Researchers said today that pest of pests, fleas, can be mostly eliminated by a thorough house vacuuming.
Ohio State University researchers said vacuuming kills fleas in all stages of their lives, with an average of 96% success in adult fleas and 100% destruction of younger fleas. The results were so surprisingly definitive that the lead scientist, an insect specialist, repeated the experiments several times to be sure the findings were correct, the university said in a release.
Researchers also examined vacuum bags for toxicity and exposed fleas to churning air in separate tests to further explore potential causes of flea death. They believed that the damaging effects of the brushes, fans and powerful air currents in vacuum cleaners combine to kill the fleas. Researchers theorized that the vacuum brushes wear away the cuticle, a waxy outer later on fleas and most insects that allows the bugs to stay hydrated. Without the waxy protection, the adult fleas. larvae and pupae probably dry up and die, researchers said.
The study used a single model of an upright vacuum, but researchers don't think the vacuum design has much bearing on the results. According to researchers, fleas have multiple life stages. Adult fleas eat blood meals and mate while living on a host animal. Females lay eggs, which roll off of the animal and onto the floor, furniture or pet bedding. After hatching from the eggs two to 14 days later, the insects go through three larval stages, the last of which spins a cocoon to protect the pupa stage. New adults typically emerge within a week or two.
The study involved groups of 100 adult fleas at a time, as well as groups of 50 pupae and 50 larvae, by vacuuming them up from a tightly woven kitchen-type of carpet. Six tests of vacuuming the adult fleas yielded an average of 96 percent of fleas killed; three tests of vacuumed pupae and one test of vacuumed larvae (in their third stage of development) resulted in 100% killed.
In comparison, an average of only 5% of adult fleas died after being held in paper vacuum bags to test for toxicity, and an average of only 3 % died when circulated in moving air, researchers stated. The studies were conducted on the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis, the most common type of flea plaguing companion animals and humans. The results are published in a recent issue of the journal Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata.
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