What do they look like?
Adult fleas are normally 1-4mm long, brownish in colour, without wings but with powerful legs adapted for jumping; and they have piercing, sucking mouth parts. Their bodies are covered with backward projecting spines that help them move between the hairs on the host animal. Cat and dog fleas are usually found together and are similar in appearance. Female fleas can live up to two years, during which time they can lay up to 1,000 eggs each. The female cat flea's head is twice as long as it is wide. Both cat and dog fleas have a row of very heavy spines on the front of the head (genal comb) and on the back part of the first body segment (pronotal comb). Cat and dog flea larvae are ¼inch long when fully developed and look much like fly maggots. They have 13 body segments, are a dirty-white colour with backward projecting hairs on each body segment. They also have a pair of hook-like appendages on the last abdominal segment.
Where do they live?
Adult fleas live exclusively as parasites of warm-blooded animals. The females lay their eggs close to, or on, the infested animal. Wall-to-wall carpeting and soft furnishings also provide a relatively undisturbed environment for fleas to develop. They can also live in cracks and crevices in bare floors.
What do they eat?
Larvae feed on debris and adult flea droppings. Adult fleas feed solely on blood using their piercing and sucking mouth parts. Cat and dog fleas prefer feeding on cats and dogs, but also feed on humans. Cat and dog fleas go through a complete metamorphosis. The females lay four to eight eggs after each blood meal. The eggs fall into the nest of the host animal or wherever the animal happens to be at that time. The eggs hatch in about 10 days.
How much of a pest are they?
Fleas are not thought to transmit any serious illness to humans. Although not all people are affected by flea bites, they can cause severe irritation.
How can I get rid of pests?
Ealing Council provides a pest control service for the treatment of fleas, including details of the treatment and post treatment advice. You can also control pests through several other methods:
- hygiene - regular cleaning, particularly with a vacuum cleaner, will help prevent the build-up of infestation by removing eggs and larvae from floors, furniture and where pets sleep
- treatment of pets - in order to achieve effective control, pets must also be treated with a product approved for veterinary use
- chemical - the standard treatment for infested premises is the application of a residual insecticide, either as a powder or a liquid spray. The insecticide is applied to all floor surfaces
Note: these areas must then not be vacuumed or washed for at least 10 days after the treatment, or longer if possible.
When using pesticides always follow the instructions on the label.