Case Studies

Cowleys Pest Services Case Studies: Fleas in house and no pets? We solved the mystery! Flea removal and control in New Egypt, NJ

Monday, August 8th, 2016 by Scott Dellett

Challenge

A homeowner in New Egypt was experiencing a flea problem, on and off, for at least two years. Finally, he had enough and contacted Cowleys. According to the homeowner, every few months there was a cycle where he would notice fleas in his home. The problem seemed to die down, but would then inexplicably return. The most perplexing aspect of this infestation for the homeowner was the source. He had no pets in the home, and to his knowledge, never experienced mice or other wildlife invasions that often bring fleas into the home. 

Fleas are tiny wingless external parasites. Like ticks, they feed off the blood of mammals and birds. Although there are several types of fleas, the most common flea in New Jersey is the cat flea. Of course, cat fleas do not limit themselves to cats. They are not host specific, and will just as easily attach themselves to dogs, a variety of wildlife, and even humans. Their can bites cause a severe itching reaction.Fleas have a laterally compressed body making it easy for them to move through the hair, fur, or feathers of a host’s body. Their legs end in strong claws that grasp onto its host in order to feed. On a person, fleas often settle in one’s hair, causing soreness and itching. Both people and pets can suffer from allergic reactions to flea saliva.  And just like ticks and mosquitoes, fleas can transmit diseases by transferring the diseased blood from one host to another through their bites. The cat flea can transfer dog and cat intestinal tapeworms. However, the risk of flea tapeworm infections is low in humans because you can’t get worms through a bite. You must actually swallow an infected flea. Most reported cases of flea tapeworms involve young children.

From my experience, cats and dogs are the most common source of a flea or tick infestation inside a home. These parasites infest your pet while they are exploring outside and then hitchhike a ride into the home where they jump off and multiply. And fleas are prolific breeders.  Female cat fleas can lay about up to 50 eggs per day, and over her lifetime, a female flea can lay 2,000 eggs — in your rugs, carpet, bedding, and upholstery. Most eggs hatch in a couple of days. For homes without pets that have a flea problem, you can pretty much guarantee that flea-infested wildlife is living nearby the home. The usual suspects are mice, squirrels, raccoons, and feral cats. 

I was called out to investigate and resolve the flea problem for this homeowner. 

 

Solution

During my inspection of the property, I observed a missing windowpane leading to a crawl space that was under the porch. Since this was the only potential access route to the house, I was confident that this was the source of the problem. My next step was to figure out what animals were lurking below. In order to access this area, I had to temporarily remove enough deck boards so I could adequately inspect the area. I immediately found what I was looking for. The problem was feral cats. A female cat had been accessing this crawl every so often to bear her young. After weaning her young, she would move on, only to return when she was ready to breed again. This behavior would account for the cyclical flea infestation faced by this homeowner. The cat was doing a good job keeping out of sight. The homeowner had no idea that his crawl space was being used as a cat-breeding facility.

To remove the cats from underneath the home, I first excluded any cats from entering by installing a one-way door. Once the cats leave, they are blocked from coming back in. Before permanently closing up the opening, I made sure that there were no remaining cats underneath. Finally, with the cats gone, I treated the home and crawl space with a highly effective area-wide flea control application.