The majority of flea infestations occur in homes with pets, but they can also be a problem in homes without. Fleas will live outside, can be picked up and brought indoors by a pet or even on your pant-leg or shoe. Fleas will bite almost any animal as well as humans. Aside from the often itchy bite of a flea, they can cause allergic reactions and transmit disease, including the dog tapeworm which can also infect children.
Cat fleas, the most commonly encountered fleas, are small, wingless insects, 2.5mm in length, and are reddish brown to dark brown in color. Fleas are excellent jumpers; leaping as high as 20cm.
Fleas have a four stage lifecycle: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Females lay their eggs on the host which fall off the host and hatch in one to twelve days. Females can lay up to 500 eggs during their lifetime. Upon hatching, the flea larvae migrate to dark, undisturbed areas such as under baseboards. The larvae feed on partially digested blood, called flea dirt, and other organic material. This stage usually lasts one to three weeks. After spinning a cocoon, the larvae enters the pupal stage and will normally emerge within five days to two weeks. Emergence from the pupa stage is thought to be triggered by vibrations or carbon dioxide produced by humans or animals. With no activity in a home, fleas can remain in the pupal stage for months.