Fleas are a common problem for many pet owners. They can cause discomfort for both domestic animals and their families. However, few people fully understand the nature of these pests. For example, most people do not realize that there are actually more than 2,000 distinct species of fleas. By understanding more about fleas, you will be better able to handle a flea problem if and when it does arise.
The term “flea” is actually the common name for insects in the Siphonaptera order. Fleas cannot fly as they posses no wings. However, their long legs make it easy for them to jump great distances. In fact, fleas have the greatest jumping ability of any known animal. The distance they can travel in relation to their body size is quite substantial. Fleas range from 1.5 to 3.3 mm in length, but can jump up to 200 times this distance. They are usually dark in color, which helps them blend into the hair, feathers, and fur.
Fleas are considered parasites because they feed off the blood of mammals and birds. Their tube-link mouths are well-suited for this task. Since they are not particularly picky about what they feed on, fleas are able to survive in a wide array of environments. Additionally, another reason why fleas are so hard to get rid of is their hard body structure. Fleas can survive a great deal of pressure. That is why scratching does not destroy them. They can also live in a variety of environments, although they prefer moderately warm temperatures and high humidity.
Like other insects, fleas go through various stages of growth. They reproduce via eggs and then progress through the larva and pupa phases of development. Only adult fleas, which make up roughly five percent of the total flea population, specifically feed on blood, and feeding must occur prior to reproduction. When eggs are laid, they usually are placed on the host and roll off during sleep. Thus, homes can become breeding grounds for fleas even after the pests themselves have been destroyed.
Flea bites can be rather bothersome to humans and animals. They generally result in a raised, itchy bump on the skin. In more severe cases, an uncomfortable rash may develop.
More serious problems can also occur. Perhaps the most common ailment associated with fleas is Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). FAD is an allergic reaction to chemicals found in flea saliva. It can last for up to a week and result in a severe skin reaction and, occasionally, secondary infection at the site. Some more serious diseases can also be transmitted through fleas in rare cases, and fleas can give worm infections to pets.
For such tiny creatures, fleas can cause some big problems. In fact, pet owners spend upwards of $1 billion annually to control fleas. Although there are many methods to fight these insects, they are clearly resilient. However, by understanding these pests you will be better equipped to fight them in your home and on your pet.