Facts, Identification & Control
Adults small, wingless, about 2.5 mm long. Covered in tiny spines with piercing mouthparts.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Adults are parasites that draw blood from a host.
Larvae feed on organic debris, particularly the feces of adult fleas, which contain undigested blood.
Eggs are not attached to the host. Eggs will hatch on the ground, in rugs, carpet, bedding, upholstery or cracks in the floor. Most hatch within two days.
Signs of a Flea Infestation
Many signs can indicate flea activity. A common indication would be pets that repeatedly scratch and groom themselves. This is caused by the discomfort of the flea activity as the adult fleas feed on the pet’s blood. A thorough examination of the pet and its fur should be conducted by the homeowner or veterinarian. People also may experience bites which leave behind itchy bite marks. A medical doctor can be consulted, since there are other sources of skin irritation beside fleas. Flea dirt, the adult flea feces, also can indicate activity. Flea dirt looks similar to coarse ground black pepper and may be seen in in pet beds, carpets, rugs and other areas where the animal host rests.
Fleas are external parasites; the adults can be found crawling on the skin of their hosts. Adult fleas measure approximately 2.5 mm in length. Their bodies are shiny and reddish brown in color. They are covered with microscopic hair and are compressed to allow for easy movement through animal fur. Fleas do not have wings, although they are capable of jumping long distances. They have three sets of elongated legs. Read more about what fleas look like.
The cat flea is the most common flea in North America, although the dog, human and oriental rat fleas can also be found. Fleas commonly prefer to feed on hairy animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice and other domesticated or wild animals. Humans are not a preferred food source, and it is unlikely to have a sustained populations feeding only on humans.
The female flea lays her eggs on the surface hair of the host or on the ground. Eggs then drop from the host and can infest carpets, bedding and furniture, hatching into larvae within 12 days. Flea larvae avoid light and feed on organic matter found within cracks and crevices. Usually within 18 days, larvae enter the pupal stage by constructing small, cocoonlike structures around themselves. Approximately two weeks later, adult fleas emerge and begin to search for food sources. Fleas establish large populations where pets and other animals, such as livestock, are present. Multiple treatment methods are often employed to eradicate a flea population.
Pets suffering from flea bites scratch themselves incessantly. Fleas also feed on humans, and some people exhibit flea allergies. Fleas may also carry human diseases such as typhus and tularemia.
Get Rid of Fleas: Flea Control
Flea infestations require multifaceted treatment plans. Addressing only a pet’s infestation or individual flea bites will not prove effective for ridding your home of fleas. Effective flea control should encompass both chemical and physical methods and should be conducted on your pet as well as inside and outside of your home. Of course the primary plan of action should be to examine your pet daily. Catching fleas early will hamper their effect on your pets and in your house.
Fleas are not the only pests that can cause discomfort to your pet. Contacting your veterinarian and pest control professional will help you determine if the problem impacting your pet is fleas. They will encourage you before they arrive to ensure that your home is clean: vacuum thoroughly, sweep and mop hard-surfaced floors, wash all bedding and linens and clear the floor of debris.
After taking these steps, your pest control professional will administer proper treatment to infested locations within and outside of your home. Your pest control professional may ask you to complete other tasks around your home in preparation for treatment. They can also help advise you on ways to prevent future flea incursions.
More Facts About Fleas
Common Flea Problems
Types of Fleas
- Sand Fleas
- Dog Fleas
- Cat Fleas
- Cat Flea Eggs
- Cat Fleas on Humans
- Are Cat Fleas and Dog Fleas the Same?