- Fleas are blood-sucking insects. Only the adults are injurious. Adult fleas are small, wingless insects with laterally compressed bodies. They are dark brown or reddish brown insects. Their size ranges from 1-4 mm long. Their stout hind legs are well adapted for jumping from one host to another, reaching maximum distances of 20 cm (vertically) and 41 cm (horizontally). They feed preferentially on animal blood but will bite humans as well.
- Females will deposit their eggs on floor rugs, etc. A female flea can produce 25 eggs per day and up to 800 per lifetime. The eggs are tiny, usually going unnoticed. Once they hatch (larval stage), they feed on dry organic matter such as adult droppings, old skins, scales or hair. They are small, hairy, wormlike larvae that are whitish with brownish heads. They start off at about 1.5 mm and grow to about 5 mm long. During this developmental stage they avoid light and are sensitive to climatic changes.
- When mature, the larvae spin cocoons and mature into the adult stage. This life cycle may be completed in a few weeks (in warm weather) or may take up to several months (in cooler weather).
- When a host is present, fleas can feed several times a day. However, if there are no hosts present, fleas can survive several weeks without food.
- Their peak season is from early August to early October.
How to Control
- Sanitation is extremely important. Vacuuming on a daily basis is necessary to remove eggs, larvae, etc. Pay special attention to where pets sleep and the basement. It is important to vacuum the following areas: dark corners, behind and under furniture, in cracks and crevices along baseboards, floorboards and heating vents, under the edges of area rugs. Wash all pet bedding in hot, soapy water. Hot soapy water is sufficient to kill adults, eggs and larvae and is safer to use on bedding material than insecticides.
- Identification: look for flea dirt (looks like pepper) on pets in the peak seasons.
- Use Sentinel®, Advantage® or Program® on pets after using a flea-shampoo (in consultation with your veterinarian). The shampoo will kill the fleas directly but will have no residual effect. Sentinel®, etc. renders the animal's blood toxic to adult fleas and so will continue to kill them well after the shampoo's effects wear off.
- Flea collars are not very effective. Powders are not very effective on pets with thick or heavy undercoats, as it cannot reach the area affected.
- If fleas are invading the home, small amounts of Insectigone® (diatomaceous earth) can be placed around the foundations, door and window frames to discourage entry.