When your furry family members start scratching like crazy, you know something is wrong. There’s a chance that they’ve been attacked by fleas. With several species in the world, it’s important to know how to identify them. We’ve made a list of the most common types of fleas.
Fleas are parasites who feed on the blood of their hosts. They will choose a variety of hosts, most often determined by availability. They are found throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Fleas have a dark reddish-brown body that can grow between 1/12″ and 1/6″ long. In their lifetime, they can produce 400-500 offspring. When they find a host, they jump onto it using their 6 legs. They can actually jump 150 times the length of their body. Fleas can’t fly, and they will typically remain on their host as long as they can. These bugs can leave their hosts with itchy, red bumps as a result of their feeding.
Cat Fleas (Ctenocephalides felis)
Cat fleas are the most common house flea and can be found worldwide.
What Do Cat Fleas Look Like?
These fleas are brownish-black or black. When fed, their body can turn a reddish hue. They are flat bugs and typically 1/8″ long. Females have a noticeably small head compared to the rest of their body, which is usually twice as long as it is high. Cat flea eggs are white, oval-shaped, and measure about 1/50".
What Are Cat Flea Hosts?
Cats and dogs are their preferred hosts. However, they will also use other hosts including foxes, rats, and opossums. Though they prefer animal hosts, they will bite humans out of necessity. Bites can leave you with itchy, swollen, red bumps. Females lay between 4-8 eggs after feeding. They hatch within two days and can be found between the hairs of the host or in their nests or bedding.
Oriental Rat Fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis)
Oriental rat fleas are also called tropical rat fleas. These fleas can be spotted throughout the world.
What Do Oriental Rat Fleas Look Like?
These fleas have a light to dark brown body. Like other fleas, they will turn red after feeding. They grow up to 1/10" long. Females have noticeable dark sacs on their abdomen. Unlike cat and dog fleas, they lack genal and pronotal combs. These are rows of spines that are found below or behind a flea’s head. Adult fleas lay small, oval-shaped, white eggs.
What Are Oriental Rat Flea Hosts?
Rodents are their primary host. They are particularly fond of Norway rats, but they can feed on other warm-blooded creatures. They don’t typically infest homes or pets. However, because they travel on mice, rats, and even rabbits, they can end up in your yard. These fleas will live on their host and in their host’s nest.
Dog Fleas (Ctenocephalides canis)
Dog fleas are another common home invader. Though not as widespread as cat fleas, dog fleas are still commonly found in homes worldwide.
What Do Dog Fleas Look Like?
Dog fleas are very similar to cat fleas. They have brownish-black bodies that have a red tint after feeding. They are usually 1/8" long with a flat body. Like cat fleas, they have smaller heads. Their eggs are tiny, clear, and oval-shaped.
What Are Dog Flea Hosts?
As their name suggests, dogs are one of their preferred hosts, but they also gravitate toward rabbits. Adult fleas lay eggs in between the hair of their host. The eggs are clustered together and hatch quickly. If dog fleas find human hosts, they will jump onto them too. Their bites can cause small, red bumps that are itchy.
Chigoe Flea (Tunga penetrans)
Chigoe fleas are also referred to as jiggers. They’re often found in tropical and subtropical places including Central and South America. They aren’t very common in the United States, but they’re sometimes carried to different locations by hosts.
What Do Chigoe Fleas Look Like?
Chigoe fleas are one of the smallest flea species and are usually less than 1/32" in length. These fleas have reddish-brown bodies.
What Are Chigoe Flea Hosts?
Humans and pigs are their primary hosts, but they will also use other warm-blooded creatures as a host. When female chigoe fleas bite, they burrow into the skin of the host. They won’t leave until they are physically removed. Their presence isn’t always noticed immediately. However, it can lead to painful swelling in the area where the flea is located.
Human Fleas (Pulex irritans)
Human fleas are found worldwide, but they aren’t as frequently encountered. They’re native to South and Central America and tend to prefer temperate climates.
What Do Human Fleas Look Like?
Human fleas have reddish-brown bodies and grow between 1/32"-5/32". Females are usually larger than males. Like oriental rat fleas, they don’t have genal and pronotal combs. They lay oval, white eggs that are about 1/50" in length.
What Are Human Flea Hosts?
These fleas are known to feed on humans, but they have other hosts including rats and pigs. Their bites often cause itchy, swollen, red bumps. Human fleas can be found in the nests of their hosts and throughout a human’s home. Their eggs can be found on the host as well as in their nest or house.
How to Prevent Fleas
Dealing with a flea infestation can be worrisome. Thankfully, there are ways to keep fleas from invading your home. Check out a few ways to prevent these pests.
- Keep your grass trimmed.
- Remove trash and food from your yard that could attract potential hosts like rodents.
- Vacuum frequently to help remove fleas and their eggs.
- Regularly bathe and groom your pets.
- Stay up-to-date on your pet’s veterinarian appointments.
- Follow the instructions for any flea treatments you use.
How to Know if You Have a Flea Infestation
Flea infestations are most often discovered by seeing fleas. When they’re adults, they’re easily spotted. Your pet’s actions can also alert you to a problem. If your pet is scratching, biting, or licking more often than usual, fleas could be the cause. You may also notice bites on them or on yourself. If fleas have left you with bites, don’t scratch them. Wash and clean the bite area with soap and water. You can use an ice pack, antihistamine, or hydrocortisone to help alleviate the symptoms.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
If fleas are giving you a fit, there are ways to eliminate them. To take care of fleas in your yard, our plant-based Yard Bug Spray will help. In your home, try our Home Bug Spray or our Bed Bug & Flea Killer aerosol. These sprays kill fleas on contact and provide residual repellency, and they are a more environmentally and family-friendly pest control solution.
Fleas aren’t just a problem for pet owners. Whether they are targeting animals or you, they can become a serious problem. Knowing how to identify them is one of the first steps to controlling the problem. If pests are invading your home, check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective™ Pest Control products.