Fleas

Flea-150x150.jpeg

Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of their host.

Appearance
 
  • Adults are small, about 2.5 mm long

  • They are wingless, but have hind legs that can jump 7 in vertically or 13 in horizontally

  • They are reddish brown in color

  • They have a tube-like mouth, adapted for drinking blood from their host

  • Microscopic hairs all over their bodies allow for easy movement through animal fur

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of their host. The larvae feed on the feces of adult fleas since it contains undigested blood. Microscopic hairs all over their bodies allow for easy movement through animal fur so common hosts are hairy animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice and other domesticated or wild animals. They use their hind legs to jump large distances onto a host. If the fleas preferred host is no longer available, they will move to a new host and even a new species.

Reproduction

There are four stages in a flea’s lifecycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. They lay, tiny, almost microscopic, white eggs, 4-8 at a time, on the host. However, the eggs are not attached, so they fall off and hatch on bedding, carpeting, the ground, and other areas. Eggs usually hatch within 12 days and the larvae begin to feed on organic materials, including the feces of adult fleas that contain undigested blood. The larvae are blind, so they avoid light and hide in areas such as pet bedding, by baseboards, and other cracks and crevices. Adequately fed larvae in favorable conditions weave a cocoon and develop into adults within 4 weeks. In unfavorable conditions, they can stay in the cocoon for up to 20 weeks. These new adults emerge with the two goals of feeding and reproduction. They tend to spend all of their time on their host feeding, mating, and laying eggs. An adult female can lay up to 500 eggs in her life span.

Signs of an Infestation

The most obvious sign of a flea infestation is seeing the adults as flea eggs are so tiny they are nearly impossible to detect. You can find the adults on people or pets who have been scratching excessively. Flea bites around your ankles or in other areas are also an indication of a flea infestation.

Treatments

Flea control is a four part process.

  1. Stray or wild animals nesting in and around the structure need to be removed and prevented from re-entering. For example, rodents or opossums living in a crawl space need to be removed and their entrance sealed up so they cannot return.
     

  2. If your pet has fleas you need to treat them yourself, or take them to a veterinarian or groomer. Do this the day the home is being treated, prior to service or during the premise treatment.
     

  3.  Preparation for indoor control includes removing items such as pillows and toys from the floor and beneath furniture such as beds. Vacuum floors, carpeting, upholstered furniture and baseboards where the wall meets the floor. Be sure to seal and dispose of the vacuum bag. Clean all areas frequented by pets. Cover aquariums and turn of pumps during treatment. Remove all pets (cats, dogs, birds, etc.).
     

  4.  A pest management professional will do an initial spray, consisting of appropriate pesticides and an IGR (insect growth regulator) as per the label instructions. Treatment may need to be reapplied throughout the flea season. People or pets should not re-enter the property until the chemical is completely dry. Occupants should vacuum several times for the first 7-10 days after treatment to reduce the number of emerging fleas as some pesticides stimulate fleas so they emerge from their cocoons. For outdoor control, a pest management specialist can apply a yard spray. Another option is to treat places the animal tends to rest (i.e. kennel, under trees, or next to the foundation).