Aliens among us
Did you know that fleas can lurk, unseen, for up to nine months?
‘I’ll spray round the whole house,’ says the pest control man as he assesses how bad my situation is. ‘Should be sorted in six weeks.’
Small black dots jump with glee onto his white leg protectors. They jump off, disappointed. Then they find my bare ankles. Their squeaks of joy send messages to the others, who hatch, ready for dinner.
The older ones are too busy to feed; they’re squatting in the corners of the room, in the cracks in the kitchen floor, in my wool basket, squeezing out hundreds of eggs.
‘I’ll set a bomb off too, that’ll cover every surface,’ says the man.
He walks into the kitchen, brushing his legs clear of the hopeful juveniles. ‘I’ve seen worse, but it’s pretty bad.’
Trying not to sound too tremulous, I ask, ‘How does it all work? How can I be sure they’ll be gone?’
For someone who voluntarily marooned herself on an uninhabited desert island for a month, I’m surprised at how squeamish I am about my new house guests. Out in Micronesia, I coped with centipedes as long and thick as garden hoses, spiders the size of small dogs and mosquito clouds so dense they formed thunderheads.
So why are these little buggers getting me hopping?
It’s the lurking.
The adults lay eggs, hundreds of eggs. They hatch in a couple of days and little maggoty larvae then crawl away from the light into crevices. After three larval stages they pupate. This is where they begin to resemble the creatures in Ridley Scott’s Aliens. They hatch when they detect warmth, vibration or carbon dioxide!
At the pupa stage they are almost impossible to kill. To make them hatch and die, you need to be in the same room, breathing, walking, willing to risk the case opening and a flappy spider thing jumping on your face and wrapping its…no, sorry… got carried away.
The idea is that the impervious pupae hatch when they detect you nearby and then the chemical in your house kills them.
That’s the hope anyway. I’ve just had the second spraying and bombing, and have to wait for the next cycle to hatch and die before I can be pronounced clear.
Till then, I’m tempted to stay upstairs and write my memoir about sleeping among poisonous insects and trying to catch enough fish for my supper – almost pleasant memories in contrast.