- Color: adults: black to reddish brown; larvae: dirty-white.
- Size: adults: 1/8-inch long; larvae: 1/4-inch long.
- Wingless, laterally flattened with piercing-sucking mouthparts.
- Very well developed legs which allows them to jump at least six inches straight up. Their bodies are covered with backward-projecting spines that help them move between the hairs on the host animal.
- A row of very heavy spines on the front of the head (genal comb) and the back part of the first body segment (pronotal comb).
- Larvae look much like fly maggots except for their well-developed head and a pair of hook-like appendages on the last abdominal segment.
Habits of Fleas:
- Fleas undergo complete metamorphosis (i.e., egg/larva/pupa/adult).
- After a blood meal, females lay four to eight eggs (400 to 800 total) on the host animal or in its bedding.
- The eggs fall into the nest or bedding of the host animal or wherever the animal happens to be at that particular time.
- Eggs hatch and developing larvae feed on the adult flea feces which contain bits of dried blood.
- When mature, the larvae spin silken cocoons in which they pupate; this pupal stage lasts up to 20 weeks.
- Adult cat fleas often stay within the cocoon until vibrations stimulate them to emerge.
- Developmental time (egg to adult): 16 days to 20 months.
- Cat and dog fleas readily feed on other animals, e.g., raccoons, opossums, rats, and humans.
- Adult fleas remain on the animal throughout their lives but occasionally are knocked off the animal by scratching; they also can be found in pet bedding and resting areas.
Damage From Fleas:
- Bites can cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals.
- Transmit murine typhus.
- Adult fleas on indoor cats and dogs.
- Flea excreta (i.e., black droppings near the skin) on pets.
How to Control and Kill Fleas:
- The house should be thoroughly vacuumed in order to remove larvae, pupae, and food materials and the bag immediately sealed and discarded.
- Pet bedding should be discarded or washed in hot soapy water.
- The pet should be treated by a veterinarian, pet groomer, or the owner on the same day that the house is treated. Numerous products are available for on-animal flea control, e.g., pills containing an insect growth regulator, spot-on adulticides, flea collars, on-animal insect growth regulators, soaps, dips, etc.
- Regardless of the treatment, adult fleas must be eliminated from the animal in order for treatment to be effective.