The common domestic flea in North America is actually a cat flea which is the most profuse species of flea, widely spread across the globe. This flea is a well-known parasite that is commonly found on domestic pets like cats, dogs, and pet birds. But the flea is not limited to domestic pets but can live on other carnivores as well including humans. The flea is a sucking insect, reddish-brown in color, where the adult measures between 1 and 3 mm long with a flattened body designed for easy movement but difficult to detect in an animal’s coat.
The hind legs of a flea are long and powerful enabling it to jump up to 16 cm in height. Fleas on humans are a rare occurrence, and certainly not in large populations, though they do bite humans. The flea lays pearl white eggs, oval-shaped, roughly 0.5 mm long. Flea eggs are able to filter out of their host’s coat to deposit where the host normally lies or shelters, which is why fleas infest a domestic pet’s bed and are so hard to eradicate.
How do I find fleas?
An adult flea is large enough to be seen when you separate an animal’s fur. It is a reddish-brown insect that moves and jumps rapidly. Fleas live exclusively on warm-blooded animals and birds. With piercing mouthparts, they draw blood from their hosts after first injecting an anti-blood-clotting agent in their saliva.
How do fleas affect humans?
Fleas bite humans, leaving a small dark red spot around which the area becomes red. Flea bites are intensely irritating and can last for a day or two. Fleas are carriers of the disease to humans and other animals. They become intermediate hosts which are able to transmit parasitic worms and other diseases.
Are flea bites dangerous?
Not in themselves, but fleas are known to be carriers of certain diseases and tapeworm. However, flea bites do cause acute itching, scratching, and licking in animals which lead to dermatitis and other skin conditions. With humans, a flea bite leaves a scratching sensation and a red mark which might last for a day or two. You should know how to treat flea bites to prevent further aggravation of the swell.
How do fleas affect domestic pets?
The presence of fleas on dogs and fleas on cats is first detected when your pet starts scratching intensely which might include biting and licking. This is distressing to the animal and unhealthy for its skin. Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is a common complaint with flea-infested pets.
Where do fleas lodge in a home?
Fleas depend entirely on their hosts for food and spend a considerable amount of time lodged in their fur. Strangely though their real home is where their hosts rest and sleep. Fleas are able to shelter and breed in carpets, upholstered furniture, and cracks in the floor. In fact, any areas with suitable conditions which are frequented by their hosts are good enough. Fleas lodge in a garden if soil and climatic conditions are suitable. It is estimated that only about 5 percent of the fleas in a home are on the pet itself. The remaining 95 percent are lodged in various places around the home including the garden.
How do they feed?
When fleas draw blood from their hosts they tend to suck out more than what is needed. This is nature’s way of ensuring their survival. The excess blood passes through their digestive tract undigested and quickly hardens to become food for the next generation. When the pet rests, the eggs and droplets of dried blood fall off. Since the eggs and coagulated blood are in the same location when the larvae hatch they do not have to move far for their food. This way they are able to survive with a good stock of food without being attached to the host.
What’s the best way to eradicate fleas?
Because they are so widely spread, getting rid of fleas in the house is no easy task. This is a two-pronged attack where you will have to treat your pet and the rest of the home on the same day. In addition, you should repeat the whole process a few days later in case any eggs survive and hatch in the intervening period.
To eradicate fleas from your home follow these steps:
- Vacuum the entire home paying particular attention to crevices, cracks, and hidden spaces which might harbor fleas at various stages in their life cycle, their eggs, and minute droplets of dried blood on which they feed.
- Spray pesticide or insecticide all over the home and your yard paying particular attention to carpets, rugs, and other places which your pet frequents and sleeps. Spray in all dark spots because fleas are allergic to light.
- As an alternative, you could fog your house using a flea bomb but follow the instructions carefully.
- If your home is mildly infested you could use a flea trap that is cheap and requires no chemicals, but the outcome is difficult to predict.
- Treat your pet. The older method of flea powder, dips, and flea collars are obsolete. The latest treatment is an anti-flea veterinary formulation applied to the skin of the pet between the shoulder blades, which disperses through skin oil. You can also use chewable tablets for dogs.
- Repeat the procedure after a week.
Why is it difficult to eradicate fleas?
The problem with a flea infestation is that only between 5 and 10 percent of the fleas in your home stay on your pet animal, and these are adult fleas. Fleas can thrive anywhere where conditions are suitable. They reside in cracks in the floor and furniture, on carpets and upholstery, in dark places under furniture, and even in the yard and garden. The female flea lays up to 50 eggs per day. But the eggs soon fall off and distribute themselves in places where your pet rests or sleeps. The adult flea also draws more blood than it needs when it feeds. This excess blood passes through its gastric system where it dries in minuscule particles and drops off along with the flea eggs. So when the eggs hatch releasing larvae, the larvae have an abundant supply of food in the desiccated blood particles nearby. This is how fleas breed so profusely. If the situation is so acute and the fleas have spread all over your home then to eradicate them will need a dual approach – your home and your pet simultaneously.
What is the best way to kill fleas?
To rid your home of fleas, follow these steps:
- Thoroughly vacuum your home especially around the areas where your pet sleeps, carpets, and upholstery.
- Treat your pet with a suitable flea powder, flea collar, or flea shampoo.
- Spray a good insecticide or pesticide around your home. Make sure you include dark areas, under your furniture, and anywhere else fleas are likely to shelter. You could also use a flea fogger or flea bomb which is more effective, though the entire process will take several hours during which your home will have to remain closed and empty.
- Spray your yard and garden with a recommended insecticide.
- Since fleas are hardy it is advisable to repeat the process after a week or so to allow for any eggs, which might have survived, to hatch.
How to get rid of fleas naturally?
Getting rid of fleas naturally is not quite so easy and takes much longer, though there are several home remedies for fleas. Here is one method:
- Vacuum your home thoroughly.
- Trim the lawn and plants in your garden and try to expose dark areas which fleas prefer.
- Bathe your pet with a herbal flea dip. This can be made with two cups of fresh rosemary boiled in water. Take the extract when cooled and add it to a gallon of warm water. Apply this liberally on the pet working it into the skin. Follow this up with a sprinkling of the lemon mixture on the pet’s collar after you have dried your pet.
- To kill fleas in your garden or yard, make a few flea traps. This is just soapy water kept in an open pan that attracts fleas and holds them. Change the soap water daily.
- Repeat the process till the fleas are eradicated.