Fleas are found throughout the world. Like any other living organism, from as big as tigers to as small as ants, fleas also experience genetic modifications due to the climate and areas they live in.
This means that they all do not look exactly similar, but come in various varieties. In fact, there are over two thousand species of fleas globally and over three hundred types of them in North America alone.
How To Identify Fleas
Despite the diversity in the fleas’ species, they are all usually easy to identify and share several common features, either in their appearance, reproduction process or excretory process a.k.a. ‘flea dirt’.
Fleas are flightless insects, which means that they do not have any wings on their body. They make use of jumping to travel from one point to another, much like a grasshopper. To help in their locomotion, the fleas have developed three pairs of limbs.
The limbs, especially the pair at the back, are long and provide powerful thrusts, thus enabling the fleas to jump long distances. Veritably, fleas are one of the most proficient jumping species and can leap up to two hundred times the length of their body!
Since they jump so quickly, it is very difficult to catch them manually. Also, they rarely tend to stay in one spot and keep moving, so usually you will only catch a glimpse of them, before they vanish in a blink.
Fleas have bodies of darker shades. The young ones have a blacker body, while the older ones have a brownish tint on their body. They are small in size and thin in width. The small size allows them to easily move through the host animal’s fur.
The body is covered in hair which gives the flea’s better traction as they move across the host’s body. However, despite their size, their bodies are very strong and can withstand great pressure, which allows these pests to survive the biting and scratching from their host animals.
The external cartilage is so strong that even if you squeeze a flea between your fingernails, with all your strength, chances are the flea will still be alive when you release it.
If you feel that your animal may have fleas, you can investigate by spreading the fur across its body. When you spread the fur, you will notice the fleas, in dark colored bodies, running away from you to hide and their presence will be further marked by reddened skin.
Fleas produce eggs to give birth to their offspring. Luckily, these eggs are easily noticeably by the naked human eye. The eggs are small and white (translucent immediately after being laid, but turn white after drying), with an oval shape. These eggs can be found anywhere from the carpets of your floor, to your animal’s fur or your grass lawn.
However, as easy as it may be to spot the eggs, once the larvae hatch out from these eggs, they are harder to spot. The larvae urgently start developing a cocoon, to protect themselves from visibility. The cocoon is sticky in nature and collects dust all over its body, which helps in camouflaging the larvae. The larvae spend about two weeks inside their cocoon and then break out as fully mature fleas.
‘Flea dirt’ is another easy to spot attribute. If you notice small black spots (or black pepper, small dots, specks, black dandruff, black flakes), referred to as ‘flea dirt’, on your animal’s body, then you have a strong reason to believe that the pet’s body is infested with fleas.
‘Flea dirt’ is made up of the dried blood of the host, and is left on the host’s body after the flea has sucked on its blood. It is most easily visibly on the stomach, where there is less fur and the skin is of lighter color.
If you want to confirm that the black spots on your animal is ‘flea dirt’ and not dirt, you can easily test for it by taking a wet patch of white cloth and rubbing it on the spot. If the spot turns red in color, it means that the animal has fleas.
When to look for fleas
If your pet is showing odd behavior, like chasing its tail or continuously scratching its body, you should be aware that it could possibly have fleas on its body. The behavior is due to the fact that fleas cause itchy and swollen spot where they suck at, which can be very painful for the animal.
Moreover, you might notice hair loss on the animal’s body, due to excessive scratching. Areas where the animals scratch the most, if infested with fleas, include ears, stomach and tail. If you notice such a behavior, you should inspect the animal using the methods described above.
Fleas can be hard to manage, particularly amid the hotter months when the conditions are optimum for their growth. Getting your eyes on the fleas in time can spare you a great deal of hassle and bother, as fleas are an inconvenience, as well as potential transmitters of various sicknesses.
If the fleas start to plague your animal, they can also readily spread to other pets in the house and even to individuals. However, using the methods prescribed above you can look out for the fleas and stop a potential infestation dead in its tracks. The above methods will allow you to investigate and identify if a flea problem exists or not.
If you are sure of having fleas on your animal and in your house, it is imperative that you immediately get the situation under control by killing all the fleas in your house. You may carry out this objective by calling upon professional pest controllers or resort to homemade do-it-yourself strategies.
You will also find further instructions about controlling and maintaining the fleas on our website, by clicking on the following link.