UK faces ‘second wave’ of pests over Christmas – with rats, cockroaches and blood-sucking fleas invading warm homes

'TIS the season to be jolly – especially if you're a pest.

That's because this year's unusual events have created the perfect breeding ground for fleas and ticks to invade family homes this Christmas with rats the "size of cats" already claiming one estate in Manchester.


One mum on the rat-infested estate in Hattersley, who says she's scared to open her back door because of the rats, says the situation is out of control.

"The whole estate is absolutely overrun by rats now," Becci told the MEN.

"I am worried because they can chew through things like wires which is obviously a fire hazard.

"I have a dog as well so I worry about what he might catch from them."

Vets are also warning that more time outside during lockdown, coupled with missed vet appointments and a warm summer, could send flea numbers rocketing right across the country.

And with Christmas trees starting to go up, ticks could also be making their way indoors – with up to 25,000 on a single real tree.

Even disease-spreading rats could begin to make their way inside in the run up to the festive season – with experts warning of a "second wave of rodent infestations" after numbers spiked during the last lockdown.

"As temperatures begin to drop and food becomes scarce, rats will begin looking for shelter and scraps in more urban locations," says British Pest Control Association (BPCA) technical officer Natalie Bungay.

"They are highly adaptable and won’t hesitate to take advantage of a warm place to nest during the winter months.”

Fleas itching to get inside

Getting to spend more time with pets outdoors was one of the few upsides of the first national lockdown for many animal lovers.

But it might come with a skin-crawling cost, as vets now say blood-sucking fleas could be enjoying a bumper year.

Many vet surgeries understandably chose to prioritise emergency treatments over routine flea and worming appointments throughout the pandemic.

But that means the risk of fleas being carried into homes increased – with a single critter capable of laying 50 eggs every day.

And when temperatures rise thanks to central heating coming on, flea eggs develop into adults at an accelerated rate.

Sean McCormack, Head Vet at Tails.com, thinks this year's missed treatments could create problem – and warns that blood-sucking isn't the only menace fleas bring with them.

"Fleas can also transmit tapeworms so it is important to use an effective prescription wormer against tapeworms at the same time as your flea treatment," Sean says.

He recommends speaking with your vet to find the best treatment for your dog's particular needs if you think they have fleas, but says there are things you can do right now to protect your home this Christmas.

"Vacuuming the entire household, discarding the contents of the vacuum cleaner immediately in a sealed plastic bag, washing bedding on a high heat, and using a spray in the home are vital to prevent reoccurrence," Sam says.

"If your pet spends a lot of time in your car, it’s also worth giving that a good clean too."

Shockin' around the Christmas tree

It's not just your pets that could be harbouring nasty surprises this Christmas.

Your Christmas tree itself is also capable of bringing some unwanted guests into your home – including aphids, spiders and even praying mantises.

Most of the tree creepy crawlies are completely harmless, but disease-spreading ticks can also lurk in real trees' branches.


The jumping parasites can latch on to unsuspecting cats and dogs lying beneath trees or people putting up decorations.

Bites from infected ticks can cause Lyme Disease if left untreated – a condition which can lead to rashes, fevers, and serious long-term symptomsif it's not addressed.

“Although a lovely Norwegian spruce tree is the epitome of a traditional family Christmas, there’s every chance the tree could be harbouring ticks and other unwanted visitors over the festive period, which could come into contact with you and your pets," says Julie Butcher from petcare firm Bob Martin.

"The optimal temperature for ticks and fleas is between 21C and 29C, which also happens to be the optimum temperature for our cosy homes, too – so it's important to make sure you're treating your pet and your home over the winter months to avoid parasite infestations."

Using flea and tick sprays on your soft furnishings and on the tree itself as well as washing your pets' bedding at over 40C is a good way to keep the ticks at bay.

Vermin 'second spike'

Ticks aren't the only disease menace on the cards this winter – with experts believing a surge of rats could be on the way.

The BPCA warned of a "second spike" in rodent activity earlier this month after a 51 per cent hike during the first lockdown in spring.


And with temperatures plunging, experts say another wave of unwanted rat incidents could be unleashed on UK households.

“Rodents and many other pests carry and transmit diseases, and can breed at an alarming rate if left unattended," BPCA's Natalie Bungay.

“They contaminate food, ruin stock, and can even cause fires and floods with their gnawing.

“Pro-active pest management is the best way we can manage the risks to public health and safety.”

The BCPA recommends contacting one of its certified pest control members for help if you think you've got an infestation.

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