Flea – Identification and Treatments
How to Identify:
Fleas are very small wingless insects, typically between 1.5-3.3 mm long. Fleas come in varying shades of brown and may appear shiny. Their bodies are thin and flat to allow easy movement through hair or fur. They have six long legs which allow them to jump easily from host to host. Although they are small, they are usually visible moving around on their host, leaving red marks on its skin. Other indications of flea infestations include pets constantly scratching themselves and flea dirt/feces (looks like black pepper).
Fleas most often enter the home through a single host, where they have the potential to spread to other members of the household. Fleas can also enter the home on other pests such as mice and other rodents. Adult fleas live on a host, typically an animal with a lot of hair such as dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, and other animals. Fleas’ bodies are covered in microscopic hairs which allow them to easily stay attached to their host. Adults feed on the blood of their hosts, leaving behind itchy and uncomfortable marks.
Females lay 4-8 eggs, most often near the end of their lives. These eggs are not attached to a host and will fall to the ground where they hatch after about 3 days. Flea larvae seek out shaded and protected areas and do best in high humidity. Flea larvae eat adult flea feces and other organic matter and spin a silk cocoon after 3-18 days. They will stay in this pupal stage from 3 days to a year depending on outside conditions. Out of the pupal stage they become full grown adults and begin searching for a host.
Are They Dangerous?:
Fleas have the potential to carry diseases which can be harmful to humans. These diseases are transmitted through the flea’s bite or their contaminated feces. Different species of flea have been know to carry diseases such as the plague, typhus, bartonellosis, flea tapeworm, and tungiasis.
How to Stop Them:
One indirect way to prevent fleas from entering your home would be to eliminate any openings in the exterior of your home which rodents (potential hosts) could use to get in. The most effective means of control is to eliminate outdoor flea habitats using flea control chemical products and using animal-safe flea prevention products on your pets. Over the counter flea products often address the issue of adult fleas and ignore the root of the problem. Contacting a pest control professional is the most effective way to handle a flea infestation.