Britain in grip of FLEA infestation as warm weather leads to surge in the insects

The warm and wet winter has proved the perfect conditions for the insects and there has been a 52% in call-outs to deal with infestations

The warm, wet winter has led to a surge in household flea infestations across the UK, according to a pest control company.

Rentokil has reported a 52% increase in residential flea call-outs over the winter and is urging householders to be on the look-out for the insects.

Met Office figures show that the average temperature for the UK has been 5.6C, well above the long-term norm of 3.7C for the season, making this winter the third warmest across the UK in the records going back to 1910.

It has also been the second wettest winter on record for the UK, with average total rainfall across the country at 20.2 inches, second only to the record wet winter of 2013/2014, which saw widespread storms and flooding.

Rentokil pest expert David Cross said fleas thrive in warm, humid environments, which offer ideal breeding conditions and mean that fewer have been killed off.

Fleas typically live outside but are carried into homes by pets or people, particularly those who have come into contact with wildlife such as foxes, rabbits, rodents or deer.

Once they are inside, centrally-heated homes with carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture offer them optimum conditions in which to thrive, the company said.

The most common indication of a flea issue is a bite or skin irritation

Fleas most often bite people around the legs and ankles, usually with two or three bites in a row which are felt immediately and can be sore for as much as a week.

Mr Cross said: “If you find fleas on your pet or are experiencing flea bites, it’s usually just the tip of the iceberg.

“Fleas found on the host typically only represent just 5% of the total flea population nearby. The other 95% will be in bedding, carpets and furniture.

“If you have experienced flea bites or are treating your pet for a problem, be sure to treat your home at the same time, otherwise you won’t be addressing the problem fully.

“With fleas lying dormant for months at a time, it can be easy to assume you have addressed the issue, only for them to resurface in the future.”

Dr Ed Turner, of the University of Cambridge ‘s Department of Zoology, said: “This is the kind of thing you would expect when temperatures are higher.

“Things like fleas do tend to like higher temperatures for breeding.

“They are able to respond very quickly if the conditions are right. There are very fast potential growth rates.

“If conditions are warm, the eggs will hatch more rapidly and the insects will reach adulthood more quickly.”

Cat flea, Pulex irritans isolated on a white background.