Common pests

Fleas

Facts about fleas

Flea eggs are small, oval shaped and pearl white in colour and are laid in a variety of locations such as the fur or feathers of the host or in its bedding or resting material. The eggs hatch in about one week into bristly legless larvae, approximately 1-5mm long, which thrive in dark humid places such as carpets and animal bedding. After a couple of weeks the larvae are approximately 5mm long and will begin to spin cocoons in which they pupate. This may take between two and eight weeks depending on temperature. Adult fleas emerge in response to vibrations made by a passing host. The complete life cycle will normally last four weeks but may take longer at low temperatures.

How do they affect me?

All fleas live exclusively as parasites on warm-blooded animals and although they have a preferred host, normally mammals, both the cat and dog flea can also be found on and feed from other animals and man. As well as being found on the host fleas can frequently be found in the hosts bedding. Cat fleas are by far the most common accounting for 75% of all flea infestations. Fleas are known to carry disease and can also be responsible for the transmission of parasitic worms such as the dog tapeworm. In this country, however, fleas are not generally responsible for the spread of infection but do inflict on their host unpleasant bites. Flea bites will be seen as a tiny dark red spot surrounded by a reddened area. The bite will remain irritating for one to two days and in some cases may lead to hypersensitivity.

How do you control them?

The first step in flea eradication is to identify the source and extent of the infestation. In many cases the infestation can be traced to a pet or new item of furnishing. If you suspect the source to be the family pet you should consult your veterinary surgeon who can confirm your suspicions. Treatment for pets will involve the use of an aerosol insecticide spray or powder or a shampoo. Where the infestation is relatively small you may attempt to treat the affected rooms yourself using a general purpose crawling insect spray or powder. These may be available from hardware stores, chemists, supermarkets or the local vets. Where the infestation is extensive a thorough residual insecticide treatment is required.

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