- Common Name(s): Cat Flea, Rat Flea, Dog Flea, Flea (Rat, Dog, and Cat fleas are different species)
- Order: Siphonaptera
- Family: Pulicidae
- Common Species: Ctenocephalides felis-Cat, Ctenocephalides canis-Dog, Xenopsylla cheopis-Rat
- Commonly Confused With: Springtails
How to Identify?
Fleas are brown or tan in coloration. Like bed bugs, after taking a blood meal they can appear a dark, almost black, color. They are between 1-3 millimeters in length. Fleas can be seen without a microscope, but they are very small and a microscope will usually be necessary for species identification. Fleas are flattened from side to side and will never possess wings. If a person says they see a flying flea it is definitely something else!
Where do they live?
Cat fleas are found commonly on dogs and cats in the United States. The dog flea is more common in Europe but has been documented in the United States. Rat fleas are not nearly as common in the southeastern U.S. as the cat flea, but they have become a significant issue with prairie dogs out west. Adult cat fleas spend almost all of their time on their host (dogs, cats, etc.). This is where they will mate, lay their eggs, and feed. Cat fleas can be found on other wild animals, but domestic animals are where most homeowners’ issues are going to arise. Eggs, juvenile fleas, and pupa (resting stage between juveniles and adults) are found in areas where the hosts commonly sleep or reside: beds, couches, carpet, etc.; outdoors, they will be found in bedding, grass, or the any of the host’s other nesting material. Notice I said adult fleas lay their eggs on the host, but the eggs are found most commonly where the host sleeps or resides. This is because flea eggs are not stuck or glued to the host, so after the host gets done sleeping/ while it is laying around if it stretches, shakes, rolls over, scratches, etc., it is going to knock flea eggs off of its body onto whatever surface is nearby.
What do they eat?
Adult fleas feed on blood. They can feed on human or animal blood. Juveniles feed on the dried poop of their parents (aka flea dirt) and other organic material that is stuck in carpet, bedding, etc. Pupa and eggs do not require a food source. Flea dirt will come off of the host in a manner similar to flea eggs (described above).
What do they do?
Fleas are most commonly found feeding on animals, but they are fully capable of feeding on a human. When they feed on pets, not only are they going to be a nuisance, they can also transmit tapeworms to dogs and cats. When the dog/cat chews at the fleas, if they ingest one that is infected with tapeworms, the pet will then become infected. Fleas can also transmit the disease cat scratch fever. In humans, the bubonic plague and murine typhus can also be transmitted by fleas.
Juveniles turn into pupa before becoming adults. Adults are triggered to emerge from their pupal casing when they sense CO2 (carbon dioxide) and vibrations. They can lay dormant for quite some time before needing to emerge, making fleas that much harder to control. Call Active right away to schedule an inspection if you ever think you could be dealing with flea issues!
Author: G. Wyatt West–A University of Georgia Graduate of Entomology
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