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Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis) Dog Flea (Ctenocephalides canis)

Adult fleas are external parasites of warm blooded animals such as cats, dogs and humans, although cat fleas are responsible for approximately 75% of reported infestations. Cat fleas will live on dogs and vice versa.

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There are four main stages to the life cycle of a flea: Egg – Larvae – Pupa – Adult.

Eggs – 1 mm. White in colour are laid on clothing, bedding or fur on host after a blood meal. They hatch within 2-3 days of being laid.

Larvae – Up to 5 mm. They are legless and like humid places e.g. bedding. They moult 2–3 times and are fully grown in about 3-4 weeks. The larvae stage of the cat flea feed on dust, debris, flakes of skin, fur and dead insects and especially on the blood-rich droppings of the adult fleas. The mouth parts are developed for biting but they do not predate.

Pupa – Cocoon spun by the larva. Development is temperature dependent. They only emerge when they sense vibrations. The adult flea will usually emerge from the pupa but will remain within the cocoon until stimulated by some mechanical vibration of a potential host.

Adult – about 2mm long, shiny brown with large hind legs, they can jump approx 6 inches high.

Fleas can remain dormant for long periods of time in the pupa stage, and are often awoken by vibrations such as people entering a vacant property.

Often the source of flea infestations can be traced to pets, therefore treatment of any pets are of utmost importance in any flea treatment.  The only effective measure is the application of  insecticidal drops (Frontline for example) onto the dog or cats skin (usually behind the neck/shoulders) this quickly gets into the animals bloodstream and will be taken up by the adult flea at its next blood meal. Before applying any treatment to pets you must follow all instructions/guidelines carefully and if in any doubt advice should be taken from a veterinary practitioner.

Where the infestation is relatively small/localised you may wish attempt to treat the affected rooms yourself using a general purpose crawling insect spray or powder (approved for such use), care should be taken to treat corners/crevices as they can provide protection for egg/larval stages.  Such products are often available from hardware stores, chemists, supermarkets or the local vets.  All carpets/bedding should be cleaned and vacuumed on a regular basis as this removes some of the eggs, larvae and fleas.  Steam cleaning of such surfaces can further reduce the population. Any chemical used should be carefully chosen to ensure they are appropriate for the job and all instructions carefully followed.  If you are in any doubt please contact a pest control company.

Where the infestation is extensive, a thorough residual insecticide treatment is probably required. This will normally involve the services of a pest control contractor.  They will treat the property using water based chemical sprays, and it is very important to follow any advice/instructions given.  Often after such treatment vacuuming should not be carried out for a number of days (this will be explained fully by the contractor), as this can reduce the effectiveness.