A national trade body is warning householders in Bradford to jump to it if they suspect fleas may have invaded their home.

The British Pest Control Association (BPCA), says a lack of knowledge about the life cycle of the pest could prevent people taking immediate action.

Experts at the Association also warned that while pets are the most likely culprits to introduce fleas, they can settle in any household.

Natalie Bungay, BPCA technical officer, said: “If you’ve spotted something jumping on your carpet, it’s vital to act quickly.

“Discovering there are fleas in your home is distressing and, due to their lifecycle, can be an uphill battle to control.

“People sometimes feel ashamed to find out they have a flea infestation, as fleas are often associated with dirty environments.

“But this is a common misconception - fleas are not picky.

“Although a home or business that isn’t vacuumed or cleaned is more likely to provide a better environment for fleas to thrive, they will also infest clean places in their search for a warm-blooded host.”

While many people attempt to treat pets or homes with DIY methods, BPCA warns not enough householders follow the instructions exactly because they don’t fully understand the life cycle of the pest.

The trade body says there are four clear stages in the existence of a flea: egg, larva, pupa and imago (adult).

Depending on environmental conditions, these stages can take between two weeks and eight months to complete.

Female fleas can live up to two years, during which time they are able to lay around 1,500 eggs.

The females must first take a ‘blood meal’ from an infested animal, after which they lay their eggs.

The eggs drop onto the floor and surrounding furnishings, and after several days will develop into larvae.

When fully grown the larvae spin well camouflaged, silken cocoons.

Once fully developed the adult waits within the cocoon until it detects the vibrations caused by a person or animal.

It can also detect pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide from potential hosts and only then will it emerge.

The complete life cycle takes about a month in the summer.

Natalie added: “If you have pets, they can pick up fleas from other animals or places and give them a ride home.

“And although it’s less common, so can humans. The fleas will hitch a ride on your clothes, your skin or hair.

“Critically, fleas can't lay viable eggs in the absence of the host animal blood meal, but around 95 per cent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment, not on pets.

“As flea eggs can survive dormant for long periods of time, sometimes up to 18 months, it’s possible that the infestation was a problem before you even moved into your current home.”

The best way to avoid a flea infestation is early detection. Brush pets often and check for fleas.

Frequently vacuum the areas pets are around, especially carpeted areas in and around any furniture that is used by pets.

Regularly wash pet bedding, blankets and other washable items in the hottest water possible.

An infestation is usually treated with a residual insecticide which is applied to floors and needs to remain in place for at least two weeks to kill newly formed fleas as well as a conventional insecticide to kill the existing population.

Once treatment is complete carpets must not be vacuumed or washed for a minimum of two weeks - longer if possible.

Pest management professionals may also use something called an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR).

Householders can choose to carry out the work themselves, buying amateur-use insecticides from a hardware store or garden centre.

But BPCA strongly urges anyone using insecticides to always follow the instructions on the label and take all necessary precautions to prevent collateral damage or personal injury.

“For any flea infestation, we would always recommend contacting a professional pest management company,” continued Natalie.

“They are trained in flea control and will have access to a range of professional-use insecticides and tools which are not available to the public.

“A BPCA member company will be able to treat infestations quickly and safely.

“They can help minimise pest activity with a range of techniques and have the technical knowledge and experience to apply products in an efficient and safe manner.

“All BPCA members employ qualified technicians who frequently update their knowledge.”

BPCA has produced free resources to give the inside track on the key issues, including a new guide, ‘Fretting about Fleas’ and video which are available to view at bpca.org.uk/fleas To find a BPCA member, use the Association’s online ‘find a pest controller tool’ at bpca.org.uk/find