Fleas are a domestic nuisance because they are a parasite that lives on the outer surface of mammals and birds. They need a host so that they can get a blood meal. These hosts are commonly dogs and cats. A flea will bite a mammal to get their food and the bite different mammal. Unfortunately this is how they transfer diseases. Also fleas eggs can lay dormant in unoccupied buildings and once mammal host walks in the place becomes alive with fleas. Fleas are not only a problem in domestic settings but can be annoying in the workplace. All environments can be effected by fleas houses, offices, factories, commercial premises. It is important to know that most flea bites are found around the ankles and lower legs.
Fleas carry diseases: there is a health risk associated with fleas. In Australia the main concern is the transfer of tapeworm larvae and the symtoms associated from the flea bite. Some people are very sensitive to flea bites. The flea bite can leave a lump, the lump can become a blister. The main problem is if the person constantly scratches, then it can become infected. However, it is uncommon in Australia to get murine typhus and Australia does not have the bubonic plague. It is best to seek medical advice if you are not feeling well after being in contact with fleas.
History: In 1900 the bubonic plague struck The Rocks, Sydney and resulted in the death of 300 people in eight months. 108,308 rats were destroyed. Between 1900 and 1925 there were 12 major out breaks of the bubonic plague. Australia has not had it since this time. It can still be found in Africa, Asia and South America.
Appearance of adult flea: the adult flea is 1.5 to 4 mm long. Their body has been flattened lenghtways, the surface is a hard texture and it is dark in colour. The shape and texture of their body allows them to move fast through the fur, hair or feathers of their host. Adult fleas due to their environment over time have become wingless. Instead they have envoled to jump fair distances due to their hind legs being segement into three parts and being long and powerful. At the base of their six legs are claws to make it easy to attach to their host. Jumping is their means of travel. They like to explore their environment and don't always spend their time on the host but need the host to feed on. They can live for two months without needing to feed. When they do feed they have sharp, pointed mouthparts that are apt at sucking.
Appearance of larvae: the larvae are very small and legless. They are shape like a cylinder . The antennae are two short, moveable, sensory parts attached to the fleas head. There hair is hard and firmly fixed to their body. The larvae have chewing mouthparts that feed on organic material such as food scraps or skin scales that are on the floor.
Reproduction of the flea: the females lays 4-8 eggs after each blood meal. The egg falls into the host's nest or immediate environment. The egg takes 2 to 14 days to hatch. The female lays hundreds of eggs in her lifetime. When the larvae hatches they feed on the ground or in the host's bedding. It takes them 15 days to grow full size, then the larva pupates into a protective cocoon. The pupae can be in the cocoon for 18 days or over a year depending on when a host is in close proximity and they feel their vibrartions. Once the adult comes out they will jump onto their host for a feed.
Habitat: fleas prefer warmer weather and that is why they are prolific in summer time. The host, heat and humidity are the ingredients for a flea infestation. If it is not the right weather conditions then all parts of the fleas life cycle slows down.
Types of Fleas
Cat Flea: is the most common flea and it is known to attack any mammal as a host
Dog Flea: is not as common as the cat flea and it also will use any mammal as it's host
Human Flea: it is not found as often on humans due to the invention of the vacuum cleaner. It is now found more on rats, mice, dogs and pigs.
Oriental Rat Flea: as the name suggests it's main host is the rat. This is the flea that mainly transmits the bubonic plage and murine typhus. This flea now is quite rare, however, the bubonic plague is still found in some parts of the world.
Whenever you see adult fleas crawling on your pet, it is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Current studies indicate that adult fleas account for only 5% of the total flea population. The flea population is as follows:
10% pupa cocoons
That means that for every single adult flea living on your dog or cat there are 10 eggs, 7 larvae, and two cocoons.
Life Cycle of a Flea
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