Fleas are a common pest that causes discomfort by biting, but they can also transmit several diseases. Fleas are found throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
Adult Fleas are about 1/8” long, body laterally flattened (side to side) and wingless. Their color is brownish-black to black, but reddish-black when full of blood. Females are twice as long as they are high. Mature larvae can be up to 1/4″ long, are very slender and whitish in color. Adult fleas can jump up to 3’ into the air (that’s 250 times their own height).
Female Fleas lay 4-8 eggs after each blood meal, laying up to 500 eggs during their lifetime. The eggs are deposited on the animal and will fall off or are shaken off, so they are frequently found in cracks, crevices or the fabric where pets sleep. The eggs usually hatch within 1-12 days and take an additional 1-2 weeks to go through their pupal stages. Life cycle (egg to adult) can take as little as 2 weeks, but under harsh conditions or if there is a lack of food sources the Flea pupae can remain dormant for up to a year. The adult Fleas are stimulated to emerge from their cocoon by mechanical activity, an increase in carbon dioxide or vibrations around them.
Even though the preferred hosts of Fleas are dogs and cats, they will readily bite and can survive using other species as hosts, including humans. Depending on conditions, adult Fleas can live for several months.
It is not necessary to have pets in the building in order to have fleas present. Since fleas can jump about 6” vertically, they can easily hitch a ride on shoes, pants, etc. Fleas can also be present even if the building has been vacant of people and animals for as long as six months. This situation can occur because of the potentially long pupal period and also because adult Fleas can live for months without food.
Achieving control of Fleas requires a multi-step process, and every step is very important.
- Wild animals such as rodents, opossums, etc., which are nesting near the building or frequently visit the yard near the building should be prevented from entering the structure and controlled with appropriate trapping or baiting.
- Any pets in the house must be treated for Fleas, either by the owner or vet/groomer, but must be done the same day the premises are treated, whether before or while the treatment is being done.
- Indoor control is achieved by removing all small items from the floors before having a trained and licensed pest control operator treat all floors, carpets, rugs and fabric furniture. It is extremely important to vacuum both before and after treatment, making sure the vacuum bag is removed immediately and disposed of outside.
- Outside control is typically minimal, with spot treatments around decks, patios or in areas pets sleep, as well as along the fence line of the yard.