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There are a lot of insect species commonly named as fleas. Some of them live in human environment and feed on warm-blooded animals such as cats and dogs as well as on humans. The most common flea species in the UK are the cat flea, dog flea and human flea. The insects prefer certain animals, but if necessary they will survive on others or on humans as well. Fleas like the warm and humid conditions found within many residential buildings. They frequently use people’s pets as their hosts. Fleas are a nuisance to people and domestic animals, causing allergies or transmitting other parasite and infections.

Appearance: Adult fleas are about 1.5 – 3.3 mm (1/16-1/8 in) long and usually dark coloured. Cat fleas are reddish-brown. They are wingless external parasites which use their tube-like mouthparts to pierce the skin and suck the blood of their hosts. Their bodies are hard, polish and laterally compressed to easily move through the hairs or feathers of the animals infested. Fleas have long and strong hind limb to jump vertically up to 18 cm (7 in) and horizontally up to 33 cm (13 in), that is 200 times their own body length. Flea eggs are very small – approx. 0.5 mm (0.02 in) long, oval and white. Flea larvae are approx. 1.5 mm (1/16 in) long, legless and pale with bristles covering their bodies.

Infestation: Fleas attack warm-blooded animals including cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, birds, squirrels, hedgehogs, ferrets, rats, mice and of course humans. Since pets such as dogs and cats are kept inside the house, fleas can easily invade human dwellings. Flea population grows very quickly. A female adult lays four to eight eggs on her host after each feeding on blood, producing 1000 eggs during her lifetime. The larvae which hatch after a week need humid and dark places such as animal bedding or carpet fluff to develop. While adult fleas survive only on a diet of blood, the larvae are very flexible and can eat any available organic material including vegetable, dead insects and droppings from adults. Once they reach adulthood they must find a host to feed on blood and to reproduce within a few days. As a consequence of this an exiting flea infestation spreads quickly and widely.

Habitat: Fleas feed only on warm-blooded animals, so they are found most frequently in homes where their hosts such as cats or dogs are kept inside. However, since the parasites can be carried from one place to another by a large number of animals living in the closest proximity to people such as pigeons, bats, squirrels, rats or mice, each human dwelling may be infested. Inside the buildings invaded, the insects prefer warm and humid places just next to their hosts as for instance pets’ beddings or people’s beds and underclothes. Fleas spend much time feeding on their hosts. The parasites are able to survive without their host only for a very short time. The insects are perfectly built to move through animal’s hairs or people’s clothes. Fleas are very small, so they can easily hide even in tiny cracks, crevices and holes between floorboards, under skirting or between carpets and walls. Flea larvae need high temperature, darkness and above all humidity to develop as well as blood or filth to feed on. All this is widely available in pets’ beddings or birds’, mice’s and rats’ nests. So, it is not surprising that an average flea infestation of a cat’s or dog’s bedding can easily reach 2000 adults and 8000 larvae.

Detection: It is rather difficult to spot or catch fleas because of their small size, but it is easy to detect an existing flea pest. The pets attacked by fleas try to remove the parasites by biting, pecking and scratching. This kind of behaviour usually well visible is an unmistakable sign of flea infestation. Apart from that, flea bites leave swollen itching spots on the animal’s or people’s skin. The bites form a characteristic pattern of two small dark red spots in a line or cluster surrounded by a reddish area.

Health hazards: Fleas are above all a nuisance to the animals and people whose blood they suck. Their bites cause an itching sensation which result in the host scratching his skin. Some people and animals are not naturally immune against flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction in the form of rash after being bitten. On the other hand, there people who do not even feel to have been bitten by fleas. In extreme cases cat and dog fleas transmit other parasite and infections that attack dogs, cats and humans. The most prominent of these are Bartonella, the tapeworm and murine typhus. Fleas pose a substantial health danger to pets, in particular to puppies and young animals which can dehydrate while infested by the parasites.

Cleanliness and hygiene: Flea infestation is usually associated with untidy and dirty homes. It is not quite true, as pets may by chance infest with fleas even the cleanest house. Nevertheless, high standards of hygiene and regular cleaning are substantial to prevent fleas from using a home for breeding. Frequent vacuuming is a good method to get rid of fleas and their eggs provided that vacuum bags are immediately disposed. It is highly recommended to remove all rubbish piles as well as pigeon’s nests or bat’s roost located near the home, because they are often breeding places for fleas. Other existing pests should be rigorously controlled as well since flea infestation may be spread by pigeons, rats, mice, squirrels, bats or rabbits. However, the most important thing to stop the pest is to regularly check household pets for parasites. Other effective steps are turning heating down to a reasonable level and sealing all gaps, cracks and holes where the insects can potentially hide. Humidity is critical for the survival of flea larvae and adults, so it is advisable to keep the house dry. These measures are highly advisable, but insufficient to entirely eradicate an already existing pest, since fleas and their larvae are extremely resilient.

Professional pest control service: To combat a flea infestation is not an easy task as for every flea found on an animal there are many more in the home. In addition flea eggs are quite resilient against common insecticides available in shops. Only a professional treatment with on-spot insecticides can effectively control the overall population of fleas in a property. It can take some time and a few visits by pest control specialists, but there is no other way to totally eradicate the plague of flea. It is necessary to treat a whole block of flats or all rooms in a building infested at the same time.

If you have any problems with fleas, do not hesitate and contact our professional Pest Control Service.

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