Pest Spotlight: Fleas

About Fleas

Fleas are ectoparasites, or parasites that live outside the body. Other types of ectoparasites are lice and ticks. Fleas feed off of their hosts’ blood. The chosen hosts are normally four legged mammals however in the absence of such a host or in extreme infestations a human host will be sought out.

Fleas are a very adapted insect. They have specific adaptations that distinguish them from many other insects. One of these adaptations is the ability to survive without food. Fleas also have special physical adaptations such as their complex mouthparts that allow for piercing skin and sucking blood from their host.

Fleas are tiny, flat, wingless insects. Their exterior bodies are covered with several hard plates called sclerites. The outer shell protects the flea from getting crushed or injuring themselves from a long jump. The exoskeleton has the appearance of being smooth but it is actually covered in tiny hairs. These tiny hairs point away from the flea’s head. This makes it easy for fleas to crawl through their hosts hair or fur. It also protects the flea if something tries to dislodge it. The hairs act as anchors to keep the flea on the fur or hair; similar to Velcro.

The Flea Life Cycle

The life span of the average flea is three to four months. Fleas can however live without food for up to one year in the pupae (cocoon) stage. They enter a state of hibernation or “dormancy” which allows them to lay in wait for a blood meal opportunity. When they sense body heart or vibrations they are signaled that a host is within their presence and are awakened to break from the cocoon and seek out their first blood meal.

Fleas lay eggs that look like dandruff or salt crystals. Usually these eggs are laid on the host. Flea eggs are completely smooth; this causes them to fall of the host and land within the living quarters of the host. These eggs hatch into larvae that live in cracks and crevices of many areas such as carpets and rugs, upholstery, blankets, floor boards, sand, earth etc. These larvae are relatively immobile, only able to travel less than an inch. They get their food from black specks known as “flea dirt”. These specks are dried blood flakes that fall off when grooming or scratching. Flea larvae are around 1.5 mm long and look like white worms.

Like butterflies the larvae stage of a flea goes through a cocoon stage (pupa). Generally in good conditions the cocoon will be hatched in one to two weeks and a small flea will hop onto the next potential host that walks by. Thus the cycle begins again. If a host is available the adult flea will emerge after 1 week. If food is scarce the flea can stay inside the cocoon for up to a year. This whole process can take anywhere between 2 and 20 weeks depending on a number of factors (such as temperature, availability of a host etc). Given the right conditions, available host and warm temperature the cycle can take as little as 2 weeks.

Female fleas must have a blood meal in order to reproduce. If after emerging from the cocoon she is unable to find a blood meal then she will die before she is able to lay any eggs. However once she has had that initial feeding she can lay 20 eggs a time; 500 eggs during her lifetime.

 

Flea Treatments

Some insecticides kill adult fleas but not eggs, which means a whole new set of fleas can emerge after the adults have died. That is why we use a liquid residual spray which lasts until all the eggs have hatched and the adults have crawled over the chemical.

We also offer Steam services for fleas as well. Steaming services are offered for both elimination flea treatment and preventative treatment. Steaming areas include your carpets, couches and cracks and crevices. The best time for steaming treatment is at the onset of flea season (or whenever you begin your flea-control program). Though it is somewhat more expensive than insecticide-only treatment, steam cleaning is effective in killing flea eggs. This minimizes the time and the number of treatments needed to eliminate the flea problem.

Give us a call at 416-840-4040 or 1-877-504-BUGS

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