Fleas (Ctenocephalides felis/canis)
Fleas are an obnoxious parasite. There are 2,500 different species that feed on different types of animals. The most commonly problematic are dog and cat fleas. Fleas can be difficult to eradicate, and they often carry diseases and parasites, like tapeworms and the plague.
- Appearance: Fleas have tall but thin bodies. They are brown in color, and about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch long. Their unique shape helps them move through hair and fur, and their claws help them hang on to their host.
- Behavior: The life cycle of a flea can range from a few months up to a year and a half, under the right circumstances. The female flea can lay 500 to several thousand eggs in that time. Fleas will stay on or near their hosts at all times. Like bedbugs, fleas are a hitch-hiking pest that rely on their hosts to spread. because of their lengthy and complicated life cycle, it can take months to be rid of a flea infestation. Treatments that work well on adults may not work on fleas in other stages of development.
- What to Look For: It doesn’t usually take much investigation to know whether or not you have a flea problem. They can usually be seen crawling on pets, who will scratch themselves noticeably often. There may also be a loss of fur, and you may notice what appears to be dust on their skin. This is called “flea dirt”- the feces of well fed fleas.
- Bites: Fleas don’t just target pets, they bite humans too. If you have a flea infestation, you may notice red itchy bumps on your feet and ankles. On humans, they are usually treated with cold, antiseptics, and antihistamines. Flea bites are not inherently dangerous in and of themselves, but they can transmit dangerous bacteria and parasites.