Fleas—we all know they are a nuisance but did you know they also transmit tapeworms and other infections and are the cause of one of the commonest skin problems in our dogs and cats? Fleas can cause severe anaemia in young puppies and kittens.
The adult fleas you see on your pet spend 90% of their time on the pet, but these are just the tip of the iceberg and make up less than 5% of the flea population in your home.
Fleas can hop a mile in an hour and you can bring them into the house on your shoes.
A female flea can lay 40 eggs per day and once in your house, the larvae can live for up to 2 years.
To get rid of fleas from your home completely, you need to understand their life cycle.
There are four stages in the life cycle of a flea: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Depending on the temperature and humidity , the total life cycle will take anywhere from a couple weeks to many months. Fleas like it best when it is warm and humid.
The life cycle begins when an adult female flea lays eggs after she has sucked blood from your pet The small white eggs are laid in the pet’s fur . A single adult female can lay about 40 eggs every day.
The eggs will fall off your pet as s/he moves. Eggs represent about one-half (50 percent) of the entire flea population present in an average home.
Eggs take anywhere from two days to two weeks to hatch. If temperatures are cold and dry, the eggs will take longer; if it is warm and humid, the eggs will hatch at a faster rate. Larvae then emerge.
The emerging larvae are blind and will avoid the light. They develop over several weeks by eating pre-digested blood (known as flea “dirt”) that adult fleas pass, along with other organic debris in the environment.
Flea larvae can be up to ¼-inch long and are white (almost see-through) and legless. Larvae make up about 35 percent of the flea population in the average household. If conditions are favourable, the larvae will spin cocoons in about 5-20 days of hatching from their eggs. This leads to the next life stage, called the cocoon or pupae stage.
The pupae stage of the flea life cycle accounts for about 10 percent of the flea population in a home. And this is the last stage before the adult flea emerges. The cocoon protects the pupae for several days or weeks before the adult flea emerges. If environmental conditions are not right for emergence, the cocoon can protect the developing flea for months, and in some cases, years.
Cocoons have a sticky outer coating that allows them to hide deep in the carpeting and not be easily removed by light vacuuming or sweeping. The cocoon also protects the developing adults from chemicals.
The adult flea will only emerge when it detects a host – This may be triggered by the vibrations and warmth of your pet walking by or people moving in the house.
The adult flea emerges from the cocoon and needs to begin feeding from a host within a few hours. Shortly after the first meal, adult fleas will breed and begin laying eggs within a few days and so the cycle begins again. New adult fleas are very small and dark in colour. After feeding, they become larger and lighter, taking on the more recognizable flea shape. Adult fleas account for less than 5 percent of the entire flea population in a home. They spend most of their time living on the pet while they feed, breed, and lay eggs, and can live anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months on the host animal.
To eliminate an infestation you need to think of all the stages of the flea’s life cycle and treat the house as well as the pets.
Treat the environment properly by vacuuming regularly for several weeks and thoroughly washing bedding and toys in hot soapy water to remove eggs, larvae, and pupae. Remember to seal and remove vacuum bags after a cleaning session or thoroughly clean a bagless cleaner. Using a humidifier and increasing the home temperature can speed up the life cycle which can help as the pupae are often resistant to household sprays.
We recommend a household spray which contains an insect growth regulator to stop the life cycle in its tracks, as well as treating all the pets in the house.
Treat the adult fleas living on your pet with a preparation that will work quickly and last on your pet to kill the fleas before they can breed. We can advise you of the best spot on , collar and tablet treatments available.
It can be difficult to eliminate fleas from your home but if you treat your pets and the house properly, you will succeed!