What Are Fleas?
Dog Fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) and Cat Fleas (Ctenocephalides felis)are distinctive from other insects.
Your pets fleas are quite small, flattened external parasites that are a few millimetres long, appearing brown in colour especially once fed when they become a richer mahogany shade.
Fleas vary in size but are typically 1.5 - 2mm long with backward facing hairs.
Specialised backward facing hairs allow the flea to move easily through the victims (hosts) hair. Another significant feature is the fleas incredible jumping range (over 1M) and a distinctive dark brown to black eye on the head.
In the picture above you can clearly see the powerful rear legs tipped with sharp claws for grasping the hosts flesh, ensuring they have a firm purchase whilst they feed on blood.
Fleas take about three weeks to run thorough the various stages of their life cycle.
Metamorphosis is the term that describes the transformation from egg, to larvae, to pupae and finally adult biting flea.
The life-cycle of the flea can of course be strongly influenced by environmental conditions so in very warm conditions with appropriate humidity the flea can mature through this process in just over a week.
Once the female has successfully fed she will begin egg laying and she can will lay as many as 4000 eggs over the coming days.
What Does A Flea Bite Feel Like?
Flea bites are rarely if ever felt. The first defense we have is the hairs on our body. Even the smallest vibration can cause us to flinch, and take notice.
For this reason, fleas are quickly identified unless we have no hair, we are asleep, or we are immersed in activity, meaning the tiny movement of a flea on our skin is unlikely to be registered. A fleas bite is the very least of your worries.
These insects might simply feed on your blood, but the reaction some of us have to the substances in the fleas saliva often cause us to scratch the bite site (pruritus).
Scratching, causing the skin to scab over, and infected skin lesions to form. In turn, permanent scarring can result as a direct consequence.
In some circumstances large infestations can remove so much of the hosts blood that the problem can even lead to clinically significant anaemia, although fortunately this is rare.
Flea Transmitted Disease
So this all makes sense so far but what happens if you swallow a flea? Probably nothing. Let's suppose you are a child and your digestive system is not so robust as a healthy adult - guess what's coming in with the infected flea? You likely thought disease, but it's the developing stages of an 18inch long tape worm called a cucumber worm (Dipylidium caninum).
Freaked out yet, you should be. Fleas have some amazing traits but they always come with a warning, because it's often the children or other vulnerable people in your home that are at the greatest risk from flea borne parasitic, viral and bacterial infection.
Infection is not common, but becomes more likely in premises were fleas are only partially controlled if at all.
Partial control is a very common problem and the costs of doing a little every so often, very often heavily surpasses the costs of a professional treatment like ours that uses the very best approach with the very safest and advanced control methodology.
Pest Control Treatments For Dog Fleas
Large Dog Flea infestations quickly develop whilst your home is empty and we get called to customers every year who have returned home after a trip to become covered in pepper from the carpet or in other words hundreds of fleas all emerging from the floors etc simultaneously.
The flea's astonishing ability to jump 100 times its own height allows it to easily make it onto a passing host (you or your pet cat).
What's interesting is they only jump when it's light. What you will see when they get onto you is they quickly crawl up your legs and get under your clothing to feed.
If you have a car then the fleas can infest your car and being in a confined space with fleas means you will wake the next day to find dozens of flea bites on your legs. You can't see the fleas feeding on you when you are driving!
What Pest Control Treatments Can Be Used?
You can waste hundreds of pounds on ineffective amateur treatments or you can bring in experts like us and do it properly ONCE!
Fumigation or ULV treatment offers a very quick knock-down of adult fleas, but offers virtually no residual control, so you pay to "control fleas in the moment" and nothing more.
This is because it does little to disrupt the fleas lifecycle. What is good is that it penetrates most of the nooks and crannies that are commonly found in homes and will get into all the hard to reach areas in cluttered rooms.
Residual spray - this kills some fleas quickly but can't be used on delicate materials especially those that will be damaged by water.
The spray should contain a residual insecticide that will provide killing power for months and should also contain an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) to break the flea lifecycle.
In short - if you use one method it is a toss-up between temporary relief or prolonged suffering for about four weeks.
But if you want it sorted fast then you need to employ the combined power of both.
The products you can buy in the shops can have some effect but in general are a sorry match for the for large infestations that are only quickly taken care of by integrated methods that include both fumigation and residual sprays.
Common Sources of Fleas:
One of the big questions our customers often ask in relation to fleas affecting their homes or offices is very simply "Where do fleas come from"?
For the answer you need to engage in a small amount of detective work.
You need to think when you first started experiencing the symptoms of bites, such as raised itchy patches on the skin or others in the same area reported seeing them or getting bitten by them.
Once you have a little bit of a time line you need to ask some of these questions and of course give honest answers.
Where did I first notice fleas or the flea bites on my body?
The legs and lower arms are common places especially where the skin is delicate with a good vascular supply close to the surface.
The neck is also a common spot to get bitten. Clothing is a great insulator and also provides fleas with a level of concealment.
Where was I when I noticed the fleas?
What had you been doing that day? Had you had any visitors or had anyone else in that location? Had you been into a property or area where animals were or had been present? Had you been into a squat or old property where an animal had been kept up to eighteen months before? You should also ask questions like "has my neighbours cat entered my car whilst windows were open or the roof was down!
What time of day was it when I noticed the fleas?
Was the weather hot or cold - was it day or night. Like all insects, fleas like warmth and if you are the warmest thing in a cool room then your heat signature alone will get them interested.
If the room is warm or an area is exposed to sunlight through glass, then it speeds up the development time it takes for flea larvae to reach maturity or developing adults in pupae to mature.
Do you have any pets that have not received flea treatments?
Cats and dogs are often the source of fleas - however you also find that rabbits and other animals that frequent your garden will also leave these little critters for you to pick up.
It is not uncommon for fleas to be present in one corner of the garden where badgers, hedgehogs or foxes are regularly seen at night or perhaps in the case of foxes, during the day.
Sadly it is often children who get bitten first as their skin is delicate and untainted with strong perfumes or aftershaves.
Pets that come into your homes and offices are also commonly responsible for infestations, and if you have a cat flap installed without a magnetic or infrared lock on it then it is very common for non resident cats to come into the property and knap on the sofas etc.
Fleas are normally present two to three weeks after initial infestation or quicker where large numbers of adults were present on the contaminating host.
The only good news is that those fleas you eventually see are unable to breed without a blood meal from the respective biological host. This means that if a cat flea bites you it cannot breed, but can of course survive.