Things to Know About Fleas
Cat fleas are very common to many pet owners in the Central Valley. Cat fleas attack cats and dogs and will also bite humans. Fleas are very small (1/16 inch) wingless insects. They have a “complete” life cycle: egg – larva – pupa – adult.
Flea Life Cycle
Adult fleas mate on the pet and the female requires a blood meal before laying a group of eggs (usually 4-8). A female flea can lay as many as 400 eggs during her lifetime. An adult flea may spend 30-40 days on the host.
Flea eggs are very small and smooth and easily fall off the pet and onto the floor or ground. The eggs hatch in one to ten days.
Flea larvae are small and worm-like. The larvae avoid light and will burrow into the carpet or ground. They feed on small particles of plant or animal debris and adult flea feces. Larval development depends on food availability and other conditions. Development time ranges from 5-21 days. The larvae will make a cocoon to protect itself. Inside the cocoon, which insecticides can’t penetrate, the larva develop into a pupa and ultimately a young adult flea. Under normal household temperatures, the entire flea life cycle takes about 18 days however fleas can remain in the cocoon stage for as long as twelve months if conditions are not favorable for development.
Flea Control Inside the Home
Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum!! Thorough vacuuming of carpets, furniture, and pet bedding can help remove numerous flea eggs and larvae. Vacuum bags should be sealed and discarded outside the home immediately after vacuuming. Launder throw rugs and pet bedding in hot, soapy water. Areas of high flea activity can be treated with a liquid mixture that contains an adult insecticide and methoprene. Methoprene helps control larvae for up to six months. Young adult fleas will continue to hatch out of their cocoons for 10-14 days. Pet owners should continue to vacuum regularly.
On the Pet
Topical ointments such as Frontline and Advantage and products taken orally such as Program are available from your veterinarian. These products help provide long-term control of flea eggs and larvae.
Flea Control Outside the Home
Sunny, hot areas outside are not ideal for flea development. Flea populations can become numerous in cooler protected areas such as crawl spaces beneath homes, shaded areas beneath vegetation, and shaded pet enclosures. Treatment of these areas with an adult insecticide may be necessary.