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Fleas

flea

Fleas

Cat Flea, Dog Flea Scientific Name: Ctenocephalides felis/Ctenocephalides canis

All About Fleas

Fleas are an insect that is well-known and detested by all. A person who has ever owned a cat or a dog has more than likely had a run-in with these unwelcome pests and has faced challenges in getting rid of them. Fleas are a pest in the truest sense of the word. They invade homes, families and pets. They bite, carry and transmit diseases, reproduce at astonishing rates and never seem to leave. Yet in spite of their pest factor, fleas have been around for much longer than humans, for over four million years.

Flea Under a Microscope

Flea Under a Microscope


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Only five percent of fleas take up residence in the coats of domestic animals. Most fleas actually prefer to live in carpets, furniture and upholstery. The other approximate five percent reside on its food source to ensure a fresh blood supply. Fleas survive by sucking the blood of their victim after delivering their bite. Most of these bites go unnoticed until the following day, attributed to the fact that fleas, much like bed bugs and the mosquito/, are able to numb the area that they feed from, leaving wounds desensitized until hours after the initial bite occurs, when the wound then becomes itchy and irritated.

Signs of flea infestation can most easily be identified on animals by examining the hind quarters. These parasites are small, winged and usually black, and can be observed crawling on the skin and within the fur of pets. When disturbed or startled, fleas will jump in wide arches away from their host. They can most easily be handled by avoiding sudden movement and pinching these pests between finger and thumb to ensure elimination.

Flea Habitat

Nearly every continent in the world plays host to these insects. There are currently over 2,000 known species of fleas, 300 of which are native to North America. Due to their efficient ability to adapt, their existence, both now and in the future, is firmly secure.

Common fleas, such as dog or cat fleas, love warm and moist conditions. These insects can be found anywhere that both exist. Temperature and humidity can play a vital role in the life cycle of the flea, with warmer temperatures increasing their cycles. Fleas inhabit residences more so in the winter months due the accommodating conditions found on pets and their fur that will sustain the insects through the cold months of the year.

Cats and dogs are not the only species of animals that these critters like to inhabit. Birds/ and rodents also play host to fleas, both in the wild and domestically. These insects are largely parasitic, living off of warm-blooded, furred animals and humans. Though a host is the lifeline for fleas, the insects spend a significant amount of time away from the animals on which they feed and are commonly found on floors, furniture, animal pins, and pet beds. Most larvae do not live on hosts, but rather in areas that the hosts frequent, such as beds or furniture.

Life Cycle of Fleas

A flea goes through four stages during its life. Fleas hatch into the larvae stage, from which they will cocoon to progress into the following stages of their life cycle, adulthood and death. In this respect, their life cycle is very similar to that of the butterfly. A flea can develop from larvae to pupae inside of its cocoon and emerge from the shelter in under three seconds. These hardy creatures can live up to ninety days without a meal. While fleas cannot fly, they can jump with an impressive range of four feet or more. These insects transfer from one host to another through this method.

Flea Giving Birth

Flea Giving Birth

Flea Larva

Flea Larva

Fleas and Humans

Fleas are particularly common in homes, and human-flea encounters and cohabitation have a widespread commonality. One of the most irritating qualities about flea bites is the itching sensation they incur. These bites usually appear as small red dots which can become welts. Some people have allergic reactions to these bites. In domestic animals, flea bites can often result in stress and extensive scratching, which may cause secondary complications such as inflammation, open sores or anemia. Hair loss is also a frequent side effect in cats and dogs, and if lost in this manner, the hair will not usually grow back. In this instance, it is important to seek both preventive and pest control action to exterminate an infestation in your home. If you have pets you may consider reading our Fleas On Puppies article.

Flea on Carpet

Flea on Carpet

Flea Biting Skin

Flea Biting Skin

 

Flea Control - Pest Control for Fleas

Fleas should get all the blame for the black death plague of  1348-1350. The brown rat was just the fleas ride. It's the same today as it was 664 years ago. Fleas are still spreading disease across the world. If you think your immune because you live in a nice urban home, you are dead wrong. Read our flea control page and learn flea identification techniques as well as extermination techniques.

Flea Entomology

Cat Flea, Dog Flea Scientific Name: Ctenocephalides felis/Ctenocephalides canis

Fleas belong to the order of Siphonaptera. They are wingless creatures equipped with a mouthpiece uniquely adapted for their blood diet. They most commonly follow the Mecopteroidea and Antliophora clades.

Though most people do not associate fleas with great risk, these insects commonly carry and transfer disease to humans and animals alike. These creatures do not only host viral and bacterial diseases, but they also carry protozoans and helminthes. Fleas can transmit a number of harmful illnesses, including Yersinia pestis, Rickettsia typhi, Rickettsia felis, and Bartonella henselae. These insects are capable of contracting and passing along blood-borne diseases as well, though the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS virus from fleas has been ruled out by the Center for Disease Control.


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