The flea is a small brown insect, about 2mm long and 1mm high with a sideways compressed body. They have a tough outer armour which makes it difficult to squash them, and their tall bodies are ideal for moving rapidly through fur and feathers. They have a tremendous ability to jump, and can reach a vertical height of some 30cm, about 200 times their body length!
Fleas feed on the blood of birds and mammals, and can cause considerable discomfort and annoyance to a human host. Consequently, their eradication is usually of prime importance to any person subjected to a flea infestation.
Species of Flea
There are some sixty different species of flea found in Europe, only one of which, the human flea (Pulex irritans) can breed on man. Generally speaking, modern homes are far too clean and too dry to support the human flea, and any flea infestation in a domestic dwelling will most certainly be due to cat fleas or dog fleas.
It would be very rare for a flea outbreak to occur in a domestic dwelling other than by fleas being brought into the house by a cat or dog.
Although these fleas will not breed on a human host, they will readily feed on human blood, causing discomfort and sometimes an allergic reaction as they bite and pierce the skin. The fleas will breed on cats and dogs and therefore to fully eradicate the fleas quickly it is necessary to treat the house and any animals.
Life cycle and characteristics
Fleas will lay eggs on their host, but these tiny grey eggs tend to fall off, into cracks and crevices on the floor, or in the animals bedding. After about 10 days the egg hatches into a small white thread-like larva, which duly pupates into a cocoon from which the adult flea emerges after 14-21 days. However, it may lay dormant in the cocoon for many months, as it will only emerge when stimulated by vibrations indicating the presence of a host. This will usually be the host animal, but it may be that where eggs have fallen to the floor, the flea which emerges will attach itself to a human host. In a case where an infested house has been empty for some time, the arrival of new occupants may stimulate the emergence of a horde of hungry fleas, all eager to feed on a human host.
The whole life cycle is much quicker at higher temperatures, and flea infestations tend to be more prevalent during the summer.
Although cat and dog fleas cannot breed on human host, they may survive on human blood for several months, so the removal of the animal responsible for the outbreak may not be a satisfactory solution. To deal with the infestation quickly it would still be necessary to treat the house.
When dealing with an infestation of fleas it is essential to have the host cat or dog treated with a suitable insecticide (veterinary advice may be advisable). The animals bedding should also be treated with insecticide or burnt.
The fleas can then be destroyed by a commercial pest control company, or, within the Tendring District, by the Council's Pest Control Contractors, Pestclear, who provide a service for the eradication of fleas in domestic properties. Telephone Pestclear direct on 01255 433999. N.B. This is a chargeable service, visit the Pest Control home page for details of the current charge.
If the Council treats your premises you will be requested to take the following action:
- Ensure that dogs and cats are treated with a suitable insecticide
- Stay out of the house during, and for two hours following the treatment
- Ensure floor areas are clear of obstructions such that the whole area may be sprayed
- Carpets must not be hovered for one week
- Carpets must not be shampooed for three weeks