A common threat to dog and cat owners in Florida, fleas often attach themselves to family pets, feeding on their blood.  Not only a menace to pets, fleas also can feed on human blood and are known carriers of several diseases, including typhus and tularemia.

    Size: 1/2 to 1/6 in.

    Color: Brown to reddish-brown

    Body Structure: Wingless, flat body that is covered in spines with three sets of elongated legs and biting mandibles

    Characteristics: Using their elongated legs, fleas can jump as much as 7-8 inches vertically and 14-16 inches laterally.  Fleas are ectoparasites, meaning they reside on the exterior of the body and feed on the host animal’s blood to survive and lay eggs.  A single female flea can lay an average of 18 eggs per day.  Unlike many parasites’ eggs, flea eggs are not sticky, and although fleas initially lay eggs on their hosts, the eggs fall to the ground where offspring begin the life cycle.  Eggs hatch into larva within 12 days, and larva develop into cocoon-surrounded pupae within a two-week span. The pupal stage can last anywhere from 3 days to one year, depending upon environmental conditions.  When fleas emerge as adults from the pupal stage, they immediately begin seeking food.  Female adults begin laying eggs within 48 hours of their first feeding.

    Habitat/Behavior: Fleas are parasites that commonly attach themselves to wild and domesticated animals, feeding on hosts’ blood for nourishment and reproduction.  Pets, like dogs and cats, often acquire fleas while playing outdoors.  As mentioned above, eggs are laid superficially on the host’s fur but then fall to the ground where the flea larva begin their life cycle, feeding on organic debris and detritus. Adult female fleas commonly feed and lay eggs while a host is sleeping, therefore infestation often will be found near a pet’s bedding area.

    Commonly Active: Can reproduce year-round indoors.

    Prevention/Treatment: Although so-called “flea bombs” are touted for eradicating infestation, they are highly toxic and often not 100 percent effective. Residues can remain on furnishings and carpeting even after the chemical fog has dissipated.  Also, the pesticide may not penetrate cracks and crevices or under furnishings, leaving the infestation partially untouched. It is recommended that a pest control professional be consulted before using a flea bomb.