Fleas may be one of the most annoying and uncomfortable to live with of all common house pests. These parasites are not only a nuisance to humans and their pets, but may also contribute to skin irritation and problems like flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), and even lead to more severe health problems. Since they can feed off of blood from multiple hosts, they also harbor the potential to transmit disease.
Treating for fleas can be a tricky process, for several reasons. Since a large portion of a flea's life is not actually spent on the host, simply treating for fleas on the animal or human will not guarantee eradication. Thorough treatment of the entire living environment is also necessary.
Since an existing flea infestation is usually comprised of hundreds, thousands or perhaps millions of fleas at varying stages of development, a general rule of thumb is to assume that the population consists of 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae, and 5% adults. This poses a challenge to conventional treatment options because most flea control compounds cannot penetrate into the eggs, leaving half of the infestation unscathed. Indoor treatments include the application of adulticide, to control the adult flea population, and an insect development inhibitor (IDI) or growth regulator (IGR) to prevent the development of larvae and pupae.
Go-Forth also promotes an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that involves working with the home or business owner to completely eradicate fleas at all stages of development. On the homeowner's part, thorough vacuuming and washing linens in hot water, both before and after treatment, are a necessary step in clearing the infestation. Another important factor would be taking the appropriate steps to control fleas on pets. Additional IPM methods include the use of dehumidifiers and air conditioning to interrupt the flea life cycle - since humidity plays an important part in flea survival. Low temperatures slow down or completely interrupt the cycle.
Fleas are very tiny (only 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch long), wingless insects that can jump about 7 inches high, and feed on living hosts, such as house pets and even humans. They are usually dark colored and difficult to see unless they are against a contrasting backdrop like skin or light colored fur. Since fleas can jump 200 times their own body length, they are considered one of the best jumpers in the animal (and insect) kingdom.
Fleas pass through a life cycle consisting of the following stages: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult, which varies from 2 weeks to 8 months depending on physical and environmental factors. Female fleas lay about 45 to 50 eggs per day (up to 600 in a lifetime). Eggs are often laid on the hosts themselves (wild animals, pets, and sometimes even humans), and usually end up rolling off and hatching in the resting places (beds, couches, carpet, kennels, etc.) of their hosts.