Fleas have been responsible for more deaths than all the wars put together. Fleas play a role in spreading various diseases by passing bacteria between the host and the humans they bite. Amongst these diseases is Bubonic Plague, which killed over 200 million people in the 14th century. Tapeworm are also reported to be transported by fleas.
- Light brown to mahogany in colour with a flattened vaguely oval body shape, which assists them in moving quickly through dense hair.
- Ranging in length from 2 to 8mm
- The adult Flea is covered with bristles, combs and a pair of claws at the end of each of their 6 legs, which assist them in clinging to their host.
- Fleas have two simple eyes and a mouth comprising a sawing and a sucking part.
- Well developed hind legs enable fleas to jump distances of 10 to 30cm.
- Short antennae allow them to sense heat, vibration, change of air currents, shadows and even traces of carbon dioxide.
- Eggs are oval, white or cream in colour and measure 5mm in length and they take up to one week to hatch subject to the right conditions.
- The larvae emerge from the eggs with a sparse covering of hair and are able to move very quickly even though they have no legs.
- Fleas eat skin scales or undigested blood excreted by the adults.
- For a period of 1 to 3 weeks the larva undergo a series of 4 moults before pupating in a silken cocoon which they spin.
- Adults emerge after 1 to 2 weeks in the right conditions. If the conditions are not right, they can remain dormant in their cocoons for several months.
- Emergence can be triggered by vibrations, a situation that often occurs when people move into an unoccupied home previously occupied by pet owners.
- Male and female rely on blood for food, but can survive for several months without it.
- Fleas crouch low and penetrate the hosts, tissue using a sawing motion of the mouth parts. A small amount of anti-coagulant is injected into the opening along with the saliva to enable the flea to siphon the blood easily.
- If a flea is interrupted during a feed it will merely probe a new spot and carry on. Between feeds they often drop off the host.
- The female Flea use the blood to nourish their developing eggs and can lay up to 4 eggs after each meal.
- During their lifetime most female fleas lay at least 100 eggs.
- The lifecycle of the flea is several months.
- Fleas prefer a warm environment, and breed mainly in summer. This is when you will experience flea plagues.
- Fleas usually bite humans around the ankles and lower parts of the legs, injecting saliva into the skin which creates an itchy red spot.
Treatment and Control
- Concentrations of the fleas in egg or larval stages will be found in areas where pets feed and rest. Regular cleaning of floors in these areas is essential as well as careful washing of blankets and kennels with an insecticidal preparation is essential.
- Regular washing of pets using a controlling shampoo may help although a vet can supply small capsules containing a liquid which is squeezed onto the skin just behind the head and once absorbed into the blood stream will control the fleas for up to a month.
- Continual re-infestation of the home will indicate that the source has not been identified and probably requires the services of a licensed and reputable pest controller.