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The Flea
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The Flea (Parasite)

Adult fleas are between 1-3mm long and brownish in colour. Their bodies are compressed from side to side which enables the flea to move through fur and feather with ease. The hind legs of a flea are relatively large and are used for jumping heights of up to 16cm. Flea eggs are pearl white in colour, oval shaped and approximately 0.5mm long. The pupa is about 6mm long and may be yellow, brown or black. The larva is a typical maggot. It undergoes larval moults, gradually increasing in size and changing colour from white to cream.

Biology

The female flea lays several hundred eggs after each blood meal in the cat’s fur, bedding or resting area and in areas where the cat would be found, Flea eggs are small and white. After several weeks the eggs drop off and hatch into tiny hairy worm-like larvae. The larvae are quite often found where the animal sleeps, along baseboards, in carpets and around furniture. Pupa's mature to adulthood within a cocoon woven by the larva to which dust, pet hair, carpet fibres, and other debris adhere. After 5 to 14 days adult fleas emerge from the cocoon. Fleas can live up to 2 months or 1 year without eating and cannot survive or lay eggs without blood.

People may be bitten by fleas, especially when populations are high, fleas will not live or reproduce on humans.

Significance

Fleas can be carriers of disease or may transmit parasitic worms. Both cat and dog fleas are intermediate hosts of the dog tapeworm which can sometimes be transmitted to man. Generally, in the UK fleas are not responsible for the transmission of disease. However, they are still objectionable due to the bites they inflict. Fleabites are identified as a small dark red spot surrounded by a reddened area. The bite persists for one or two days and may be intensely irritating.

How they live?

The eggs hatch after one week into white thread-like larvae. The larvae thrive in dark, humid places such as carpets and animal bedding.

After two or three weeks when they are fully-grown the larvae spin a cocoon and pupate. The adult usually emerges within seven weeks but can remain as a pupa throughout the winter only emerging when triggered by the movement close by of a suitable host. This explains the occasional mass attacks which take place in homes that have been empty for a long time. The complete life cycle will normally last four weeks but may take longer at low temperatures.

Flea treatment advice

Please follow the instructions outlined below prior to having treatment domestic flea problems:

  1. Remove all small items from the floor.
  2. Thoroughly vacuum clean the house and throw away the bag. If using a bagless vacuum cleaner clean out the chamber with disinfectant.
  3. All the carpeted areas of the house will be sprayed.
  4. The property must then be vacated for at least 4 hours. All pets must be removed too.
  5. After the treatment do not vacuum for at least 14 days.
Practical advice

Provide your cat or dog with a flea collar. Check your animal for fleas on a regular basis. Treat your cat or dog with an approved flea product. Brush your cat or dog thoroughly with a flea comb. Don't forget to treat your pet's basket/bedding area. Maintain a good level of housekeeping.

Control

Treatment consists of identifying the source of the infestation, ie: the host animal(s), and if appropriate treating it with a suitable veterinary product. Such a treatment should not be carried out by a pest control technician but by the owner of the animal or a veterinarian. A residual insecticide should then be applied to areas frequented by the animal.

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