About 1400 species of fleas have been identified and within Britain there are up to 60 species.
All adult fleas are external parasites of warm blooded animals and birds, and extreme specialisation has resulted in them looking unlike any other group of insects. They are wingless, flattened laterally and vary in colour from greyish through to a dark mahogany. Their mouthparts are adapted to sucking blood from the host animal. The distinct characteristic of adult fleas is the adaptation of the hind legs into very muscular organs capable of projecting the flea a considerable distance.
Fleas most commonly affecting humans:
- The Cat flea
- The Dog flea
- The Human flea.
Of these three the cat flea is by far the most common and is not always confined to cats. Although the female cat flea requires the blood of the cat to lay eggs, it is not adverse to feeding voraciously from humans. Almost invariably cat fleas will attack the lower portions of the leg, especially around the ankles. Frequent flea bites around the waist and abdomen normally indicate human fleas. The bites can give rise to the characteristic dark red spots around the area which remain irritated for one or two days. Unfed fleas can survive for up to four months lying dormant until the vibrations of the host make them active.
The female flea lays fairly large eggs which are oval, white and translucent. Although slightly sticky the eggs almost invariably fall off the host animal and into the bedding area and two or three days later they hatch. White, legless larvae emerge and begin feeding on a variety of materials. The flea larvae shed their skins two or three times over a three to four week period eventually spinning a flimsy, silken cocoon near the feeding area. This may be in the cracks in floorboards in a house, and is often in and amongst the bedding of the host animal.
Depending on the temperature the adult fleas usually start to emerge from the pupae within about a month. However, the adult may remain within the cocoon until a potential host passes by and stimulates its final emergence. This ability to remain dormant in buildings over long periods is the key to their success and has to be taken into consideration when control measures are undertaken.
The most effective control measure is a robust vacuuming programme. This should be carried out in conjunction with disinfestation of any affected pets and their bedding. Advice should be sought from the vet.
Human flea infestations can involve a similar treatment with the disinfestation of the person again being the responsibility of the Householder.
Control can be achieved by the Pest Control Officer in most cases by use of insecticide liquid. This is sprayed mainly on the floor area and instructions are given to the householder to refrain from vacuuming, cleaning, etc. for a period of time so that the insecticide has a residual effect. In this way eggs, larvae and adult fleas are soon eradicated.
The treatment is carried out using an approved insecticide. Further information on the insecticide is available on request.
The use of insecticide is carefully controlled by the Control of Pesticide Regulations 1986.
The Pest Control Officer is fully trained and all necessary measures are taken to comply with the Health and Safety at Work, Etc. Act 1974 and Regulations thereunder.
Instructions will be given at the time of application in relation to safety of the householder and pets.
In some cases more than one application is necessary to ensure control.
A CHARGE MAY BE MADE FOR YOUR PEST CONTROL TREATMENT
NB: The information on these page is primarily for the residents of Clackmannanshire. For enquiries outwith Clackmannanshire Council's area you are recommended to contact your local Environmental Health Department or a private pest control contractor.