Fleas – Identification:
There are over 2,000 species of fleas worldwide. Fleas are wingless, external parasites that have tube-like mouth parts for feeding on the blood of their hosts.
Common flea species include:
Adult fleas measure from about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch long. Their common features include:
Color – Fleas are dark reddish-brown in color
Hard bodies – They are difficult to crush between fingers
Flea Life Cycles:
Fleas pass through a complete lifecycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. Completion of the life cycle from egg to adult varies from two weeks to eight months depending on the temperature, humidity, food, and species. The female will generally lay about 15-20 eggs per day on their hosts.
Eggs hatch into larvae between two days and two weeks.
Larvae found indoors tend to settle:
- In floor cracks and crevices
- Along baseboards
- Under rug edges
- In furniture or beds
Larvae found outdoors tend to settle in:
- Sandy gravel soils
- Moist sandboxes
- Dirt crawlspaces under houses and shrubs
Flea Eating Habits
Fleas survive by feeding on the blood of their hosts. Common hosts include:
Adult fleas cannot survive or lay eggs without a blood meal, but may live two months to one year without feeding.
Fleas are easiest to detect if you have a pet infested with them. However, the most common human-biting flea is the cat flea. The cat flea prefers cats, but can live on a variety of hosts. If you suspect your home has fleas, there are surefire methods to help you find out:
- Do the white sock test – Put on white socks and walk through areas of your home where your pet spends most of its time such as sleeping and eating spots, certain pieces of furniture, and where your pet enters and exits the house. Since fleas are jumpers, they will jump onto feet and ankles, and you’ll be able to easily detect their reddish-brown coloring against the white socks.
- Place a shallow dish of soap and water near any hot spots – This shallow pool of water will be a place to capture the fleas.
- Place a goose neck lamp over the water dish – Make sure the light is about 5-6 inches from the water’s surface. Turn on the lamp at night, and the fleas will jump into the light, fall into the water, and drown.
Flea Control, Sanitation, and Pre-Treatment
Flea control is best achieved with a process of strict sanitation, pet treatment, and indoor/outdoor premise treatment.
Flea larvae don’t move far from their hatching site when there’s adequate food, so they spend the majority of time at the base of carpet fibers and often become entwined in the carpet. For this reason, it’s very important to vacuum on a regular basis, preferably every day, to prepare for insecticide treatment. Follow these vacuuming best practices:
- Before vacuuming, collect all items off the floor, under beds and furniture, in closets, etc. to ensure the best access for flea treatment.
- Be sure to cover any fish tanks, remove bird cages, pet food and water dishes, and wash or dry clean any pet bedding.
- Vacuum carpets where any pets may rest to open up the carpet’s nap for more effective insecticide treatment. This will also control any flea larvae by removing any eggs, dried blood, or feces.
- Focus vacuuming on where lint and pet hairs accumulate, such as along baseboards, around carpet edges, on ventilators, around heat registers, in floor cracks, and under furniture where pets sleep.
- Once vacuuming is done, empty the plastic garbage bag and discard in an outdoor trash container.