A flea is a very small, flat bodied insect that feeds on blood and are very difficult to catch due to their ability to jump.
There are a few different species of fleas in Australia, with the most common flea preferring to feed on the blood of cats and dogs and also on human blood.
Fleas generally become a problem when their preferred food source is not available.
Flea outbreaks can occur after a pet’s death or when people move into premises where a dog or cat previously lived.
This is because fleas in the early stages of development can stay in carpets or undisturbed edges of floors for up to 1 year.
Once the house is reoccupied, the fleas then develop into adults.
In Australia, fleas are not known to transmit any human diseases, although people who are allergic to flea bites can develop lesions, itching or other symptoms.
Cat fleas are often unable to determine whether a host is suitable until it has been bitten. If it is deemed unsuitable, the flea soon drops off.
- Cat fleas are 3mm long wingless ticks, flattened from side to side with long legs enabling them to jump.
- They have both genal and pronotal combs (ctenidia), differentiating them from most other fleas of domestic animals.
- Fleas pass through four stages: eggs, larva, pupa, adult. The eggs are small and white. These stages combined vary from two weeks to eight months.
- The adult flea is awakened by the detection of vibration of pet or human movement, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide for potential blood meals.
- A cat flea cannot complete its life cycle feeding only on human blood.
- Cat fleas nest where the host is in its usual resting place, for example the cat basket. This is where the young often drop to mature.
Adult Dog fleas feed on the blood of dogs and cats, and they occasionally bite humans. It is a vector of the Dog Tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum,
which can also affect humans.
- Adult is brownish black in colour, but appear reddish black after a blood meal.
- Adult dog fleas are 1 to 4 mm long. The legless larva is off white and measures up to 5 mm long.
- The fleas go through a four stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae, adult.
- The larvae are longer than the adults and feed on particles of dry blood, excrement, and organic substances.
- The body is laterally flattened, which allows it to move easily through an animal’s fur. Spines project backwards from the body of the flea, which help it to hold onto the host animal during grooming.
- As they can jump approximately 6 inches, they can move from host to host. They can also infest garden lawns.
Bird fleas can multiply enormously in hen houses, breeders, batteries and other similar environments.
- Adult fleas are generally brownish in colour, and 1/32″-5/16″ long.
- The eyes as well as the antennae are apparent. Their mouthparts are well adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood and project downwards from the head.
- This species is the most common bird flea, the hen flea.
- Bird fleas can only live for a short time indoors and only in nests.
- They breed during the nesting period when the host and/or young are available for regular blood meals.
- Adult bird fleas live in bird nests. When the birds move from the nest, the adult fleas must find a new host.
- If the nest is reused, the pupae will hatch, mate and continue the breeding cycle.
- Bird fleas can multiply enormously in hen houses, breeders, batteries etc.