Fleas are small insects (under 1/4″) and are dark brown in color. They lack wings and are extremely narrow side to side, which enables them to move easily through the body hairs. The final set of legs helps them jump. They have numerous spines and hairs on their body, and their mouth parts are adapted for piercing the skin and sucking blood.
The lifecycle of a flea consist of four stages: the egg, the larva, the pupa, and the adult. Eggs are deposited either on the pet, in the pet’s bedding, or in cracks and crevices of floors. Eggs placed on the pet are not firmly attached and soon fall off. In about one week the eggs hatch into immature fleas called larvae. Flea larva are very different from adult fleas. They are wormlike, lack legs, and do not feed on fresh blood, but live on organic matter, including dry particles of blood and excrement voided by the adult fleas. In about 12 days, the larva are fully grown and change to the pupal stage which then changes into the adults flea. Adults spend more than once a day on fresh animal blood. They may live as long as a year and in some cases, even longer. Flea bites on humans are generally most prevalent on the ankles and lower portion of the legs.
Fleas can transmit a number of diseases to man, most important of which is plague. In the 14th Century, this disease, known as the “Black Death”, killed a quarter of the population of Europe (25 million people). Murine Typhus, a disease primarily affecting rats and mice, can be transmitted to man by infected fleas. When a flea feeds, it usually defecates at the same time, and it is believed that the transmission of the Murine Typhus pathogen occurs by scratching the infected feces into the wound.
The best choice for homeowners with pets is to have a veterinarian prescribe a treatment called “spot on”. This involves the application of a small amount of liquid insecticide to the pet between the shoulder blades. This application remains effective for up to a month and will kill adult, biting fleas. Thoroughly vacuuming all pet bedding, carpets, floors and upholster furniture on a daily basis is a great non- chemical way to reduce infestations. The last “knock out” punch is to have your home professionally treated to kill any remaining adults and eggs that may hatch. This treatment is done by applying a residual material to all areas of where pets frequent. Additionally there is a growth regulator combined with the residual treatment that kills all stages of the fleas on contact. Of course if your pets are outside on a regular basis we recommend treating the yard with a granular treatment to kill the fleas where they are hiding in their natural environment.