Fleas in Auckland are a problem all year round, but are worse in the hotter summer months. The lifecycle of the flea consists of dozens of eggs laid by the female flea which after a week or two hatch out as lavae. The flea lavae lives for a week or two eating anything it can, usually droppings from the adult flea and human skin flakes. The flea lavae then turns into a pupae in which state it can remain from anything from two weeks to two years. The trigger for the flea pupae to hatch out into adult fleas is the vibration of people walking around or even carbon dioxide from your breath.
Once hatched the adult flea is ravenous and will jump on you or your children looking for a meal.
Fleas are very type specific, quite often only one or two members of a family are being bitten and the fleas do not bother any other family member. This quite often results in children being taken to a doctor as the parents think it is some type of rash. The doctor advises the home be treated for fleas.
Fleas are one of the most difficult insects to get rid of because of the pupae stage.
Flea bombs let off in the home might give temporary relief as they kill adult fleas, but have no residual effect to kill the new fleas as they hatch out.
AAA Pest Control use a mixture of two chemicals. A Bifenthrin spray which effectively kills the adult fleas and the lavae and has enough residual action to kill any new fleas as they hatch out. Unlike most of the other sprays available the bifenthrin cannot be detected by the flea and it will happily hop onto an area that has been sprayed and die. Bifenthrin is low allergenic and very safe for use in the home even around very young children.
The second part of the spray is an ‘insect growth regulator’ which prevents the flea lavae producing ‘chitin’ the chemical it requires to turn into a flea pupae. This effectively stops the breeding cycle and gives long term protection. An IGR has low toxicity to humans or animals.
Blood spotting on sheets is an indication of fleas in the bed. All bed sheets and blankets should be washed and AAA Pest Control can spray the seams of the mattress. Once this is fully dry freshly washed sheets and blankets can be put back on the bed.
The home should be vacated for two or three hours after spraying to allow the flea spray to dry and none absorbent footware should be worn in the house for the next twelve hours or so.
Although dogs and cats get most of the blame for flea infestations, fleas are actually very type specific. Cat fleas prefer to bite cats and dog fleas prefer to bite dogs. However if you remove the animal from the house then you are all that is left. Even putting a flea collar on the animal can cause the fleas to jump off and target you.
Quite often the problem is dust fleas which jump on you when you are outside. These get taken into your car and then jump on anyone travelling in the car and are brought inside. Usually giving your car a good blast of fly spray when you lock it up for the night can kill them off. You might need to repeat in a week as new ones hatch out.
Two of the worst cases we have come across was firstly an old villa in the Sandringham, Mt Roskill area. This house was on the market and was being handled by a real estate firm in Mount Albert. They rang us to complain that whenever they took people through they were being eaten alive by fleas. We entered the villa wearing white overalls and within two minutes there would have been twenty fleas on the white overalls. This old villa had polished wooden floors like many in the Sandringham, Mount Albert area and was locked up in the summer heat. The fleas were breeding in the dirt in the gaps between the wooden floorboards. As soon as the pupae detected the vibration of someone walking through the house they hatched out and were looking for a feed. We quickly sprayed the house with our backpack sprayers and brushing the fleas off our overalls we went and had lunch at a coffee bar in Mount Roskill for an hour. When we returned the fleas had been knocked down and we could spray the villa properly to finish the job.
The second house was in the Te Atatu area. Again this was a vacant house but this one had had squatters living in it with a large number of cats. This place was even worse than the villa in Mount Albert as even cooking pots left on the carpet half full of water (probably for the cats) had a dozen or so dead fleas floating in them. It was so bad that we used a misting gun standing just outside the front door to fill the house with insecticide and went and had lunch in Blockhouse Bay ( our favourite eating place) as we were in no hurry to go back. Three or four hours later we returned and sprayed with our back packs and this killed off the fleas to allow people to come in and rip up the carpet several days later, and replace it without being eaten alive.