If you’ ever had fleas in your home then you’ve
probably felt the urge to yell, “Flee, you terrible Flea!” The facts here might just have you feeling itchy by the time you’re done reading this blog, but we’ll have scratched the surface and learned some great facts regarding fleas.
Did you know that there are thousands of species of fleas worldwide? That fact alone probably has your skin crawling. In Wisconsin we (and our furry friends) tend to only have run-ins with a few types of fleas. The cat flea is the most common domestic flea that we meet.
Fleas are small, wingless parasites that feed on blood. They appear flat, dark, and reddish-brown in color and the adults are about 1/8 of an inch long (1 to 3mm).
Fleas have 3 pairs of legs. They do not have the ability to fly, but they can jump! Fleas can jump as high as 8” vertically, which is 150 times their own height.
Once a flea hatches and becomes an adult, it will jump onto a host. Fleas are attracted to and can live on any warm-blooded animal (yes, including humans), but seem to prefer hairy animals such as dogs, cats, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, rodents and other wildlife. Once attached to its host, the flea will feed. The female flea can consume 15 times her own body weight in blood daily. Fleas will mate and lay eggs upon their chosen host. A female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime! Some of these eggs will drop off of the host and land in places such as our yards, bedding and carpeting.
Besides the itchy, painful red bumps that flea bites leave behind, flea bites and infestations can cause allergic reactions in humans and pets and can also transfer tapeworms and cause anemia in pets. When fleas populate a mouse colony, disease can become a very deep concern, the worst disease on record being the bubonic plague. They also transmit the bacterial disease murine typhus to humans through infected rats.
Since fleas can be transported on rodents and other animals, search the perimeter of your home and seal any openings where animals or rodents may be entering your home.
Keep your yard clear of garbage and pet droppings; keep your lawn properly landscaped.
Keep your home clean and vacuum regularly, wash any bed linens that you think may be carrying fleas or their eggs.
Protect your pets by checking their coats for fleas, especially if you see any excessive scratching or licking, bathing your pet (and their bedding, collars and plush toys) regularly, and see your vet for annual check-ups and for advice on flea products and prevention.
Fleas have the ability to reproduce quickly, so you may want to contact a licensed professional pest management specialist for assistance.