Recently, a customer walked into one of our stores and greeted the manager with a single word: “fleas!” These troublesome pests present a special problem in that their life cycle makes it especially difficult to produce a long-lasting solution. The key to effective flea control is targeting the pre-adult stage as this will account for up to 90 percent of the entire flea population. Some of the typical hosts for fleas are dogs, cats, rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, opossums and humans.
There are four stages in the flea life cycle:
- Egg: As the adult flea is biting the host it is dropping eggs. These can fall in the most inaccessible of places.
- Larvae: When the eggs hatch the larvae feed on dried blood, human dander and anything else that is lying around.
- Pupae: This is the cocoon stage. It is impervious to almost all pest control products. Re-treats are often required because this stage will hatch after you spray.
- Adult: This is the stage we are most familiar with and it commands the most attention. However, the adults only represent 5 percent of the total flea population. The pre-adult stage makes up 95 percent of the total flea population, so that is the stage we need to target most. Adult fleas are not only a nuisance to humans and their pets, but can cause medical problems including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, secondary skin irritations and, in extreme cases, anemia. Although bites are rarely felt, it is the resulting irritation caused by the flea salivary secretions that varies among individuals.
Most people believe fleas will die out in the winter, but this is not always true. Pets who love the indoors or who live in climates with mild winters can carry the fleas year around. The answer is a comprehensive approach to control, targeting all sources of potential infestation, including house, yard and pets.