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How Long Can Fleas Live in an Empty House?

Room full of moving boxes

Fleas can live in uninhabited residences for as long as nine months. The reason is that flea pupae don’t require food to survive, which means they can remain dormant until they find a new host. In the absence of a food source, adult fleas that have previously had a host will usually die within a week of hatching.

Even if no humans or pets are present, vacant properties for rent or sale, holiday homes, or cottages periodically can all have active flea infestations. When you don’t know the history of prior tenants, it’s safe to assume that there were pets that lived there and left fleas behind.

Wild animals may have also occupied the attic or the denning area beneath the house, like raccoons, opossums, squirrels, or even feral dogs and cats. Adult fleas are unlikely to attack people while the animals are there. Hence we say, “have been nesting…”

Can you suffocate a flea? Check out our post How Long Can Fleas Live Without Oxygen? to learn more.

How Fleas Work?

Typically, the flea eggs and larvae left by the animals grow into adult fleas hunting for a new host only after the animals have died, been evicted, or otherwise moved on. Adult fleas may go months without eating if they are left without a host.

When attempting to locate the source of the fleas, the question “How long have these fleas been here?” may arise. It’s difficult to say because the flea life cycle is so unpredictable.

Fleas have developed to survive with no host animal around, and they can do so for months. The ranges for each stage of the cat flea are as follows:

  • Eggs hatch in two to twelve days.
  • Larvae can grow in as little as seven days and live for several months.
  • Pupal development takes between Four and Fourteen days.
  • Adults can stay in the pupal cocoon for up to a year without finding a host.

You can see that the fleas might have originated from eggs deposited over a year ago by the occupant’s pet (if conditions are good), or they could have come from eggs deposited over three weeks ago by the pet of an occupant (if conditions are good). Keep reading to know more about how long fleas can live in an empty house.

How Long Does it take to Get Rid of Fleas in an Empty House?

Empty house with hardwood floors and pale blue walls

The problem is that under “normal” conditions, a flea treatment will take 2-3 weeks before the fleas die off. However, this time limit relies on the house being inhabited with a lot of movement. The home is maintained warm and ventilated well (this is to reduce humidity, which makes the fleas and larvae more susceptible to insecticide). People or pets occupy the residence.

Like many other blood-feeding insects, fleas can stay dormant for an extended period. They may have to wait for their host animal to arrive, but they must be ready as soon as the host animal arrives. A flea’s lifecycle consists of an egg, a maggot-like larval, and pupation before emerging as an adult.

While in the pupa stage, the larval develops into an adult but waits for a trigger such as warmth, movement, or carbon dioxide before emerging from the pupa stage. In uninhabited houses, the adult flea in the pupa case creates issues. Because this flea is waterproof, water-based pesticides do not affect it.

How Do You Get Rid of Fleas in a Vacant House?

illustration of the life cycle of a flea

Flea pupae have been seen to live for 10–12 months. When a person enters the house to inspect, clean, or move in, the vibrations and CO2 levels make that new viable blood meal an instant target. Many adults will emerge from their pupal cases quite quickly. Factors such as time of vacancy, wildlife/pests/stray living in the building, vents, walls, and flooring will all impact the life stages present.

You want to donate some clothes, but you have had a flea problem? Check out our post How Long Can Fleas Live on Clothes? to learn more.

Ensure that the House is Clean

person vacuuming a rug

If there are carpets, you must vacuum them 1–2 times each day, empty the vacuum cleaner, place the contents in a plastic bag, knot it, and remove it from the house. You must neither compost this stuff nor should it be dumped into an open body of water; instead, you must clean it up and dispose of it. You must remove all furniture and vacuum underneath all cushions, coverings, pillows, etc.

The debris you vacuum is exactly what flea larva require as a smorgasbord banquet; if the house has been abandoned for weeks, there will be eggs, larva, and adults. If it has been unoccupied for months, you will only have pupal fleas resistant to spraying, powders, and other treatments.

Make the House Undesirable for Stray Animals

pest control spraying a couch with spray

If live mammals are in the house, they will increase the flea population. Adult fleas prefer to live on a host, and those adult fleas consume blood and lay 200 eggs every day. Every single one of those female fleas does it every day or so. In addition, other animals passing through these areas can pick up flea eggs and spread the problem. Eggs are dispersed over the habitat where the host travels, lives, sleeps, and eats.

You can spray and fog, but only vulnerable life stages will be impacted. The pupal shells that surround the soon-to-emerge flea will not be destroyed. You must employ an integrated pest management approach.

Fleas can be controlled, but it needs time, patience, and a deliberate approach.

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