One of a pet owner's worst nightmares is a flea infestation. These tiny insects are capable of consuming up to 15 times their body weight in blood, and female fleas can lay up to 400 eggs at a time. If you see fleas, you need to take swift, decisive action to prevent or stop an infestation. To do this, it's important to understand the different types of fleas and their life cycle stages.
Types of Fleas
There are several different species of fleas (rat flea, human flea, dog flea, cat flea, chicken flea, sticktight flea, springtail flea) with cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) and dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) being the most common. However, all are similar in behavior and it's actually misleading to classify them by what animal they affect. While each species of flea may prefer a different type of host, they will readily jump to different kinds of animals or even to humans to get their next meal. In fact, dogs are the victims of cat fleas more often than they are the victims of dog fleas.
Life Cycle of a Flea
Fleas begin their lives as eggs. Typically, the eggs are laid on the host animal, but they may be laid on carpeting or other surfaces if the female is forced off of the host. When they emerge from the egg, fleas go through larval stages where they have no eyes or legs and primarily feed on the feces of other fleas. After 1-2 weeks, the larvae form a cocoon and enter a pupal stage. When they emerge, they are fully functioning adult fleas with the jumping and biting behaviors that people are most familiar with.
Treating fleas can be an in-depth process for more severe infestations. Below are some methods that you can implement to get rid of fleas:
1) Treat your pets: there are a variety of products that you can use (tablets, droppers, and more) to kill fleas on your pets, and to prevent fleas from jumping back on to them.
2) Use a flea comb on your pet. Have a bucket of hot soapy water on hand to drop fleas in when you comb them out (this will kill them).
3) Sweep, mop, and vacuum your floors to pick up adult fleas, larvae, and eggs. Vacuuming your carpet also sends vibrations to larvae fleas to leave their cocoon prematurely. Keep vacuuming every few days for more severe infestations. When you're done vacuuming, take your vacuum outside, place your vacuum bag in a blag plastic bag and throw it out.
4) Steam clean your carpet. Doing this before vacuuming kills virtually all adult fleas.
5) Wash clothes, pet bedding, sheets, and blankets in warm water to kill larvae and eggs. Repeat weekly or bi-weekly for at least a month.
6) Use flea pesticides in your house. Flea bombs are a good way to kill adult fleas after taking the steps above. In order to treat your house with flea chemicals, you will want to keep pets and people out of the house for a few days while the chemicals do their work. After it's over you may want to keep vacuuming to take care of any leftover fleas.
Managing fleas requires attacking them at each life cycle stage. If you take your pets out of your home for a week for a flea bath and let the adult fleas starve, you may return home just as the eggs and larvae you left behind are emerging as adults. To disrupt fleas in their early stages, you need a combination of regular vacuuming and cleaning of rugs and pet bedding, as well as insecticides designed for the specific species of flea that is giving you problems. To get help with fleas in the Atlanta area, schedule a call with flea control experts at Breda Pest Management.