Fleas are difficult pests to remove from your home. Not only do they attack cats and dogs, they can also be a problem for you. Knowing what to expect with fleas will make it easier to prevent and eliminate an infestation. We’ve gathered information that you should know about fleas.
Fleas are small, wingless insect parasites that feed mainly on the blood of animals. Their bites cause itchy bumps and welts. These pests are active during the day. Fleas often select mice or rats as hosts initially, then move on to your pets to live and feed. In the absence of pets in a home, they will find their way to you and your family. Fleas gravitate to dark, humid areas of their host’s body. They can live for several months without feeding, but female fleas need a blood meal to reproduce.
What Do Fleas Look Like?
Flea species vary slightly in appearance, but there are a few characteristics that fleas share.
- Fleas are small, flat insects measuring between 1/12"-1/6" long.
- They have a brown or dark red body.
- They have biting mouthparts.
- Their flatness and bristles allow them to burrow through coarse animal hair so they can get down to the skin to feed.
- They have six legs, and their hind legs are longer than their other legs.
- Fleas can jump long and high, which makes it easy for them to hop onto their hosts.
Common Types of Fleas
There are more than 2,000 species of fleas around the world. You are most likely to encounter cat fleas, dog fleas, and human fleas.
Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are the most common and most prevalent flea you will encounter. They are most often found on cats and dogs, but they may be found on other hosts such as foxes, raccoons, and rodents. They are usually black to brownish-black in color but may also be reddish-black after feeding.
Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) bear some resemblance to their cat flea cousins. These fleas prefer dogs as hosts, though they will latch onto cats if they are nearby. Dog fleas have more rounded heads than the elongated heads of cat fleas.
Human fleas (Pulex irritans) aren’t as common as other flea species. Human fleas will feed on people. However, they have a wide range of hosts including dogs, cats, and pigs. These fleas have a reddish-brown body. They can be found in homes and the nest of their animal host.
Fleas on Humans
Fleas feed primarily on mammal and bird blood. They prefer hairy animals such as dogs and cats, though human fleas prefer pigs as their host. Fleas will feed on humans if the opportunity arises. One species, the Chigoe flea or jigger (Tunga penetrans), is native to Latin America and parts of Africa. It’s known to feed and live on humans. These fleas burrow into the skin of the host. For humans, they often attack feet. This can cause itching and ulcers, but severe cases can cause humans to have problems walking.
What do Flea Bites Look Like?
Flea bites often result in swollen, red, itchy bumps. These bumps can appear in a cluster or row. A red halo is often visible around the center of the bite. Fleas like to hide on your pet’s neck, ears, back, belly, and near the base of the tail. On humans, you are likely to notice bites on legs and ankles. You may also find flea bites around your waist, armpits, groin, and in the folds of your elbows and knees. If you or your pet are allergic to flea saliva, these bites may be inflamed for several weeks.
Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs feed primarily on human blood, and they are active at night. These pests hide in mattresses, bedding, headboards, bedroom furniture, and carpets. Bites usually occur while people are sleeping. Bed bug bites are red, itchy bumps and appear in a line or zigzag pattern. These bites don’t have a red halo around the bite area. Bites occur on skin that is exposed while sleeping including the upper body and legs.
Where Do Fleas Hide In Your House?
At different stages in their life cycle, fleas will prefer to live in different types of areas.
Eggs: Dozens of flea eggs may get laid directly in your pet’s fur every day and will fall off into the carpet, furniture, bedding, and wherever else your pets may roam.
Larvae: Flea larvae prefer dark, narrow and dusty spaces for protection.
Pupae: Flea pupae are almost always found on floors and in your carpet.
Adults: Adult fleas live on host animals such as dogs, cats, and rodents. Remember, in the absence of furry animals to live on, fleas will come looking for you and your family.
Do You Have Fleas in Your House?
There are a few indicators that fleas are hanging out in your home. These warning signs can help you identify an infestation.
- Spotting Fleas: You may notice fleas hopping around your drapes, carpet, furniture, pets, and in your pet’s bedding. They’ll appear and quickly vanish.
- Scratching: Your pet will likely be scratching or licking excessively. This is a result of flea bites. For serious cases of fleas, your pet may lose patches of fur.
- Flea Bites: If fleas are bugging you, red, itchy bites may appear on your skin.
How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Yard
Practicing prevention in your yard can help keep fleas and other pests away. Check out a few tips to help you win the battle against fleas.
- Keep your lawn and shrubbery well-trimmed.
- Trim foliage and trees so they aren’t touching your home.
- Seal openings to crawl spaces, garages, sheds, and under decks.
- Clean up trash from your yard that flea-infested wildlife might want to eat.
- Don’t leave pet food outside overnight.
- Spray the perimeter of your yard and home with a plant-based insecticide spray. Our Yard Bug Spray kills fleas on contact and provides residual repellency.
How to Protect Your Pets from Fleas
Fleas can drive pets crazy, which is why protecting your pets is important. We’ve made a list of tips to help keep fleas from bugging your pets.
- Talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best preventative product 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 summer.
- Give your pets regular baths to help remove fleas.
How to Prevent Fleas Indoors
Preventative measures don’t stop outside. There are things you can do indoors to help prevent fleas.
- Keep your home clean and tidy.
- Sweep your wood and tile floors.
- Vacuum carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic trash bag and place it in a sealed trash bin outdoors.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
Plant-based insecticide sprays can help to control a flea problem. Indoors, fleas can be killed when sprayed with our Bed Bug & Flea Killer or Home Bug Spray. Not only do they kill pests on contact, they also provide residual repellency.
Insecticide dusts can also help. Our Spider & Insect Dust and Bed Bug Killer dust are longer-lasting treatments. Dusts can be applied to the edges of carpets, under and around pet bedding, and underneath furniture. When treating your home, pay attention to your pet’s favorite areas. It can be difficult for insecticides to penetrate flea pupae and eggs, so you should plan to do several treatments a few weeks apart to treat fleas that emerge from their protective life cycle stages.
While insecticides are great for treating the spots where your pets hang out, you don’t want to treat pets directly with Maggie’s Farm products.