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Fleas are an external parasite which feed on the blood of warm blooded animals, including humans. Flea is the common name for any of the small wingless insects of the order Siphonaptera.

Some well known flea species include:

                                                 • Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides)
                                                 • Dog Flea (Ctenocephalides)
                                                 • Human Flea (Pulex irritans)
                                                 • Northern Rat Flea

They pierce the skin, inject an anti-coagulant chemical into the host to prevent blood clotting and suck out the blood some passing straight through their rectum in order to lay their eggs.

A Flea bite can cause acute irritation and infection to many of its victims and may also transfer other parasites such as tapeworms.

In most cases Fleas are just a nuisance to their hosts, but some people and some animals suffer allergic reactions to Flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites generally result in the formation of a slightly raised swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the centre.

Fleas can also act as a vector for disease. One devastating example of this was the bubonic plague, transmitted to rodents and humans.

Murine typhus (endemic typhus) fever, and in some cases tapeworm. Hymenolepiscan can also be transmitted by Fleas.

Fleas often enter a building on cats and dogs, and are most commonly deposited in carpet areas, in the garden, yard and under the building.

Flea eggs can take from several weeks to more than 12 months to hatch - generally during the hot humid weather causing an instant infestation that can be of plague proportions.

Fleas pass through a complete life cycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa and adult. Completion of the life cycle from egg to adult varies from 2 weeks to eight months depending on the temperature, humidity, food and species. Normally after a blood meal, the female lays about 15 to 20 eggs per day up to 600 in its lifetime usually on the host (dogs, cats etc.). Eggs laid loosely in the hair coat drop out almost any where especially where the host rests, sleeps (carpets, rugs etc.).

Eggs hatch between 2 days to 2 weeks into larvae found indoors and along floor cracks, crevices, along baseboards, under rug edges and in furniture and beds. Outdoor development occurs in sandy gravel soils (moist sand boxes, dirt crawlspace under the house, under shrubs etc. Sand and gravel are very suitable for larval development which is the reason fleas are erroneously called “Sand Fleas”.

Larvae are blind, and avoid light, pass through three larval instars and take a week to several months to develop. Their food consists of digested blood from adult flea faces, dead skin, hair, feathers, and other organic debris: larvae DO NOT SUCK BLOOD. Pupae mature to adult hood within a silken cocoon woven by the larva to which pet hair, carpet fibre, dust, grass cuttings and other debris adheres. In about 5-14 days, adult Fleas emerge or remain resting in the cocoon until the detection of vibration, pressure, heat, noise or carbon Dioxide (meaning there is a potential blood source nearby.). Most Fleas will survive over winter in the larval or pupal stage with the best growth occurring over the moist warmer months.

Pest control for Fleas.

It is vital for all carpets to be thoroughly vacuumed especially in areas of low traffic, under furniture, etc, before habitat areas are treated with a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide containing an insect growth regulator which inhibits development during the larvae stage of their life cycle.

Steps to Prevent Infestation

To help prevent any reinfestation occurring the home owner should regularly vacuum carpets and thoroughly wash pets (dogs & cats) with a shampoo containing a flea control product.

Restrict access of your dog and/or cat to the internal and sub-floor areas particularly during the summer months.

The costing for Flea control in residential premises will vary depending on the size of the home, garden areas and the ease of access to the various areas of the home.