Got fleas? Get the vacuum

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:11am EST

A man vacuums a carpet in this October 10, 2004 file photo. Vacuum cleaners kill fleas just as well as any poison, surprised U.S. researchers said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

A man vacuums a carpet in this October 10, 2004 file photo. Vacuum cleaners kill fleas just as well as any poison, surprised U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Caren Firouz

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vacuum cleaners kill fleas just as well as any poison, surprised U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They said a standard vacuum cleaner abuses the fleas so much it kills 96 percent of adult fleas and 100 percent of younger fleas.

So no need to worry that a vacuum cleaner bag may turn into a fleabag breeding ground for the pesky, biting creatures, said Glen Needham, associate professor of entomology at Ohio State University.

Needham studied the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis, the most common type of flea found in households.

"No matter what vacuum a flea gets sucked into, it's probably a one-way trip," Needham said in a statement.

Writing in the journal Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, Needham suggested that the vacuum brushes wear away a waxy outer layer on insects called the cuticle. Without it, the fleas, larvae and pupae probably dry up and die, he said.

The findings were so surprising that the researchers ran their experiment several times.

"We didn't do a post-mortem, so we don't know for sure. But it appears that the physical abuse they took caused them to perish," Needham said.

Fleas spread diseases such as plague and can transmit worms.

"There are all kinds of ways to manage the problem, but how people feel about insecticides and how much money they want to spend factors into what they're going to do for flea control. Vacuuming is a great strategy because it involves no chemicals and physically removes the problem," Needham said.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Philip Barbara)

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