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What do fleas look like?

tiny cat flea in a west palm beach fl home

Adult fleas are a tiny, dark-colored, blood-sucking, wingless insect.  Their small, 1/4” long body has narrow, flat sides, allowing it to easily navigate through and around the hairs on their host.  They have a polished looking hard exterior body that is covered with many fine hairs and spines.  With a mouth that has special mouthparts adapted for sucking and long legs made just for jumping up onto hosts, these pests are hard to eliminate and quick to infest. 

Contrary to popular belief, they prefer to stay on their original host and not to ‘jump around’.  Each day a well-fed adult flea can lay as many as 20-30 eggs. Their eggs are flat and pearly white smooth ovals that easily fall from their host animal onto their surroundings.  These eggs are so small, (1/32”) that they are almost impossible to see. 

When are fleas most active?

Here in Florida fleas are a year-round concern, with a significant increase in activity in the spring and summer months. 

What attracts fleas?

The most common flea in Florida is the cat flea.  This flea is mostly found on cats, but will surely find a suitable host in any warm blooded animal or human. These opportunistic insects will catch a ride on you or your pets and make themselves right at home, eating and reproducing at a rapid rate, within hours.  Even homes that don’t have pets can have fleas.

Where are you likely to find fleas?

Finding fleas is quite simple. They can be just about anywhere where warm-blooded animals (including humans) spend any time. Fleas are not picky about whether their host is a wild animal, domesticated pet, or human.  Fed fleas will start laying eggs. Within a few weeks, these eggs will produce larvae which will then grow into adult fleas looking for a host. Fleas spread rapidly.

Are fleas dangerous or destructive?

While fleas do not destroy property, their infestations can certainly damage and devalue possessions and locations. Their bites can be more than just an irritating and itchy red spot on your ankle or leg.  There is always a potential for skin infection at the bite site. Animals that have fleas can have allergic reactions to the fleas’ saliva and scratch, lick, rub or chew themselves, causing hair loss and infections.  Even animals that don’t have an allergy to flea saliva can be overwhelmed by the itchy flea bites and spend hours scratching and chewing, just trying to relieve themselves of the irritation caused by the flea bites.  

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