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What is it?

The human flea is pulex irritans, the dog flea is c. canis and the cat flea is ctenocephalides felis. Although there are many types of fleas, these are the three most commonly found in the home. Fleas will attack humans and animals, infest pets, rooms, carpets, upholstered furniture and can also be found in the garden.

What does it look like?

Fleas are very small and black. Often you cannot see their eggs or their pupal cocoons, but will notice a small black insect on you or jumping off your pet after it has bitten. Bites may cause slight red dot-like welts from the flea’s blood sucking feeding, and itching and usually appear in a series around the ankles on humans, or anywhere on the body. In addition to annoying bites, fleas can transmit several more dangerous diseases such as bubonic plague, tapeworms and murine typhus.

How does it manifest?

Female fleas lay eggs shortly after feeding on animal blood and often lay them on the host’s bed or body. Eggs fall of the body and bedding into floor crevices, carpets, and other areas in the home and hatch within 10 days. The tiny, wormlike larvae feed on dried blood, excrement and other organic debris. Pupation then occurs from one to several months after and depending on conditions in the home adult fleas may emerge anywhere from between one week to one year. Because of their ability to survive in their pupal cocoons, fleas may have a life cycle of anywhere from two weeks up to two years.

What can you do about it?

Pyrethtin containing spray should be applied to any infested pets. At the same time, be sure to either treat in hot soapy water or destroy any bedding and vacuum carpeting, upholstered furniture, sofas or anything else that may contain eggs, larvae or pupal cocoons. Then use an insecticide containing pyrethins or chloropyrifos to kill remaining fleas in the home. Yard fleas can be killed by spraying an insecticide containing chlorpyrifos, diazonon or malathion. Flea collars may help prevent reinfestation on pets, but the best bet is to keep animals away from infested areas and keep all infested animals out of the house and yard.