Fleas are parasitic insect blood-feeders found all throughout the world, including in the United States and Canada. They are typically found on rodent and bird host animals but can latch on to your pets at home, making their lives miserable. In the absence of pets at home, fleas will search out you and your family! Like ticks, fleas at home typically latch onto their host's skin and bite to feed on the host's blood. They are nuisance pests and they also transmit bacteria and other blood-borne contaminants.
Knowing everything you can about fleas can help you control and prevent them in your home. The following are some interesting facts about them and some tips on how to get rid of fleas.
Facts About Fleas
- ... are small, wingless, narrow/flat insects with three pairs of legs, and adult fleas measure about ⅛" in length. They are dark reddish-brown in color, with biting mouthparts.
- ... have hind legs much longer than their frontward legs, allowing them to jump incredibly high and far forward. Adult fleas can jump up to two feet upward, and about 4 feet forward to latch onto a host. That's about the equivalent of a human being able to jump half a football field's length up into the air and a full football field's length forward!
- ... can feed on any warm-blooded body, including humans. They prefer to dine on hairy animals such as dogs and cats, however. Their narrow, flat shape allows them to easily burrow through coarse animal hair.
- ... prefer warm, humid environments. They have a flexible life cycle. Ideally, fleas' life cycle takes about three weeks to develop from an egg to larva, to pupa, to adult, but fleas can wait until conditions are optimal to go from one stage to the next. The warmer and more humid conditions are, the faster fleas can develop, compared to when they are in cooler conditions. Fleas' flexible life cycle makes them more difficult to get rid of, as most fleas in the egg and pupal stage are more difficult to kill off.
- ... can go a long time without a blood meal (up to 100 days!). Females need a blood meal in order to lay eggs, however.
- ... can transmit bacteria and blood-borne contaminants, as well as smaller parasites (e.g., tapeworms). Dogs and cats often eat fleas when they are self-grooming, and they can swallow fleas, along with the tapeworms.
Some More Facts About Fleas
- The main types of fleas that are problematic to animals and humans are Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis), and Human fleas (Pulex irritans).
- Cat fleas prefer cats as hosts and are the most prominent species of flea in the world, mainly because they can survive on such a wide variety of animals, not just cats. Most indoor flea infestations are Cat fleas, even in homes without cats.
- Though Human fleas are named such, they actually prefer to feed on pigs.
- When you're treating for fleas, it isn't enough just to treat your pets, you have to also treat the environment in conjunction.
- Even if you don't have pets, you can still get fleas in your home.
- Indoor-only pets (like cats) are not immune to getting fleas! Humans and dogs especially can track fleas into a home, which can later latch on to an unsuspecting cat.
- An adult flea may take as many as 15 blood meals in a day. The excrement of adult fleas often contains blood. Flea feces are essentially made of dried blood residue.
- An excessive flea infestation on an animal can cause severe itching, which the animal will obsessively scratch and bite at, eventually causing patches of hair loss (mange).
- Female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs daily. They lay eggs on their host animals. Flea eggs are round and smooth and easily fall off into the soil or deep into carpet and floor voids to develop.
- Flea fossils dating back some 165 million years to the Mesozoic era have been discovered. Yes, the dinosaurs had to deal with fleas, too.
- One flea species, known as the Chigoe flea, or "jigger" (Tunga penetrans), is native to Latin America and parts of Africa and is known to live exclusively on the blood of people, burrowing deep into skin and feet. They not only cause itching and ulcers on the skin but if they become serious enough a problem, they can make walking difficult for their human hosts.
- The effects of flea bites vary from one host to another. Allergies can make these effects much worse, especially the degree of itchiness. It's possible for your pet or pets to develop an allergy to flea saliva, which they inject when they bite into a host to feed.
Get Rid of Fleas in Your Yard
Indoor flea problems begin with ideal conditions for fleas outdoors. The best way to prevent and get rid of fleas (along with ticks and other pests) is to practice prevention in your yard.
Keep your lawn mowed and shrubbery well-trimmed. Trim foliage and trees back from your home. Pay careful attention to areas of your yard where your pets like to frequent. Seal off any openings to crawl spaces, garages, sheds, under decks, etc. Clean up trash from your yard that flea-infested deer, raccoons, etc. might come to feed on. Don't leave pet food outside overnight.
Keep Your Pets Treated. Treat your pets frequently with products labeled for fleas and ticks. Brush or comb your pets thoroughly before letting them back in the house. Keep your pets well-groomed and trimmed, especially in the summertime. If you don’t treat both your pet(s) and your home (indoors and out) you won't get rid of all the fleas and they'll make a comeback.
How to Prevent Fleas Indoors
Keep your home clean and tidy. Even if you do have fleas at home, it doesn't mean you are a bad housekeeper. Clean floors and well-vacuumed carpets and rugs are definitely important to maintain in your fight against fleas.
Thoroughly sweep your wood and tile floors, and vacuum carpets, rugs, pet bedding, and furniture to remove flea eggs, larvae, and pupae that may be present. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic trash bag and dispose of it in the trash, preferably outdoors.
Indoors, fleas can be killed directly by spraying with an effective indoor plant-powered flea killer spray like Maggie's Farm Bed Bug & Flea Killer or Maggie’s Farm Home Bug Spray. Maggie’s Farm Spider & Insect Dust or Maggie’s Farm Bed Bug Killer are longer-lasting treatments for the edges of carpets, under and around pet bedding and rest areas, and underneath furniture cushions.
An effective yard spray can also be a good longer-term strategy and can cover larger areas outdoors.
Pay particular attention to your pets' favorite areas and treat them thoroughly, but don’t treat pets directly with Maggie's Farm products. It can be difficult for insecticides to penetrate pupae, so you should plan to do a couple of treatments a few weeks apart to get the fleas that emerge out of their protective life cycle stages.
Always follow directions on any pest control product you use.
For more information on preventing and how to get rid of fleas, check out:
For scientifically-tested, effective flea control in your home and yard that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.