Fleas - Identification and Prevention
As pet owners, we know we might have an occasional flea problem. But if it gets out of control, it can be very stressful, as well as painful and itchy! In days gone by, fleas were a major concern with the transfer of disease – the bubonic plague or “black death”. Although disease transmission through flea bite in New Zealand is uncommon, they can transmit tapeworms and murine typhus. The good news is that there are some clear preventative measures, as well as control products for pets and your home, that allow you to get on top of any flea problem.
WHAT DO FLEAS LOOK LIKE?
- Flea eggs are white and about 0.5mm in diameter. Although they are laid on the host (cat or dog), they easily fall off, so can be found throughout the house, but particularly concentrated on the areas where the pet rests and sleeps.
- The larvae are white worm-like creatures with a few hairs. When they hatch they are 1-2 mm long. The larvae go through 4 moults, getting darker and longer. By the time they are ready to pupate, they are up to 5 mm long.
- Once the larvae is fully developed it spins a pupa. This white oval cocoon is sticky, so picks up dirt making it difficult to see. Under favourable conditions the adult will hatch in 5-14 days.
- Many people will see a small brown / dark brown spot (1.5 – 3 mm) not sure what it is….. but when it jumps they may suspect a flea. Fleas are insects, so the adults have six legs, although they have no wings. The adults are thin to allow them to move easily through fur / hair on their hosts.
SIGNS OF AN INFESTATION
- The presence of fleas is often first detected if the cat or dog is continually itching or maybe a member of the household gets bitten. If steps are taken to get control at this stage, you may be able to prevent a major outbreak.
- Often the major outbreaks occur when families return from holidays. The flea population has got out of control in their absence and there are thousands of adult fleas waiting for a blood meal!
MAIN PEST SEASON
Summer is the main pest season for fleas. The larvae are prone to desiccation so require a warm humid environment to develop. However, in colder climates where heating is used throughout Winter, it is still possible to have a flea outbreak in the colder months.
- Flea larvae require a warm humid environment to survive. Although they are common in the carpet and pet bedding, they also survive well outside in Summer in damp, sandy soils, in the shade. Any such sites which are visited by the pet (for example under the house or deck) could be a source of infestation.
- Flea pupae can remain dormant for many months, waiting for a potential host to walk by before emerging. They detect the vibrations of a passing animal before emerging from the pupa and jumping onto the host.
- Adult female fleas require a blood meal before laying eggs.
- Flea pupae are resistant to most consumer insecticides. After a treatment, pupae may continue to hatch for 2-4 weeks after treatment. This can sometime give the homeowner the impression the treatment has not worked. However, most of these adult fleas will pick up the residual insecticide on the carpet and subsequently die. (However, PestXpert Pro-Fogger is different).
FLEA PREVENTION TIPS
- Keep your pet flea treatments up to date.
- Ensure regular vacuuming of carpeted areas (including under furniture) and pet bedding.
- Exclude pets from sub-floor areas.
FLEA CONTROL TIPS
- If you have a suspected flea outbreak, the first steps are to vacuum the whole house (carpeted areas, timber and tile floors and furniture). Make sure you clean under furniture, down cracks in furniture and around edges of room. Immediately bag the contents of the vacuum cleaner in a sealed plastic bag and place in the garbage.
- Pets should be treated with an appropriate pet treatment.
- All effected rooms should then be treated with a total release aerosol (fogger or “flea bomb”).
- Under furniture areas or other “dead spots” in the room should be treated with a suitable aerosol or ready to use pump pack.
- Exterior pet resting areas should be treated with a product labelled for such use. A ready to use pump pack is ideal. Insecticide granules may also be an alternative. Pets should be excluded from the area during treatment and afterwards until the treatment is dry. All sub-floor areas should be treated and subsequently sealed to prevent future access.
PESTXPERT FLEA PRODUCTS
To successfully get rid of fleas, you need to carry out a comprehensive flea treatment, which includes a range of actions and requires a number of different products. PestXpert has a range of products to provide excellent flea control.
- The first step in controlling fleas in the home is to use the Pro-Fogger total release aerosol. Release one aerosol per room to provide complete coverage. The unique formulation uses three actives to penetrate pupae and eggs to maximise control. The stabilising stand ensures the aerosol does not fall over in use. Ensure all safety instructions are read before use. For non-carpeted rooms, instead of a flea bomb you may want to consider a perimeter spray (also spray in any cracks in the floor boards).
- To hit any dead spots (such as under furniture), use Pro-Spray crawling aerosol to finish the interior treatment.
- Treat external pest resting areas with Pro-Spray Outdoor perimeter. Allow to dry before pets can return.
Check out our blog articles for more information
- How to get rid of fleas – the 5 step process
- How to use a flea bomb