INTRODUCTION. This common name results from their frequent occurrence on humans under poor sanitary conditions, but they also infest pets and domestic animals. They can be vectors of plague and murine typhus, and serve as intermediate hosts of the dog tapeworm. Human fleas are found throughout the warmer parts of the world, and in the United States, especially on the Pacific Coast, the midwest, and in the south.
RECOGNITION. Adults about 1/8" (2.5-3 mm) long. Body laterally flattened (side to side); wingless. Color reddish brown. Head with front rounded, ocular bristle inserted below eye; genal combs lacking. Pronotal comb lacking; mesopleuron (side of mesothorax) not divided by a vertical thickening; thorax not reduced, dorsum (top) equal to or longer than 1st abdominal segment. Abdominal terga (dorsal plates) 2-6 with a single row of bristles. In addition, antennae short, 3-segmented; ocelli lacking; legs long, coxae large, tarsi 5-segmented; usually jumping insects; mouthparts piercing-sucking with well-developed palps. Mature larvae about 1/4“ (4.6-6 mm) long. Larvae whitish, slender, eyeless, and legless. With a well-developed head. Anal struts/hooks 2, small. With moderately long, backward-projecting hairs (setae) encircling each segment. Last abdominal segment (10th) with 4-6 (usually 5) ventrolateral hairs (setae).
BIOLOGY. Females lay 4-8 eggs after each blood meal, for a total of up to 400 in a lifetime. Eggs usually fall off the host and hatch in 2-14 days. Larvae usually feed on organic matter such as droppings from adult fleas and feces of animals, but can feed satisfactorily on crushed rat feces alone. The larvae go through 3 instars in 1 -5 weeks and then spin a cocoon and pupate. Under favorable conditions, adults emerge in 1-3 weeks. Developmental time (egg to adult) may be as short as 17 days. Adults may live vw/ more than 2 years.
HABITS. Besides humans, these fleas infest cats, dogs, and other domestic animals, especially pigs. Most problems with human fleas occur in rural or farm areas. Infestations start with the farm animals and are then brought into the home. The human flea attacks a wide variety of wild animals including coyotes (Canis latrans Say), prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), badgers, mice, ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp.), skunks (Mephitis spp.), fox, deer (Odocoileus spp.), opossums, and burrowing owls (Speotyto cunicularia (Molina).
In a Florida study, 20% of the flea-infested dogs had the human flea on them accounting for about 7.5% of the fleas present. In Florida, human fleas are more prevalent in the cooler months on dogs kept outside. Bites of human fleas may be generally distributed over the human body whereas, cat flea bites which tend to be concentrated on the lower legs.
Human fleas can vector plague. On the Pacific Coast, human fleas are often responsible for a dermatitis or allergy due to flea bites.
CONTROL. In rural situations, inspections must include pig sties, barns, barnyards, and other places domestic animals are kept in addition to the home. Infestations found in these additional areas must be treated with an appropriately labeled pesticide; be sure that the PMP’s license allows such applications. Also, any infested animals will have to be treated by a veterinarian or the owner at the same time the premises and outbuildings are treated.
Control of fleas is a 4-step process.
1. Wild animals such as rodents, opossums, etc., which are nesting in or frequently visiting the structure must be prevented from entering the structure and controlled with appropriate trapping devices or baits.
2. If the pet has fleas at the time of treatment, the pet owner must arrange for the pet to be treated. Treatment may be done by a veterinarian, grooming parlor, or by the pet owner, but must be done on the day of treatment and either before or while the premises are being treated.
3. Indoor control. The homeowner or occupant must do the following just before the flea treatment: Remove all items such as toys and pillows off the floor or carpet; remove all articles from under beds, on closet floors, and from under furniture; vacuum all upholstered furniture, floors, and carpeting, paying particular attention to the foot of the furniture on which the pet rests, under furniture, and wall-floor junctions. The vacuum bag must be immediately removed and put into a plastic garbage bag, the top sealed, and then placed in an outside garbage receptacle or burned. Thoroughly clean all areas frequented by cats, e.g. table tops, refrigerator tops, window sills, counters, etc. Cover aquariums and turn off the pumps prior to the treatment. Be sure to remove all pets, including birds.
4. Outside control. Minimally, spot treatment should be done. This consists of treating with an appropriately labeled pesticide and light-stable IGR, every place the animal rests, naps, or sleeps which are typically cool areas such as next to the building’s foundation, porch, etc., or under a bush or tree. In addition, band treatment is often helpful, especially if overall treatment is not going to be done. Band treatment is done with an appropriately labeled pesticide which is applied in a 6-10 foot band around the perimeter of the building. For dogs confined to a fenced-in-yard, also treat the 3-4 feet adjacent to the fence on the side to which the dog has access. If the infestation is severe, overall yard treatment may be required and an appropriately labeled pesticide should be used. Wettable powder and microencapsulated formulations are particularly effective outdoors.
Our pest management treatment consists of applying an appropriately labeled pesticide and/or IGR as per label instructions with thoroughness being the key to success. We will use an IGR (insect growth regulator) on the initial treatment and reapply as per label instructions every 3-6 months throughout the flea season. For accounts susceptible to flea activity, we'll recommended that the IGR alone be applied prior to the beginning of the next flea season as a preventative measure.
Please call us today for a free estimate for the elimination of these fleas.