Fleas belong to the insect order of Siphonaptera. They are small and wingless, about 3mm long, covered in spines with piercing mouthparts. They are shiny and reddish brown in colour and covered in microscopic hair.
- Fleas are an external parasite which feed on the blood of warm blooded animals, including humans.
- Fleas often enter a building on cats and dogs, and are most commonly deposited in carpet areas, under the building and in the garden.
- Fleas respond to vibration and using their three sets of powerful elongated legs they start jumping when they sense a possible target to feed on. Fleas can jump about 20cm vertically and 40cm horizontally. Once on a target, they pierce the skin, inject an anti-coagulant chemical into the host to prevent blood clotting and suck out the blood.
- A flea bite can cause acute irritation and infection, and may also transfer other parasites such as tapeworm. Fleas can also act as a vector for disease. A devastating example of this was the Bubonic Plague, transmitted by fleas to rodents and humans. In most cases fleas are just a nuisance to their hosts, but some animals and people do suffer an allergic reaction to flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites generally result in the formation of a slightly raised swollen itching spot with a single puncture mark at the centre.
- There are four stages that make up the life cycle of a flea: Egg – Larva – Pupa – Adult.
- The female lays about 15–20 eggs per day. Eggs laid loosely in the hair coat of the host (ie. cats and dogs) drop out almost anywhere, especially where the host rests and sleeps (ie. carpets and rugs).
- The eggs of a flea are tiny, white and oval-shaped. They are commonly found indoors in floor cracks, crevices, along skirting, under rug edges and in furniture. Flea eggs can take from several weeks to a year to hatch, generally during hot and humid conditions causing an instant infestation that can be of plague proportions. Under ideal conditions, ten female fleas can multiply to over a quarter million fleas of different life stages in just 30 days.
- Flea eggs hatch to small, worm-like larvae that are covered in bristles. Larvae take a week to several months to develop. Their food consists of digested blood from the adult flea faeces, dead skin, hair, feathers and other organic debris. Larvae do not suck blood. Pupae mature to adulthood within a silk cocoon woven by the larvae to which pet hair, carpet fibre, dust, grass cuttings and other debris adheres. In 7–14 days adult fleas emerge. Once the pupa develops into an adult, it must feed on blood before it is capable of reproducing. Overall, the cycle form egg to adult can take from two weeks to eight months.
An experienced PEST-ZAP technician is licensed and trained to rid your home of fleas, with and understanding and knowledge of the parasite and the control methods required to effectively eradicate your pest problem.
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