| These small, wingless, blood-sucking pests create a lot of anxiety for man. Most varieties are around 1/16th inch in size (the Cat Flea can be considerably larger), and are brownish or black in color. They will feed on any warm-blooded animal, including mankind. Fleas prefer to live in fur or feathers, and their body features are well adapted to do so. Tiny claws hold on to the host, and flattened spins on the body help them move
through fur and make them harder for the pet to scratch off. The hind legs are powerful and enable them to hop great distances. The mouth has three piercing stylets that are efficient at sucking blood. Both male and female fleas will bite.
Pets such as cats or dogs are usually responsible for the presence of fleas in a house. The fleas would rather be on the pet, but ones that get into the carpet or furniture and are deprived of their host meal will then go after the next best thing-people.
Fleas can actually survive up to 18 months without a blood meal. While some species are capable of transmitting diseases, the greatest annoyance is really the bites. Bites are usually noticed on the lower body, around the ankles, and often cause an allergic reaction. The flea saliva sets up the reaction, which usually is an intense itching sensation. The area of the bite will have a red spot and sometimes even a rash. The irritation may last up to a week.
The most common fleas found are the Cat Flea (by far the most prevalent flea-it also infects dogs), Stick-tight Flea, Oriental Rat Flea, Mouse Flea, Ground Squirrel Flea, Northern Rat Flea, Wild Mouse Flea, and Rabbit Flea; less common are the Dog Flea and Human Flea. The Ground Squirrel Flea and Oriental Rat Flea are the two most responsible for transmitting diseases.
Fleas are notorious for transmitting the plague (known as "Black Death"). Occasional plague outbreaks in Florida are tied to fleas from squirrels in public campgrounds, but rats have also hosted the carrier fleas. These same fleas will also carry typhus, as will the Cat Flea. Dog and Cat fleas can also transmit tapeworms, especially to children.
One key to getting rid of a flea infestation is frequent vacuuming. As one flea can be laying ten eggs per day over a thirty-day period, there are fleas in every stage of the life cycle at any one time. The infestation can be quite rapid with just a few fleas on your pet. Using the ADVANTAGE flea medicine (or a similar brand) from your veterinarian will also help break the flea life cycle.
After a blood meal, a female will lay around ten eggs per day for several days. The eggs hatch in 2-10 days. From the beginning, the larvae are quite active and hungry. Larvae can feed on just about any organic matter including dried blood. This stage will last anywhere from three weeks to three months, going through three instar's. After the larvae becomes a pupa, it is then capable of infecting a host. This stage varies greatly-under optimum conditions it may be only about a week, but pupa can even over-winter for many months. The life cycle can be completed in as little as a month, but usually is several months long. The adults live up to a year feeding off their hosts.