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How to Detect a Flea Infestation in a New Home

What You Can Do to Find Them

By Gina Carey. January 01, 2011 | See Comments

How to Detect a Flea Infestation in a New Home

Although you're anxious to start putting things away and settling into your new home, it's important to ensure that there aren't any unwanted house guests already there.

Moving to a new house or apartment is stressful enough, and an infestation of fleas waiting there to terrorize your pets will only cause more headaches. Before you unpack your boxes, here are a few ways to check out your new home for fleas so you can eradicate the problem beforehand.

Do the Sock Test

Put on a pair of white cotton socks and pull them up to your calves, then walk around your new home. Make sure to spend time on any carpets that have been installed. If there are adult fleas present, they’ll likely jump up and hitch a ride. Shuffle your feet to create warmth on the floor, as fleas are attracted to heat, and linger in spots you suspect they’d inhabit. You’ll see fleas as brown or black specks against your white socks if they are present.

Check for Flea Dirt

Fleas have the unfortunate tendency to leave behind visible droppings, which their young will eat. This is called flea dirt, and it looks like a sprinkling of black pepper. If you see black, coarse specks along the floor or carpet, rub it with a moistened white towel. Flea dirt will appear as tiny red streaks on the cloth when cleaned in this manner. Where there is evidence of flea dirt, you’ll probably find fleas.

Pay Extra Attention to Carpets

Fleas can lay eggs in carpets, so even if the previous homeowner tried to eradicate the pests, a new breed may have been left behind. Run your hands through the fibers of the carpets and look for evidence of flea dirt or eggs. Flea eggs are tiny white ovals and will be difficult to see without a magnifying glass. If you have one handy, make like Sherlock Holmes and bring it along for a thorough search.

Use Heat and Water

One way to check for fleas is by attracting them with heat. If your new home already has electricity hooked up, you’ll need a lamp, a bowl, warm water, and dish washing detergent. Fill the bowl with warm water and make it slightly soapy with the detergent. Next, place the bowl on the floor and shine the lamp over the water. Fleas will be attracted to the light and jump up towards it, then land in the water. The soap kills them, so you’ll have plenty of evidence of their presence floating in the bowl.

Don’t Forget to Check the Yard

Fleas are hardy parasites that can survive and breed outdoors. But once they hitch a ride on your pets, they’ll spread through your new home quickly. Check shady, moist areas outside for fleas with the sock test. They tend to hang out in areas the sun doesn’t shine, as well as under porches, shrubs, and around trees.

Once you find out where the fleas are hiding, you can start to treat your house and your yard to rid yourself of the pests. If you like your house to have tiny intruders, you're more than welcome to keep it that way, but we think your pet would appreciate any efforts to keep them flea-free.

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