Fleas 101

Fleas are small, wingless insects that are external parasites of mammals and birds.  There are over 300 species of fleas in the U.S., but only a few of these affect people. The cat flea is the most commonly encountered of these species. Cats are the cat flea’s principal hosts, however they are also commonly found on dogs and several other warm-blooded hosts.  

Adult fleas are about 3 mm long (about the size of a sesame seed) and their bodies are laterally flattened, which allows them to easily navigate through the fur of an animal. Adult fleas live on or near their host. If the host dies or leaves, they will wander around looking for a new host. Flea larvae live in the substrate where the infested animals rest.

The Life of a Flea

All fleas have a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Eggs are laid on the host and fall off into the substrate where the animal likes to rest. The larva hatches and crawls around the bedding area. They are very tiny and worm-like in appearance.  

After several days, they spin a tiny, oval pupa in which the adult flea develops. Once the adult is fully developed, it stays in the pupa case until it receives cues that a host is nearby. These cues can be heat, carbon dioxide, or vibrations. Once the adult flea emerges, it must feed very quickly or it will die. This is why they stay in the pupa case until a potential host is present, which can be for several months.

Flea Problems & Prevention

Flea bites can be painful and itchy, and they can also transmit a variety of nasty diseases. While fleas are no fun, there are a few ways you can prevent them from hanging out on your pets or in your home. 

  1. Make sure your cats and dogs are on a regular flea preventative medication protocol as prescribed by a veterinarian.  
  2. Regularly clean and launder pet beds and other places where pets like to sleep. 
  3. Vacuum rugs and upholstery often. 
  4. Make sure your attic and crawlspace is inaccessible to wildlife, and take steps to help prevent wildlife from nesting in your yard.  
  5. Trim bushes back from the foundation and keep your lawn well maintained.

If you think you may already have a flea infestation on your hands, Terminix can help! There are just a few steps you’ll need to take to get prepared for your technician’s arrival.

First, we ask that you take any pets to the veterinarian for treatment. Then, vacuum all rugs and upholstery thoroughly, picking up items like clothing off the floors, and clean all pet beds before our treatment starts. If the flea problem is caused by wildlife nesting in the attic or crawlspace, our wildlife department will remove those animals and seal up entryways. 

People and pets cannot be present during the treatment.  We use an insecticide designed to kill fleas and their larvae to treat all carpeted areas and upholstery. Once the treatment has dried, it will be safe for you and your pets to return. When you return, we ask that you vacuum everything again once more, and then the fleas will be forgotten!

A Host of Flea Issues

Adult fleas feed exclusively on the blood of their host. Flea larvae feed on the undigested blood from adult fleas, along with other organic materials in the bedding area. Fleas also have host preferences. Cat fleas prefer cats, dogs, and other mammals, but will also bite and feed on humans. However, they typically cannot reproduce or sustain an infestation solely using human hosts.