Fleas can jump more than 200 times their body length and 80 times their height, according to the Utah State University Extension. If you see jumping bugs in your home, fleas are the likely culprits. They are tiny, flat brown bugs that feed on the blood of animals. Finding fleas in your home can be disturbing, but control is easy if you know a bit about their life cycle.
Adult fleas infest all kinds of animals, but the most concerning to humans are the fleas on house pets. Adults feed and lay their eggs on a host cat or dog. Female fleas can lay between 20 and 50 eggs a day. The eggs are smooth, white ovals that easily fall off the host and into grass or carpet. It takes between two and five days to hatch, and larvae feed on dried blood and excrement left behind by adults. After about eight to 15 days, the larvae build a cocoon where they will turn into adults. Fleas love warm temperatures and move through their life cycles fastest at between 21.1 and 32.2 degrees Celsius. At cooler temperatures, a pupa can remain in a cocoon for up to a year and adults live for around 40 days.
Fleas carried by dogs and cats can bite people. Red, raised welts that itch intensely can occur. Some people are allergic to the bites and can be plagued by severe itching and hair loss. Fleas transmit intestinal worms in dogs and cats, and can occasionally transmit these worms to children. Fleas can transmit a form of typhus to humans, according to the University of California. Symptoms include headache, chills, fever, vomiting and rash.
Entomologists at the University of Kentucky recommend walking through your yard in white socks to determine whether or not fleas are living there. As you walk, the dark coloured fleas will be easily visible against the white socks. Controlling fleas in your yard is important if you have pets that might carry them inside. Pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, permethrin, methoprene and pyriproxyfen are all known to be effective. Pesticides are dangerous and should be used with caution.
The first line of defence for indoor flea control is controlling them on your pets. Topical medications are effective. Look for brands such as Frontline and Advantage at your veterinarian's office. Oral medications are available for animals with sensitive skin. Discuss which medications are best for your pet with your vet.
Flea eggs and larvae are most likely to be in places where your pets sleep regularly, places out of direct sunlight and places with light foot traffic. Vacuum carpets in these areas at least every other day. Entomologists at the University of California state that vacuuming is highly effective in destroying eggs, larvae and pupae. Wash pet bedding in hot soapy water weekly. If pets sleep on furniture, vacuum or wash these areas accordingly. Insecticides containing methoprene or pyriproxyfen are most effective. Use a hand sprayer to achieve full coverage and follow manufacturer's directions.