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What Do Fleas Look Like?

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Fleas are tiny to the human eye, which makes identifying them tricky. Not only will we tell you what fleas physically look like, we'll describe flea eggs and flea larvae along with the signs you may have fleas on your pets or in your home.

Fleas are a stressful pest to have. They multiply quickly and can be difficult to get rid of. They bite animals and humans and leave behind itchy welts similar to mosquito bites. In worst case scenarios, fleas spread disease. If you have fleas in your home, you’ll want to treat the problem swiftly. A pest control expert like Assured Environments can help.

What Fleas Look Like

Describing fleas is difficult. Even by insect standards, they have an odd alien-like appearance.

Size: Fleas are tiny. They range between 1/12th -1/4th inch in size with 1/8th inch being the average. That’s a dot on your thumbnail.

Color: Dark brown, black, gray, dark red brown. Fleas are translucent which gives them an amber quality.

Shape: Fleas are wingless with bodies that are narrow from side-to-side. This allows them to easily travel through hair. They have large, well developed hind legs for jumping from host to host. They have a mouthpiece designed for piercing skin and sucking blood. A defining characteristic is the hair-like spines on their bodies.

Movement: Fleas move quickly through fur making them difficult to spot. You can wet your pet’s coat to slow flea migration down. Fleas are capable of quick jumps of up to 12”. You may notice their sudden movements more than their physical characteristics.

What Are Signs You Have Fleas?

In addition to seeing actual fleas pinging off your dog or cat’s coat, here are a few other signs you may have fleas in your home:

  • Scratching – If your pets are scratching more than usual, investigate their fur.
  • Tape worms – fleas carry tape worms. If you see small rice-like worms in your pet’s stool, it could mean fleas have gotten to them.
  • Irritated skin – red, bumpy bites are a good sign that fleas have been feasting on you or your best friend.
  • Flea dirt – fleas leave feces behind in the form of peppery black or brown flakes.

What Do Flea Eggs Look Like?

Fleas are prolific breeders. The blood that they take from you or your pet allows them to produce their eggs. A female flea will lay up to 25 eggs after every blood meal and may produce 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. They usually lay their eggs on a host, i.e., Fido, but the eggs aren’t attached and will fall off. You can find most likely find them in your pet’s bed or wherever they lay most.

Flea eggs on your furniture or floor are tiny grains that look like dust or salt and pepper. They’re oval shaped but you may need a magnifying device to see that.

Depending on the temperature, the flea larvae inside the eggs will hatch in 2-21 days.

What Do Flea Larva Look Like?

Flea larva are quite different then their adult counterparts. They are legless and hairy white worms with brown heads. Not exactly something you want in your home.

Larvae spend between 4-20 days eating their skin sheds, adult flea excrement and other organic debris (like hair) before they mutate. Like a butterfly, they build a cocoon to metamorphose into a pupa.

What Do Flea Pupae Look Like?

Depending on conditions, flea larvae will harbor in their cocoons for a few days or for as long as six months. Flea pupae are essentially pre-adults. The cocoons are pale and sticky. They attract dust and dirt, making them difficult to identify. This coating also makes it difficult to vacuum them up.

Once a flea emerges from its cocoon, it will eat, breed and lay eggs within a few hours and the cycle will begin again. This is why fast action is critical.

What Do Flea Bites Look Like on Humans?

There are many species of flea and most of them stick to a particular food source. Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides Felis) prefer cats, dog fleas (Ctenocephalides Canis) prefer dogs but, unfortunately, human fleas (Pulex Irritans) do bite humans.

Flea bites are like mosquito bites but smaller and often darker colored. They usually appear in clusters of three or four and can have a red halo around the center. Flea bites are harmless beyond the itch but if you’re allergic it may feel more severe. An antihistamine will help with stronger reactions.

How to Get Rid of Fleas

Getting rid of fleas is a tricky business. The most common approach is to use a flea shampoo on your pets. Unfortunately, this won’t address the issue of flea eggs, larvae and pupae in your house. If you don’t treat all stages of the flea life cycle, you’re at risk of them returning.

You can prevent fleas by keeping a clean home. By vacuuming and dusting regularly, you remove fleas in all stages. A dirty environment makes it easier for fleas to spread.

If you do have fleas, amp up your approach. Steam clean your carpets and upholstery - including pet beds – to kill them. Wash all your bedding and clothing that may be affected. You can also try a variety of natural and chemical treatments. Of course, the best way to be sure fleas are out of your home is to use a pest professional experienced with fleas.

How to Keep Fleas Off Your Pet

Whether you have a professional treat your home or do it yourself, make sure you treat your pets on the same day. By coordinating your treatment plan, you address all the areas where fleas have infiltrated and prevent the possibility of their return.

To treat your pets:

  • Give them a bath using a flea shampoo.
  • Comb out their fur.
  • Kill any visible fleas.
  • Recheck frequently for any fleas you may have missed.

If you have any questions about how to treat your pets or what products to use, please reach out to your vet. 

Expert Flea Control in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Before the itch reaches critical mass and you’re ready to flee your home, call or contact Assured Environments. One of our experienced professionals can help tame your flea circus and make sure they never come back.

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