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Yes, You Can Have Fleas in a Long-Vacant House

By Chris Williams on September 9, 2015.

We just moved into our house three weeks ago and we are being attacked by fleas! We’ve already had an exterminator out here twice. We don’t have any pets and this house was vacant for 6 months before we bought it. We’re working with our realtor trying to get the previous owners to pay for our flea treatments. They say that they never had a flea problem in the home and they are not responsible for the fleas we have now because that was too long ago. How can we prove that their pets left fleas behind?

Z. A., Salem, NH
Flea - Fleas in a Long-Vacant House

I don’t know if you can prove that the previous owners are responsible. It’s possible that pets belonging to the previous owner left fleas behind, but there are also other ways that your home could have become infested with fleas while vacant (see Fleas…But No Pet?).

 

Fleas Can Wait a Long Time for a Blood Meal

As far as the timing, six months is not “too long ago” to connect your current flea problem with the previous owners. Fleas have a complicated life cycle that can take as little as 3 weeks, or as long as a year when there are no animals to feed on. It all depends on whether or not fresh blood is available for the adult flea, whether there is food for the larvae in the form of dried blood, and on environmental conditions in the house such as temperature and humidity.

Possible scenario #1:

If the previous owners’ pets had fleas and those fleas laid eggs that ended up in carpeting in your home, flea larvae could have developed while the house was vacant, and then pupated. Adult fleas can remain in their pupal cocoons for months if there is no pet to feed on. When an animal (or people) again occupy the house, the vibrations, and heat, and CO2 triggers the fleas’ emergence from their cocoons.

Possible scenario #2:

Another possibility is that wild animals like raccoons, opossums, squirrels, or even feral dogs and cats have been nesting in the attic or denning under that house. All of these animals are alternate hosts for the cat flea which is the main flea found on pets. If other animals had been nesting in or around the house, you should have found evidence of that – nest material, or hoarded food, gnawing damage, or feces.

If these wild animals were still present, the fleas would be feeding on them, rather than on you. Usually, it’s only after the wild animals have died, been evicted, or otherwise moved on, that the flea eggs and larvae they left behind would develop into adult fleas looking for a new host.

As you’ve learned, the bad news is that desperate fleas will bite people if there is no pet or other animal to feed on. The good news is that a competent pest control professional can get rid of those fleas for good. Give us a call at Colonial Pest. We can take care of your flea problem and can inspect your home and property for possible animal dens.

Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-SA

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