Pest Of The Week – Fleas (order Siphonaptera)

There are many species of flea but most are 2-3mm long and red or brown in colour. They are wingless, flattened side to side with backwardly directed spines and tube-like mouth parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts.

Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm) making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper. Flea larvae are dirty-white in colour and measure 3 to 5.2 mm in length.

Fleas are a common problem in homes especially for those with cats or dogs. They are also frequently found when moving into a home that previously had pets. While fleas can transmit disease, in this country it is very rare. Instead, the primary concern is the distress that flea bites cause to people and pets.

Cat fleas(the most common) will bite humans, but they do not live on the human body. They will bite the hands and body when handling pets or pet bedding, but the most common place for flea bites are the feet and lower legs. There are usually many more fleas living on carpets and pet bedding than on the pets themselves; they will jump up and bite people as they come close.

Adult fleas pierce the skin of mammals or birds to feed on blood. However, flea larvae feed on organic matter in carpets or bedding and so high levels of hygiene can slow the life-cycle. Flea cocoons can remain dormant for two years or more and are awoken by the vibration of footsteps. It is very common for a flea infestation to remain dormant in an empty home but to awaken when people move in.

Flea bites are marked by a tiny dark spot surrounded by a reddened area, but the swelling is less pronounced than with other insect bites. A single flea will often bite two or three times in the same area in search of blood. The flea bite is usually felt immediately, but it does not particularly hurt. It is the itchiness that results from the body’s reaction that causes discomfort. Infants are at higher risk from being flea bites particularly when playing on the floor. They also tend to be more sensitive than adults to being bitten by fleas.

After several flea bites, some people develop an allergic sensitivity to being bitten leading to an itchy rash or eczema. While fleas cause humans distress, it is pets who are often much more affected by bites from fleas.

If you suspect you have a flea infestation in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee or Perth, call GRAHAM pest control today and we could help.