Fleas (Order: Siphonaptera) are small, dark, wingless insects that are flattened from side to side. These insects are usually found buried in the hair, close to the skin of mammals. When infestations are large, adult fleas may be found in carpeting and around pet resting areas. Fleas have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are very small, about 1/50 of an inch, oval, and pearly white. Eggs will fall off pets when the animal jumps, scratches, or shakes. The eggs then hatch into larva, which resembles a small worm, about 1/5 inches long when fully grown. This stage only lasts 5 to 11 days. The larva avoids light, and can typically be found burrowed in carpets feeding on flea dirt and other organic material. The next stage is the pupal stage. This lasts 1 to 4 weeks. In this stage, the larva spins a sticky, silken cocoon that picks up dirt for camouflage. This stage is the hardest to control, as some pesticides may not penetrate the cocoon. Additionally, the pupa may remain dormant for extended periods of time if there are no hosts nearby to support them. Finally, the adult stage will emerge from the cocoon. This stage is the one everyone is familiar with, the small brown jumping insect. The adult is about 1/8 of an inch, flattened side to side, and uses its long hind legs to jump large distances.
The most commonly encountered flea is known as the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). However, this species of the flea will feed on dogs, cats, rodents, and people. Fleas can be detected on pets by rubbing animal fur backward and looking for their presence next to the skin, however, they are hard to spot on dark fur or hair. Bites and excessive scratching on both pets and humans is an indication of a flea infestation. Flea bites appear as small itchy red bumps on the skin. In heavy infestations, bites on humans generally appear on the ankles or lower shins.
The best method of preventing a flea outbreak in your home is to keep your pet’s flea and tick medication up to date. Washing your pet with a flea and tick shampoo after outings or contact with other animals is another great method to prevent flea problems in your home. Regularly washing of your pet’s bedding, or frequent vacuuming of areas the pet frequents can also help prevent a flea infestation. If you do suspect or observe fleas on yourself or your pets, acting quickly is the best course of action. Fleas reproduce at an astonishing rate, and one or two fleas can quickly become a heavy infestation.
Cook’s Pest Control offers expert treatment for the control of fleas in and around your home. Our technicians are thoroughly trained to address your flea problems. Contact your local office for more details about this specialized treatment.