Welcome to FleaBites.co.uk! We aim to help identify flea bites on not only household pets but on humans as well, we also cover a whole range of other annoying bugs and pests.
Now, we all know that fleas bite, and that they itch like crazy when they do! So we definitely want to avoid a potential flea invasion at all costs.
Flea bites on your pets and even on yourself can unfortunately be the very real indication of a flea infestation in your home, (cue the creepy crawly shudder)
What are fleas exactly?
Fleas are a very small ‘holometabolous’ insect, this means they are blood suckers that feed off animals and humans. You may not know this, but there are many different types of fleas, There are dog fleas, cat fleas – (for kittens advice see our article on kitten flea treatment), rabbit fleas and even human fleas. All of which are quite happy to live on any species, not just the one they are named after. As strange as it may sound, an example, cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis – Wikipedia link), are the ones most likely to infest dogs!
What do fleas look like?
Adult fleas are approximately 2.5 mm long and range in colour from dark yellow to reddish brown depending on how recently they fed.
Fleas do not fly but they can leap as high as 22 inches – it has been said that this would be like a human leaping over the Empire State Building, but in fact it is a little less than this, but still an incredible feat.
Fleas have tall, thin bodies which, allied to their strong legs, allow them to move through animal fur quickly and are usually only seen as brief glimpses as they scurry through the animal’s coat. This allows them to evade an animal’s teeth or claws as they scratch and remove the pest.
There is an exception to this in the shape of the stick fast flea (Echidnophaga) which locks on to the host, usually on areas that are lightly furred or feathered such as the legs, eyelids or ears.
Their bodies are also surprisingly tough making them difficult to kill by hand and typically require chemical treatment. Their bodies are also covered in hair that helps stop them being dislodged from their hosts body
Can Fleas Fly?
Unlike many insects fleas have no wings and cannot fly although they are capable of jumping large distances due to their powerful rear legs. They do this by storing energy in an internal spring.This spring is wired through to their rear legs. When they are ready to jump they release this energy through a latching mechanism. Amazingly we still do not fully understand how this mechanism works, but boy does it work!
The Flea’s Lifecycle
The main reason that people have difficulty getting rid of fleas, is because they just treat the visible adult fleas when these typically only account for about 5% of the fleas in an infestation (that’s 1 in 20) The rest are eggs and larvae and if you don’t take care of these too, then the flea lifecycle is very hard to break!
The timeline for a flea from birth to adult looks something like this:
Step 1: The flea lays eggs (Day 1)
A female flea will lay eggs after she’s feasted on a nice meal of human or pet blood. After her meal she will usually stay on her host and lay about 20 eggs. These eggs are smooth and oval shaped. They usually drop off the host and into the environment. This generally means your house or garden. In the home, the eggs usually fall into the carpet or floor cracks until they’re ready to turn into larvae.
Step 2: Eggs turn into larvae (Day 12)
The flea eggs hatch within about 12 days, if the temperature is warm enough. They will then burrow into carpet and cracks in the floor. They eat the flea dirt (flea faeces) that adult fleas drop after feasting on you and your pets.
Step 3: Larvae turn into pupae (Day 19)
The larvae spin cocoons and turn into pupae. This takes about 8 days. The pupae wait for the right time to hatch, when the temperature is warm enough. They can stay in this state for up to 12 months, waiting for the right conditions to hatch!
Step 4: The cycle is complete – flea hatches (Day 26)
Once the temperature is warm enough, the flea hatches and looks for it’s first meal. Soon they are ready to breed and the cycle starts again.
So how do I get rid of fleas?
Of course, you could call a professional exterminator, but with a bit of perseverance you could achieve the same results for a lot less money.
The key steps to getting rid of fleas for good are as follows.
Get Rid of the Adult Fleas
To get rid of the adults you need to treat all the places they live in your house.
So firstly treat pets with a good flea treatment such as Frontline, or similar spot on treatment. Be careful that you use the correct treatment for your pet as some can be harmful eg some dog treatments are harmful to cats.
Next, spray all the carpets,curtains and soft furnishings in your house with a good flea spray such as Indorex. Don’t forget to thoroughly wash and treat all pet bedding too as this is often a hotspot for fleas.
This initial barrage should kill the adult fleas and larvae, but if any eggs are left they will hatch and re-infest your home.
Follow Up to Get Rid of the Flea Eggs
This is where most people that are unsuccessful fall foul – they do not follow up to make sure there are no eggs left. As can be seen from the flea lifecycle, fleas are extremely resilient and while you may kill the adults, the eggs are still lurking and any that survive will soon hatch and start adding more eggs.
To get rid of the eggs you simply need to vacuum, vacuum vacuum! Your house should be vacuumed thoroughly at least once a day, for at least a month after your house and pets have been treated. We cannot stress this enough – vacuum!!
Once a day for a month might seem like overkill, but even one egg can be enough to see your house become re-infested, so a month of vacuuming seems like a small price to pay for the lack of itches!!