THINGS YOU OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT FLEAS
Fleas have had a very interesting history. Everyone knows they are pests of our beloved dogs and cats, and that they affect humans too. Many have tried, but none has succeeded; that is, in trying to make these insects extinct. They might disappear for a while, but like some insects, they seem to come back with a much stronger resolve to wreak havoc. All we can really do is to protect ourselves, and perhaps, pray.
It is funny how fleas were once treated as celebrities, given their reputation now. These pests were the early versions of Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, performing in front of hundreds of paying audiences. We hear so much about the term “flea circus”, and some people wonder whether that was real or just an urban legend. In the flea circus, fleas were attached to miniature carts, bicycles, or some miniature gym equipment. The first recorded flea circus was in the 1820s in Europe. In the United States, flea circuses stuck around until the 1970s. Flea circuses finally closed their operation when producers found no more stars for their shows due to the decreasing number in the flea population at that time.
Now, fleas are just mere pests. Fleas bite, and their bites are extremely itchy for your pets. But aside from their itchy bites, fleas are capable of transmitting disease. They carry bacteria that cause illnesses in humans. This is why exterminating fleas on dogs is of utmost importance whenever they attack, which we will discuss in this article.
Before we get to that, let us learn more about these little insects.
There are around 2,500 identified species of fleas, and they can be found all over the world. Fleas are small, flightless insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Their menu includes dogs, cats, and even humans. They have reddish-brown bodies that are the size of a pinhead. Their bodies are flattened sideways, making their navigation through the hairs of the host much easier for them. They have spines around their heads and mouths. They have long claws, and these claws allow them to latch on to the skin of their hosts without falling. They have strong legs, which makes them very good jumpers. Since they do not fly, their jumping makes up for it; they transfer from one host to another through jumping.
Fleas are incredible jumpers; they can jump 110 times their length of approximately 4 feet. And when they jump, they accelerate 20 times faster than a space shuttle. Then most importantly they have piercing mouth parts that enable them to suck blood from their hosts.
Several parts of their mouths form a needle-like tube so they can pierce the skin of their hosts and feed. These mouth parts include two laciniae that cut the skin. Then they have their epipharynx – a needle-like part that is surrounded by the laciniae to form a stylet. Lastly is the labium, which is what supports the stylet.
Fleas eat wherever they find fresh blood. They can detect their next host through vibrations on the floor. They can also detect carbon dioxide that is emitted by humans and animals. Each time they detect their next hosts through these ways, they can simply use their jumping skills to latch onto their next host. They do not choose whether it be a man, woman, child, dog, or cat.
Fleas go through 4 stages in their lifetime and undergo a complete metamorphosis. These stages are an egg stage, larval stage, pupae stage, and adult stages. Female adult fleas can lay as many as hundreds to a couple of thousands of eggs in their lifetime. Fleas can still live without eating for as long as 2 weeks. Their pupae can stay in their cocoons for 1 year. However, adult fleas need a blood meal for them to be able to lay eggs.
Evidence shows that fleas have been around for millions of years, since the dinosaur era. Their victims were the dinosaurs and they were much bigger than the present time fleas. Come to think of it, they will probably still be crawling around way after humans stop walking on the face of the earth.
Fleas as pests
Nobody wants to have fleas. Not you, not your dogs, or cats. They are simply unwelcome guests. After a flea feeds on its host, intense itching will follow. Your pets can develop allergies from flea bites. Once you have noticed your pets scratching intensely, bring your pet to the vet for immediate care. Humans too can get affected, though humans are the last resort for fleas. If there are no dogs, cats, or hamsters around to feed on, that would be the only time fleas will go to a human as a source of food. Fleas do not really like humans; they cannot breed on human skin because our body temperature is not ideal for them to breed. Pets give them that ideal body temperature.
The worst thing about having fleas is the fact that they are vectors of diseases. They have transmitted some of the deadliest diseases known to man. These small insects are credited for causing the “Black Death”, or the plague that ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages.
The Black Death almost wiped out the entire population of Europe and took almost 300 years for the continent to fully recover. Studies showed that fleas were the real culprits by carrying the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and not the rats as what was initially suspected.
Fleas are also known to transmit tungiasis and tularemia. Tungiasis is a skin disease that usually affects the feet and is transmitted by the sand fleas.
Tularemia is a potentially serious illness that is common in North America. It can be transferred to people via flea or tick bites, skin contact with infected animals, drinking water that has been contaminated, or laboratory exposure.
Signs of fleas
Fleas would rather be left alone, hiding in dark, shady places. That is why if you have pets, you should be proactively looking for them and do not just wait for them to show up. Check for signs once in a while.
Look for fleas on your dog’s belly, armpits, ears, inner thighs, and tail. You may check your dog’s fur for the presence of flea feces. Adult fleas’ feces is mainly blood. That is blood from animals and humans. This comes in the form of brown specks of dirt.
If you find them, grab a paper towel to test if these are indeed fecal matter to pick them off. If after a few minutes these specks spread out like bloodstains, then your dog has fleas.
An increased scratching and licking by your dog or cat probably means your beloved pet has fleas.
Fleas may not only be found on your pet’s body, but they can also be found in areas where your dog frequents.
If you find fleas on your pets, treating your pet is not enough. You may find fleas in your sofas, carpets, beds, and anywhere your pets go to within the house. Eggs and pupae could be present.
Now let us go to the good stuff. If you have these unwanted pests in your lawn, it is time to take action. There are some things you can do to keep your home free from fleas.
Here are a few tips you can do.
- When it comes to fleas, your vacuum cleaner is your best friend. Vacuum areas that your dog frequents, including sofas, bedding, carpets, and other furniture. After vacuuming, seal the vacuum’s bag and dispose of properly. This is to ensure none of the fleas would be able to return.
- Regularly bathe your pets using a flea shampoo. Consult with a vet first before using a certain shampoo.
- Use diatomaceous earth. It is made from fossilized remains of diatoms. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on carpets, couches, furniture, bedding, and anywhere that your dog frequents. Diatomaceous earth is like tiny shards of broken glass and is non-toxic. When crawled on by fleas, it would cause tiny cuts on their bodies. Eventually, they would bleed to death. It is safe to put on your dog’s coat too, but be careful not to hit the eyes, ears, and mouth. Diatomaceous earth works only when dry. Reapply once a week for one month, or when it gets wet.
- Table salt also kills fleas. Sprinkle table salt throughout the house. Leave it as is for a few hours. Leave for a few hours, then vacuum the areas where you sprinkled salt. Throw away the vacuum’s bag properly.
There you go. These are some tips you can follow for you to have a flea-free home.
If you still find yourself still struggling against fleas, then never fear.
The best pest control professionals in North Carolina are just a phone call away, Go-Forth Pest Control.
Go-Forth Pest Control Has earned the trust of residents and businesses of North Carolina for 60 years now.