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FLEAS

BACKGROUND | BIOLOGY | BEHAVIOR

Adult Cat Flea Flea eggs and droppings Flea Cocoons

BACKGROUND:

  • Flea circuses first became popular in the mid-1800’s, where fleas were either strapped in harnesses or glued to equipment and appeared to perform feats such as playing musical instruments, pulling small carts or kicking a ball. To this day, there are a few flea circuses still performing (some with real fleas and some that give the illusion of real flea performers).
  • What insect runs away from everything?           A flee!
  • How do you find where a flea has bitten you?    Start from scratch!
  • The origin of the term ‘flea market’ is uncertain. Some sources claim the term came from a market in Paris (marché aux puces) which sold second-hand goods that looked shabby and flea-ridden. Other sources say the term came from the Fly Market (Vlaie Market) in New York City.
  • The ‘flea-flicker’ is a football play created by University of Illinois coach Bob Zuppke, who wanted the phrase to call to mind the quick, flicking action of a dog getting rid of fleas.
  • The Black Plague (Bubonic Plague, Black Death) was caused by a bacteria transmitted from black rats to people via the Oriental rat flea. It began in Asia and spread to Europe by the late 1340s. The total number of deaths worldwide is estimated at 75 million people! The Black Plague is believed to have killed between 1/3 and 2/3 of Europe’s population!
  • In just thirty days, 25 adult female fleas could multiply to as many as a quarter of a million fleas!
  • If you happen to see one flea, there may be more than 100 offspring or adults looming nearby in furniture, corners, cracks, carpeting or on your pet!

BIOLOGY:

  • There are over 2,000 flea species in the world!
  • In North America, there are around 250 flea species. The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felix) is the most commonly found flea in the U.S. and infests mammals (i.e. cats, dogs, raccoons, humans) and occasionally birds.
  • Colorado is the home of approximately 80 flea species!
  • Most fleas are 1/16 to 1/8 inch long and feed on blood from a mammal or bird host.
  • Besides plague bacteria, fleas may transmit tularemia, murine typhus or tapeworms. Their bites can cause allergic reactions. Large populations feeding on one host may cause anemia in the host.
  • At roughly the size of a grain of sand, the chigoe flea is the smallest known flea. It can be found in tropical areas such as Central and South America, India, Africa and the Caribbean. Unlike most fleas, the chigoe flea will burrow into the skin of its host!
  • The largest species of flea is 1/2 inch long and found exclusively in North America on a species of beaver.
  • Fleas have a complete metamorphosis (another insect that has this type of metamorphosis is the butterfly). The life stages are: Egg, worm-like larva, pupa (similar to the butterfly’s cocoon) and adult.
  • Adults feed on blood, and females will deposit eggs only after a blood meal.
  • The itchiness caused by a flea bite is the result of the flea injecting an anticoagulant (substance that stops blood from clotting) as it feeds.
  • Flea eggs are not sticky. Once laid on a host, they will fall off. For this reason, the highest number of flea eggs will be found where a pet rests.
  • Larvae avoid light and will spend their time in shaded areas such as carpet, cracks in wood floors, grass, animal bedding, etc.
  • Larvae feed primarily on adult flea droppings, as well as organic debris in their environment. 
     

BEHAVIOR:

  • Large numbers of adult fleas generally occur from August through September in Florida. This is due to the higher humidity and temperature which promotes larval development.
  • Adult fleas are attracted to heat, carbon dioxide (a gas we exhale when we breathe) and movement.
  • Vacuuming floors will greatly help by reducing the amount of flea eggs, flea excrement, pupae, etc. After vacuuming, vacuum contents should be disposed of in an outdoor trash can.
  • Pets should be treated with a label-approved flea product. These can be purchased at most pet stores or through your veterinarian.
  • If the pet travels outside, the yard should also be treated. This will reduce the likelihood that the pet will bring fleas inside from the yard.

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