Fleas

FLEAS

The most common domestic flea is the cat adult cat flea, unlike many other fleas, remains on the host. Adults require a fresh blood meal in order to reproduce.

Distribution

Although it exists worldwide, the cat flea is most commonly found in the United States, in and around homes with pets.

Description

Fleas are small (1/16"), dark, reddish-brown, wingless, blood-sucking insects. Their bodies are laterally compressed, (i.e., flattened side to side) permitting easy movement through the hairs on the host's body. Their legs are long and well adapted for jumping. The flea body is hard, polished, and covered with many hairs and short spines directed backward. The mouthparts of an adult flea are adapted for sucking blood from a host.

Eggs and feces

Larvae: Within two days of ovipositor, wormlike larvae hatch from the eggs. This stage lasts five to 15 days. Larvae lack eyes, legs, are covered with few hairs, and possess dark guts, visible through their thin translucent exoskeleton. Larvae feed on almost any organic debris in the floor covering, but their main dietary component is dried adult cat flea fecal matter. Adult flea feces, also known as "flea dirt", consist of relatively undigested blood which dries and falls from the pet to serve as food for the newly hatched larvae. The larvae prefer to develop in areas protected from rainfall, irrigation, and sunlight, where the relative humidity is at least 75 percent and the temperature is 70 to 90ºF.

Adults: Adults are stimulated to emerge by vibration or an increase in carbon dioxide. Adult cat fleas require fresh blood to produce eggs. This is the only stage in the cat flea life cycle when the fleas live on the pet. Adults live four to 25 days.

Life Cycle

The cat flea life cycle is one of complete metamorphosis, involving the stages of an egg, larva, pupa, and adult. This cycle usually lasts 30 to 75 days, yet may vary due to external factors, such as temperature and humidity.

Medical and Economic Significance

Cat fleas are capable of transmitting plague and murine typhus to humans, though such reports are rare. There are also varied allergic responses to their bites, depending upon the sensitivity of the host. Mostly, fleas simply act as a nuisance, since they feed on any warm-blooded animal.

Action Threshold

Fleas can be detected early on by observing the behavior of the pet (i.e.. noticing the pet scratching). Flea bites can cause intense itching often resulting in secondary infection. The usual flea bite has a small red spot where the flea has inserted its mouthparts. Around the spot there is a red halo with very little swelling. Many people do not react to flea bites at all while others are sensitive and suffer severe allergic reactions. Fleas may also vector such human diseases as plague, typhus, and tularemia.

Management

In order to effectively control an infestation, fleas must be removed from the pet, the home, and the yard immature fleas which have developed into adults off the animal simply jump on, causing subsequent re-infestation. Pet treatment alone is not sufficient because the animal quickly becomes re-infested from untreated premises. Flea combs may be used to treat the pet, yet they only remove ten to sixty percent of the fleas. By shampooing the animal, the dried blood and skin flakes which provide food for the larvae are removed.

Insect growth regulators (IGR's) are the most effective chemicals and are found in some indoor, space, and surface treatments. Common IGRs are methoprene, hydroprene, and pyriproxyfen. These may be used in conjunction with residual sprays to quickly reduce adult populations. IGRs prevent flea larvae from turning into adults, and have a residual effect of almost three months. For IGR applications to be effective pets must not be allowed access to heavily infested areas outdoors; otherwise adult fleas will constantly be carried indoors by the pet. When using a pesticide, always consult the label. Insect growth regulators (IGR) and insect development inhibitors (IDI) disrupt egg and larval development, but do not kill adult fleas.

For effective control, the home must also be treated, primarily in areas most frequented by the animal; eggs and larvae are developing here. This can be done by way of vacuuming, washing bedding and rugs, and using sprays containing insecticides on the carpet. Vacuuming, however, will only remove eggs and food sources from the carpet. Larvae curl up around carpet fibers and pupae stick to the carpet.

Make an appointment with Kenmore Pest Control today to start protecting you and your home from these annoying pest.

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