google pictures of fleas, beg bugs, scabies. It looks like a flea to me and has that hard outer shell which seems to make it unkillable by squishing. Even with photographic evidence my family STILL does not want to believe me. I buy flea spray which my brother objects to and start going through my boxes and rewashing ALL of my clothes again. I read online about the lamp/soapy-water bowl test and buy a hang over lamp for the purpose but after a couple nights on my floor over a soapy bowl of water I never find anything in the water. By this point, things between my brother and I had completely broken down to the point we weren’t speaking and I find a new place to move to, hoping I had sprayed, laundered, thrown away, and vacuumed enough to kill the problem and start anew. A year later I’ll hear from my mom that my brother finally believed me after I moved out as he had apparently taken my mattress and gotten bitten all over.
Things are great at my new place for a while and it’s the first place I’ve ever lived with wooden floors so I breathe easier. After 5 or so months I decide to dig through a box of clothes I’d kept stored away. On the bus ride home I feel that bite sensation and quickly move my hand to the area where I’m surprised to feel something between my fingers. I literally hold that god damn bug between my fingers all the way on the walk home until I get to my house where I quickly put it in between some tape so I can examine it. It looks exactly the same as the one I found before and I start googling fleas again. I buy a flea power and put it all over my closet floor. I rewash all my clothes for the third time. (I should also mention I have plastic-container type boxes with lids. I had previously re-cleaned the boxes, put the clothes in them and taped over all little holes near where the lid met the box’s top. I also because of the problem would never put worn clothes back in the closet with washed clothes so it seems extremely unlikey the clothes could have been reinfested from the outside.)
At this point I’m going to tell you the majority of what I own are books and clothes. There are a couple lamps, jewelery, vases, paper decorations, electronic things, but that’s the majority of it. No furniture except a table. I’ve read online over and over that fleas do not live in your clothes but my experiences simply do not support that, unless there is another explanation (they live in books or the like). I have also not found washing to be successful in totally killing the fleas in clothes. My cat passed away years ago and I am still dealing with this problem which is not something I have seen talked much about as many sites like this state fleas prefer pets or that it is rare for them to survive on humans (I guess I have human fleas, yay). In the years I have dealt with them I have also rarely seen them. I think I have always had a mild enough infestation to feel their effects but not bad enough to see them, which also contributes to me feeling like I am going crazy.
I started feeling totally desperate with this problem. I am a student who rents so advertizing that I have this issue could easily land me kicked out on the street. I buy an expensive mattress cover online, vacuum and spray regularly, and hope that the problem goes away. I even put a a strip of yellow sticky paper on my closet floor (the kind meant to catch bugs on plants, not necessarily fleas, but still I thought it would help monitor the problem), but it only ever caught a couple poor silverfish in the months I had it in there. Cut to a little while later, it becomes clear my new apartment building has a mouse infestation issue (of course) and what starts out as seeing a little mouse turns into finding mouse droppings in the kitchen cupboards. The other tenants talk to me about mice “flying out at them” and not being able to keep food in their kitchen cupboards anymore. I move again.
I think you know how the story goes by this point. Thing are fine for a couple months before I start to feel itchy at night again. At this point it would almost be easier to believe I’m crazy but the itchiness is accompanied by those little red pinprick dots. I go to wash my mattress cover and afterwards see a tiny little white insect on my sleeve unlike what I have seen before (pupal stage?? unrelated? something else? who knows?). I believe the timing of it is because I had piled all my clothes in holed (from the move) plastic bags on my carpeted closet floor- yeah, I should have known way better.
I can tell you, I’ve had enough. I am considering buying a large chest freezer and simply freezing all my clothes for 5 days. I haven’t read anything online that suggests this would totally destroy my clothes. Another option I’m considering is soaking ALL of them in a .5% permethrine mix. I have a couple IGR sprays (the Zoecon and the Martin’s) and some deet lotion coming in the mail. I don’t think the spray I was using before had an IGR in it so that likely contributed to my problem. The box spring of my bed also currently just sits on the floor. I was thinking of getting a few piles of hardcover books, putting them in ziplock bags, covering them in doublesided tape and using them to raise my bed off the floor, if regular tape is effective enough to hold a flea. I know I need to vacuum regularly but I really don’t know what else to do. I just can’t stand for it to go on any longer.
I’ve posted some pictures here since I couldn’t seem to attach them to this post. Wish they could be better. I’ll try the lamp-soapy water method again to see if it catches anything.
I also want to note that I am extremely grateful for the website and all the information you guys have put together.
Thanks for sharing your story.
I am not sure what those white insects are in your photos. As you mentioned, the quality isn’t ideal. However, fleas aren’t white in color. So I believe those are something else. Maybe a springtail?
The specimen in the jar definitely looks like a flea.
If you have a continued flea problem, the IGR spray should help.
Washing and drying your garments should kill any potential fleas on them. So, I am not sure where they are surviving. Fleas shouldn’t be on clothes in the first place, so it’s a bit strange.
You may want to consider getting professional pest control to take a look in person. They would be able to give you a better idea of the exact species and the source.
It would be a good idea to have a captured specimen for them. You mentioned using multiple sticky type traps. However, it may be a good option to purchase an actual lighted flea trap so you can get a few specimens.
Let me know if you have any further questions.