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Petless accounts can still get fleas

|  April 5, 2021 0 Comments
Squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife can harbor fleas, too. PHOTO: RAPIDEYE/ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS/GETTY IMAGES

Squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife can harbor fleas, too. PHOTO: RAPIDEYE/ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS/GETTY IMAGES


Judy, we have a couple at a residential account without pets, but they’re getting bites on their legs. Both homeowners traveled a lot before the pandemic. We immediately thought bed bugs, but a scent detection canine we brought in did not alert to any activity. Any ideas?
—Bewildered In Trying To End Nuisance


I’m going to make two assumptions here, BITTEN:

  1. They haven’t had any visitors who brought pets, because of the pandemic.
  2. When you say “bites on their legs,” you specifically mean ankles and calves, which are classic areas for flea bites.

I get what you are saying about them not having pets, but you absolutely can have flea issues without a pet. The most common scenario is a crawlspace, attic or low-lying deck that has, or had, an issue with opossums, feral cats, raccoons, squirrels, etc.

I recommend inspecting these areas for wildlife activity, as well as signs of fleas. If you wear a white, Tyvek-type suit, you may see them on you. You also can put out glueboards.

The old monitoring trick of using a pie pan with soapy water and a light shining on it actually works. Typically, you need to leave the pan out for a 24-hour period to maximize efficacy. I’ve also worn white socks, pulled them up over the bottoms of my pantlegs, and scuffled around in suspect areas to try to get fleas to jump on the socks where I can see them. While it’s not the classiest look, it’s often effective.

My best guess, though, is that you’ll find signs of a current or former wildlife issue in one of those areas I mentioned. Be sure to propose a flea treatment along with the removal of the vertebrate pests.

Another angle to look at here is that they may need to have their yard treated, even if they don’t have pets. This summer, my indoor-only cat got fleas. My yard is very conducive to fleas, and has a lot of wildlife in it, such as squirrels and deer. I suspect I brought the fleas into the house after working in the yard. This could be the scenario your customer is dealing with.

My yard never had treatments prior to that, but you better believe I’m doing them now. I’m also treating my cat with a veterinarian-approved product, even though she never puts a paw outside.


Judy, what kind of temperatures do ticks like?
—Tuning Identification Checkup Knowledge


I’ll have to answer for “most ticks” or “in general,” TICK, because there are so many species and there can be variability. Generally, the sweet spot for ticks is between 70°F and 85°F. But they can live in warmer and cooler temperatures, so be careful of my generalization.

If your customer walks her dog in a tick habitat on a nice winter day — let’s say it’s warmed up to around 50°F — it’s still worth the effort to ensure her pet is on a repellent from the veterinarian, and for her to perform a tick check on both the dog and herself before going back into the house. If your customer is worried she may have brought in ticks on her clothes, or perhaps on the nifty sweater the dog is wearing, she can wash and dry them on high heat to take care of any hitchhikers. You can assure her high heat will kill ticks.

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.

BLACK is a PMP Hall of Fame member (Class of 2019) and VP of quality assurance and technical service for Rollins Inc. She may be reached at

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