Fleas are small dark colored parasitic insects, ranging between 1.5 to 3.3 mm long. Fleas are wingless, have a hard body and tube-like mouthparts used for piercing skin and sucking blood. Fleas have long and hairy legs, which are crucial for jumping from host to host. A flea can jump as far as 18 cm to reach its next blood meal. If a human had the ability to jump like fleas, they could jump as far as 300ft!
Habitat and Biology
Under the right conditions, fleas can live up to one and a half years. The normal lifespan of an adult flea is usually 2 to 3 months. Fleas are usually found near the hosts resting site and are not necessarily loyal to one host. Fleas will jump to different hosts if the opportunity presents itself.
Fleas have four stages in their life cycle; Egg, Larva, Pupa and Adult:
Fertile females lay eggs after a blood meal. The eggs are laid in bundles of 20 to 30 and are deposited on a living host. Flea eggs weigh very little and usually roll onto the hosts sleeping area.
Flea larva emerges from the eggs after 2 to 7 days. Flea larvae are blind and usually hide out in dark places during the development stages, feeding on dead organic matter.
Flea larva will soon pupate and develop silk cocoons after three larval stages.
After a few more weeks of transformation, an adult flea emerges. The adult flea will rest until a new host is presented.
Fleas require animal blood for nourishment and cannot survive without living near a host to feed from regularly. Fleas drink blood using two mouthparts. One part squirts saliva into the host and the other sucks blood from the host. This is also how fleas transmit diseases to humans and their house pets.
Fleas can carry a variety of bacteria such as myxomatosis, tapeworms and yersinia pestis. Plague is a serious infection of humans caused by the bacteria yersinia pestis. It is believed that fleas feeding on rats were the culprits behind the plague outbreak in 14th century Europe, leaving over 25 million people dead. Fleas are also known to transmit tapeworm and typhus.
Flea Control and Prevention
Getting rid of fleas can be a difficult and daunting task. Homeowners must take several steps before beginning initial pest control treatments.
- Animal Medication for Fleas
- Seek medical help from a local veterinary clinic, and they will prescribe the correct flea medication for house pets. Flea prevention starts with the right medication. Once the animal is on flea medication, the house can be prepared for flea pest control.
- Prepare the Home for Flea Pest Control
- De-clutter the inside of the home, eliminating all possible harboring areas.
- Thoroughly vacuum the inside of the home and empty the bag outside, into a trashcan. Take the trashcan to the end of the road keeping the lid sealed.
- Clean the floors using a mop with hot water and soap.
- Clean animal resting areas. Wash blankets and toys in high heat and vacuum bedding materials.
- De-clutter the outside of the home. Discard any lawn clippings, waste and log piles
Flea Pest Control Treatments
- Insecticide should be applied to the entire front and back yard using a high-powered spray rig. Special attention should be paid to areas where animals rest and play the most. Inside the home, insecticide should be applied around the perimeter and in areas where animals frequent. A minimum of two treatments are required, 7 to 10 days apart in order to eradicate the juvenile fleas as they hatch out of their egg state. Flea pest control requires both skill and experience; therefore it is recommended that you seek a licensed pest control technician for assistance.
- Warning: Pesticide is poisonous and should be handled by a pest control professional. Always read the label and follow instructions before use.
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