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Pest Control - Fleas

Note: Adur & Worthing Councils do not offer a service to deal with fleas, this page is to offer advice and information only. Please see our pest control homepage for how to request a pest control service.

The problem

A flea infestation in the home can be very embarrassing and a very nasty experience.

A light infestation if left untreated can become a serious problem in a matter of weeks.

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Where do they come from?

The flea species most frequently encountered in the home is the cat flea; this species is responsible for approximately 75% of flea infestations in the UK.

Contrary to popular belief, the cat flea is not entirely host specific, both males and females will take a blood feed from cats, dogs, and humans, although the female must have a blood feed from the natural host in order to lay viable eggs.

Occasionally your pet will pick up fleas from an animal that is already infested and it is even possible for people without pets to carry fleas home after visiting an infested area.

Just a few fleas introduced into the home in this way would be all that it takes to create a major problem in a very short time. It has been estimated that ten female fleas can theoretically produce a quarter of a million offspring within just one month under ideal humidity and temperature conditions found in the average centrally heated home.

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The life cycle

Cat fleas are 2mm long, dark brown in colour and go through a complete metamorphoses i.e. egg, larva, pupa, adult.

The adult flea is parasitic requiring a blood feed but the larvae are not, they instead feed on organic debris found in the environment including partially digested blood found in the excreta of adult fleas.

The female flea will lay between 10 to 15 eggs a day, the eggs that are oval, white/translucent and 1mm in length are slightly sticky and most will fall from the pet into the surroundings where they will hatch within a few days.

After hatching, the whitish larvae will moult approximately 3 times within a month. After the final moult the larva spins a silken cocoon and becomes a pupa.

The pupae will be very resistant to adverse environmental conditions; the adult fleas emerge from pupae under the influence of stimuli such as vibration and increased carbon dioxide concentrations.

However in the absence of a host they are able to lay dormant and to resist starvation for many months. This ability, to remain in the cocoon until the next meal arrives will explain why a property that has been empty for many months will suddenly become infested when somebody enters.

Many adult fleas will usually remain on the host animal where they will need to feed regularly at short intervals.

However, at any one time less than 1% of a flea population is in the adult stage and on the animal host whilst the other 99% go virtually unnoticed, concealed in the environment as developing fleas.

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Are they a health hazard?

Fleas can transmit tapeworms, this occurs when the animal accidentally swallows fleas while biting at them in the course of grooming.

However, there is little evidence to suggest that cat fleas transmit disease to humans.

Fleabites are very irritating to some people, especially children.

Bites are usually received on the ankles and lower legs on adults but children will often have bites on various parts of the body owing to the habit of sitting and playing on the floor.

See also:

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How do I deal with an infestation?

When it comes to pest control the best advice you could possible receive is that prevention is far better than a cure. If you are prepared to take a few simple precautions you can greatly reduce the risk of suffering a pest infestation which can be a very unpleasant experience:

  • Frequently wash your pet's bedding in the hottest wash possible.
  • Take your pet for regular checks by your vet and de-flea on a regular basis, about once a quarter should be enough.

If you have caught this infestation at a very early stage and had your pet treated by the vet, there is a chance that the problem can be eradicated by a thorough cleaning of the premises in order to remove flea eggs, larvae, pupae and adult fleas.

Using a vacuum cleaner, you should pay particular attention to the pets sleeping area and all cracks and crevices, after which the vacuum bag should be disposed of in the dustbin. This should be followed by a residual insecticide being sprayed in the pets sleeping areas (following the advice on the aerosol can).

However, if the infestation has reached the stage where people are receiving multiple bites it would be advisable to obtain the services of a qualified pest controller who will have the correct insecticide, equipment and experience required for eliminating flea infestations.

Calling in the professionals will almost always be cheaper than failed attempts at DIY Pest Control.

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