Facts, Identification & Control
What do they look like?
- Size: Fleas are small, wingless and about 2.5 mm long.
- Color: Their bodies are shiny and reddish brown in color, covered with microscopic hair and are compressed to allow for easy movement through animal fur.
- No wings: Fleas do not have wings, although they are capable of jumping long distances.
How Did I Get Fleas?
Flea infestations often come from a pet dog or cat. The pests attach to the animal when it’s outside, and then infest its fur and the places it sleeps indoors. Flea prevention for both the home and yard can be difficult. Without a proactive approach, any pet owner is vulnerable to an infestation.
Seek a host for blood
Fleas depend on a blood meal from a host to survive. On some occasions, fleas may become an inside problem when the host they previously fed on is no longer around. Then fleas focus their feeding activity on other hosts that reside inside the home. An example of such a situation is when a mouse inside the home is trapped and removed, the fleas that previously fed on the mouse are then forced to feed on pets or people.
How Serious Are Fleas?
Flea bites may leave the host with numerous swollen, itchy marks. They may cause allergic reactions in some people and can transmit several diseases. Furry pets are the most at risk. Fleas can bite people and pets and can be a big nuisance. According to a recent CDC statement, the number of illnesses caused by flea bites tripled between 2004 and 2016.
The most serious aspect of a flea infestation is often the time and effort it takes to remove. Dealing with the problem requires treating infected animals, cleaning flea-infested areas, and taking preventative measures to keep the fleas from returning.
How Can I Get Rid of Fleas?
What Orkin Does
Since the immature stages of fleas are very cryptic by nature, the first thing the homeowner should do is contact their pest control professional for assistance. Most of the time simply using over-the-counter products for controlling fleas will not resolve the root causes of the infestation.
An Orkin technician will conduct a thorough inspection and locate areas where the immature stages of the flea population are residing.
After completing the inspection, the next step is preparing the flea management plan. This plan will include:
- Species – identifying the flea species causing the problem.
- Education – explaining the flea’s life cycle and how their habits, habitat and behavior affects the control plan.
- Hosts – inspecting for the presence of other animals that are the flea population’s source of food. This may include rodents either inside or outside the home or perhaps a raccoon or feral cat that is living in the crawl space.
- Vets – homeowner contacting their veterinarian for advice and purchase of flea control products that can be used on pets.
- Bathing – regular bathing and grooming of pets.
- Chemicals – explaining the use of growth regulators that will interfere with the flea’s normal development into the adult stage.
- Vacuum – using a strong vacuum to physically remove flea eggs, larvae, pupae and adults.
- Bedding – frequently washing and drying pet bedding.
- Products – treating affected areas by using safe and effective flea control products where immature fleas may be located.
- Inspections – scheduling a follow-up visit.
Signs of Fleas
Many signs can indicate flea activity:
- Pets Scratching – 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.
- Bites – 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).
- Feces – Flea dirt, the adult flea feces, also can indicate activity. Flea dirt looks similar to coarse ground black pepper and may be seen in pet beds, carpets, rugs and other areas where the animal host rests.
- Adult fleas – Since fleas are relatively easy to see in their adult stage, most of the attention is directed at adult fleas. Adult fleas are usually easy to locate, especially if the homeowner and their pets return to the house after a long vacation or other absence during which the resident flea adults were not able to take a blood meal. Upon returning, the homeowners are often greeted by fleas jumping around and trying to land on them and their pets.
- Flea Eggs – The flea eggs, larvae and pupae are another situation. Since these stages are much more secretive and much less active, they are found in out-of-the-way places like:
- behind, under or in furniture
- in a pet’s bedding
- inside cracks and grooves in the floors
- in carpets
Flea eggs that were deposited by the female adult, fall off your pets as they move, allowing them to be disbursed throughout the environment where a pet spends time.
What do they eat?
Adults are parasites that draw blood from a host. Larvae feed on organic debris, particularly the feces of adult fleas, which contain undigested blood.
Fleas commonly prefer to feed on hairy animals such as:
Flea after feeding:
Do fleas carry disease?
Yes, fleas can transmit diseases when taking a blood meal from a host or via contaminated fecal pellets. Read more about flea-borne diseases.
Eggs are not attached to the host. Eggs will hatch in the following places:
Most hatch within two days. Read more about the life cycle of fleas.
Keeping them out
Employing exclusion practices is important for many pest problems, but exclusion does not have a major, direct benefit for flea control. However, sealing cracks, gaps and holes to help keep rodents or other potential hosts from gaining access into the home is an important indirect way to keep fleas outside.
The most effective ways to keep fleas from getting inside the home is to eliminate outdoor flea habitats and outdoor hosts, plus using area-wide flea control chemical products and veterinarian-approved flea control products on pets.
More Flea Information
What Do Fleas Look Like?
What Do Flea Larvae Look Like?
Flea Life Cycle
Signs of a Flea Infestation
Fleas on Humans
Dog Fleas (Ctenocephalides canis)
Cat Fleas (Ctenocephalides felis)
Are Cat Fleas and Dog Fleas The Same?
Flea Diseases & Pets
Fleas in Carpets & Rugs
Fleas in Bedding
Can Fleas Fly?
Types of Fleas