Fleas are a type of parasite which feeds on the blood of warm blooded animals including dogs, cats and humans. Fleas frequently enter buildings on animals, such as dogs and cats, and then become deposited into carpeted areas as well as in the garden and yard. Fleas prefer shady, sandy areas. In hot, humid weather, fleas can prove to be a difficult problem as it only takes a few weeks for the fleas to hatch during these times of the year. During cooler times of the year, flea eggs can remain dormant for more than a year before they hatch. Even an uninhabited home can act as an incubator for dormant fleas during hot humid weather.
Adult fleas appear to be a light brown to mahogany color and have an oval shape. They possess a laterally flat design that enables them to quickly move through the hair of their host.
Species in Australia
It is estimated there are approximately 90 different species of fleas in Australia.
Fleas pass through several cycles during their complete metamorphosis to adulthood. The process begins when eggs are laid. Eggs can remain dormant for quite some time before hatching. Once they hatch they go into the next stage of the life cycle, which is the larva stage. This stage will feed on any type of organic material whether it is human and animal skin scales or even undigested blood which adult fleas have excreted. Larva will feed for approximately 15 days. Once they are finished feeding, they spin into a cocoon. The cocoon, or pupa, will last between seven to fourteen days during good conditions; however, they can lay dormant for more than a year. When the conditions are right, the flea will emerge as an adult. The entire life cycle can take as little as eighteen days when conditions are ripe. After the flea has reached adulthood, the female flea can lay between four and eight eggs following each blood meal. Fleas may survive for up to four months without food and can have a complete life span of between 100 and 500 days. During this time period, they can lay literally hundreds of eggs.
Health Hazards for Humans
The major problem with fleas is that when they pierce the skin of their host they inject an anti-coagulant chemical into the bloodstream. This prevents the blood of the host from clotting and can result in severe itching and even infection. Scratching can further the infection. Furthermore, flea bites can result in the transfer of other parasites including tapeworms. The only flea-borne disease that has been known to occur within Australia is murine typhus. This disease is transmitted from rats to humans by a particular type of rat flea. If you have been bitten by fleas it is important to see your physician or pharmacists for an antiseptic cream.
Although there are some steps you can take to cut down on the incidence of fleas in your residence, such as frequently vacuuming carpeted areas and sweeping pathways, once you have a full blown flea infestation it is necessary to consult a pest control professional. Your pest control professional can apply an insecticide to areas where the fleas are likely to harbor which will inhibit development of the flea at the larva stage of their life cycle. It is at this critical point in the life cycle which fleas must be attacked in order to achieve maximum control of the infestation. This is why do-it-yourself and over-the-counter methods are rarely effective in full blown infestations. To prevent re-infestation, it is important to regularly vacuum your carpets as well as wash your pets with a shampoo containing a flea control product.