Very few animals have a history that rivals that of the flea. The dark Bubonic Plague that ravished Europe in the Middle Ages was spread by fleas that rode atop rats. These miniscule creatures were responsible for the death of 1/3 of Europeans. In fact, women used to wear a contraption around their neck to catch fleas (we doubt the effectiveness of this contraption though!). It was a sort of practical fashion statement. Fleas did not, however, begin their existence in the Dark Ages. Flea fossils have been found from the Lower Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago! Like cockroaches, fleas have persisted because they are tough. A flea can live over 100 days without a meal, although their average life span is on a few months. This does not mean that fleas cannot eat. Female fleas often eat 15 times their own body weight in blood every day. These females cannot lay eggs until 36 to 48 hours after they have their first meal. While most fleas are so small that they are barely visible to the attentive gaze, the world’s largest recorded flea, the North American hystrichopsylla schefferi, measures almost half an inch.
The flea lifecycle consists of 4 stages, the egg, larva, pupa, and biting adult. Flea larva are blind and feed on organic debris on their host animal. Females can lay 2,000 eggs in their lifetime, so fleas spread quickly. If you see a tiny bug (1/12 to 1/16 of an inch), check to see if it is dark reddish-brown and has no wings. If it is, then you may be dealing with a flea.
Numerous problems follow fleas. Pets that swallow a flea carrying a tapeworm larva will contract tapeworms. Some pets and people develop allergies to flea saliva. The allergies can result in itchiness, hair loss, scabbing, or infection. Serious flea infections can even be fatal to pets. Since these tiny bugs feed on blood, a large population of fleas can cause anemia, or significant blood loss.
Our pets, namely our dogs and cats, are favored transportation and meals for fleas. Many times when a pet is playing outside, fleas will hop on for a quick meal and get transported into your house, thus creating further issues and more meal opportunities – you! Besides limiting your pet’s outdoor activities, regularly vacuuming and washing clothes in hot water will help reduce and eventually stop an infestation by killing the flea eggs. Regularly combing through your pet’s fur and observing their behavior is also crucial. Fleas will show up as small black specks (a little bigger than coffee grounds). An Admiral Pest technician can help you with this during your regular service.