picture of a cat flea

Flea Control & Treatment: Protect Your Home

Appearance

What Do Fleas Look Like?
image of a flea
Size: How big are fleas? Minuscule and hard to see with the naked eye, adult fleas range in size from 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in length. They have complete metamorphosis so they do not molt after becoming adults.

Color: Fleas vary from dull reddish-brown to dark reddish-brown in color and appear darker after consuming a blood meal.

Characteristics: Wingless and hard-bodied, fleas use their extremely narrow girth to navigate through the hair, fur, or feathers of host animals with ease. The pests have large hind legs that facilitate impressive lateral jumping abilities and mouthparts ideal for piercing and sucking.

Call for service: (877) 250-3857

Facts

  • Fleas are ectoparasites that target both avian and mammalian hosts.
  • Over 2,500 known species populate various areas around the world.
  • Some of the most notable species include the cat flea, dog flea, and the northern and oriental rat fleas.
  • Cat fleas are actually the most common parasites of both cats and dogs, as dog fleas are rare in North America.
  • Fleas pose health concerns for both pets and humans.

Food

What Do Fleas Eat?

  • Like most parasites, fleas survive on a diet of blood and must consume a meal at each stage of development to reach maturity.
  • Flea larvae eat what is called flea dirt, which consists of dried feces of adult fleas.

Biology

Lifespan
The life cycle of a flea can take as little as two week or as long as eight months to reach completion depending on the temperature, humidity, and available food.
Eggs
Female fleas lay up to 600 eggs in their lifetime and deposit approximately 15 to 20 eggs at a time directly onto a host. While some eggs inevitably fall off during the everyday activities of the host animal, the surviving eggs hatch within two weeks.
Larvae
Flea larvae pass through three instars and need at least one blood meal before weaving a cocoon in which they pupate and develop into adults.
Adults
Newly mature fleas only live about a week without a meal, but after the initial feeding, adults can survive for two months to several years without eating.

Detection

  • Pets: May notice pets scratching at their necks, shoulder blades, and the base of the tail with more frequency.
  • Feces: Check for black excretion pellets and adult fleas in pet fur.
  • Bites: Look for small, hard, red spots with red halos, particularly on the ankles and legs of household members.

Problems Caused by Fleas

  • Both humans and common household pets have adverse reactions to the salivary secretions released by fleas when feeding.
  • The intensity of the reaction ranges from mild irritation and rashes to anemia in extreme cases.
  • Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs that are easily transferred to cats and dogs.
  • Fleas may carry serious diseases like the bubonic plague and Murine typhus.

Signs of Infestation

Due to their minuscule size, adult fleas are difficult to spot without a microscope or knowledge of what to look for.

  • Typically, humans are alerted to a flea infestation by the way their pets behave. If the animals are scratching with more regularity, especially at their necks, shoulder blades, and at the base of their tails, it could be a sign of flea infestation.
  • Bathing pets and combing through the fur to look for black pellets or adult fleas is the best way to confirm the presence of the pests.
  • Furthermore, as fleas are known to feed on humans while they sleep, a breakout of small, hard spots that are swollen and red along the ankles and legs indicates flea activity.

Prevention Tips

  • Exclusion: Measures can be taken to make the home environment less attractive to fleas.
  • Cleanliness: Regularly trim lawns and vacuum homes.
  • Pet activity: Monitor or restrict pet activity so they are less likely to come across an infested area or animal.
  • Wildlife: Trim tree branches and take other precautions to discourage the nesting of flea-ridden birds.
  • Points of entry: Track down and fix any cracks in building foundations or broken screens.
  • Bathe pets: Regularly wash pets and their bedding.

Learn more about Western’s comprehensive Home Pest Control Plans.

Call for service: (877) 250-3857