Adult fleas are about 1/16 to 1/8-inch long, dark reddish-brown, wingless, hard-bodied (difficult to crush between fingers), have three pairs of legs (hind legs enlarged enabling jumping) and are flattened vertically or side to side (bluegill or sunfish-like) allowing easy movement between the hair, fur or feathers of the host. Fleas are excellent jumpers, leaping vertically up to seven inches and horizontally thirteen inches. (An equivalent hop for a human would be 250 feet vertically and 450 feet horizontally.) They have piercing-sucking mouth parts and spines on the body projecting backward. Also, there is a row of spines on the face known as a genal comb.Eggs are smooth, oval and white. Larvae are 1/4-inch long, slender, straw-colored, brown headed, worm-like, bristly-haired creatures (13 body segments), that are legless, have chewing mouth parts, are active, and avoid light. Pupae are enclosed in silken cocoons covered with particles of debris.
Fleas pass through a complete life cycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa and adult. A typical flea population consists of 50 percent eggs, 35 percent larvae, 10 percent pupae and 5 percent adults. Completion of the life cycle from egg to adult varies from two weeks to eight months depending on the temperature, humidity, food, and species. Normally after a flea has fed off its host, the female flea lays about 15 to 20 eggs per day up to 600 in a lifetime usually on the host (family pets, livestock, wild animals, humans, etc.). Eggs loosely laid in the hair coat can fall out almost anywhere the host rests or eats. No place in a home is safe from fleas.
Adult fleas cannot survive or lay eggs without a blood meal, but may live from two months to one year without feeding. There is often a desperate need for flea control after a family has returned from a long vacation. The house has been empty with no cat or dog around for fleas to feed on. When the family and pets are gone, flea eggs hatch and larvae pupate. The adult fleas fully developed inside the pupal cocoon remains in a kind of “limbo” for a long time until a blood source is near. The family returning from vacation is immediately attacked by waiting hungry hordes of fleas. (In just 30 days, 10 female fleas under ideal conditions can multiply to over a quarter million different life stages.)
Fleas can transmit disease organisms for bubonic plague, murine typhus, tularemia and tape worm.
Over time, fleas can render a pet anemic, and severely infected pets may need treatment by a veterinarian.
These pests also bite humans. Getting rid of these pesky critters from your home, especially if your pets frequent areas with carpeting, can be particularly difficult.
And as if being bitten weren’t enough…there are now new incentives for controlling fleas-allergies. We already know that some people experience a strong allergic reaction when bitten by a flea. The proteins in the flea’s saliva cause this. Now USDA researchers in Gainesville, Florida, have shown that allergy prone individuals react positively to flea body parts, shed skins, feces, and flea eggshells. Entomologists say that this finding could make a difference for people who have been diagnosed as allergic to cats. They may not be allergic to cats at all, but to the cats fleas. This would explain why some people seem to be allergic to another person’s dog or cat, but not to their own. As flea debris builds up in an infested home, it can become part of the allergen load in household dust.
High Risk Areas
Eggs hatch in two days to two weeks into larvae found indoors in floor cracks & crevices, along baseboards, under rug edges and in furniture or beds. Outdoor development occurs in sandy gravel soils (moist sand boxes, dirt crawl space under the house, under shrubs, etc.) where the pet may rest or sleep. Sand and gravel are very suitable for larval development which is the reason fleas are erroneously called “sand fleas.”
- Cracks & Crevices
- Carpet & Rugs
- Vacuum Bags
- Sandy Soils
- Stacks of Clothes
- Behind Pictures
- Storage Sheds
- and more…