Anybody who has ever owned a cat or dog would have had some experience with fleas. Fleas are extremely common especially in the warmer humid climates such as south east Queensland. What most people don’t realize is that of the several species of fleas, it is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) that is the most common species despite dogs being the most common host.
The lifecycle of fleas is also poorly understood by the general public. Fleas have a four-stage lifecycle just like butterflies and beetles. That is EGG-LARVA- PUPA- ADULT. Just like a butterfly, fleas also have a wormlike larval stage. This larval stage feeds on organic material away from the host developing in soil, pet bedding, carpets, floorboard cracks and even your furniture. This organic material includes food crumbs, skin flakes, pet hair and adult flea faeces which contain undigested blood, whereas the adult flea feeds exclusively on the hosts’ blood.
After each blood meal the adult flea will lay 4-8 eggs which will fall wherever the host frequents. Each adult flea may lay several hundred eggs in her lifetime. The adult flea may live 100-500 days and survive up to 4 months without a meal. Just like the adult stage the development stage can vary greatly depending upon conditions. Fleas can reach adult stage in as little as 18 days or take more than a year. This is mostly due to the pupal stages ability to go into a diapausal (resting) state when conditions are less favorable or a host is not present. This is why a previously vacant house can suddenly come alive with fleas when occupants move in. The resting pupa are triggered to pupate (emerge as adults) by vibrations such as footsteps.As well as the irritating affects from a flea bite they are also a vector for disease transmission. In fact fleas were primarily responsible for the spread of the bubonic plague “Black Death”. Fleas can also transmit intestinal parasites such as tapeworm.
What Can You Do?
The best approach is to be proactive rather than reactive. That is regular treatment of your pets to prevent an infestation. By far the best flea products are the “spot on” type such as Frontline and Advantage. Don’t forget to also regularly wash your pets bedding. Regular thorough vacuuming of all internal areas where your pets may frequent is very efficient in preventing an infestation. Not only can vacuuming physically remove all stages of fleas and its food resources but it also stimulates the pupa to emerge. That is why it is essential to do this prior to any treatment. But make sure you heat treat or spray the contents of the vacuum. Products such as “flea bombs” are generally non residual and provide only temporary relief by killing active adults but not the very insecticide resistant eggs and pupa which emerge later after the treatment.
But sometimes an infestation can still occur and it is necessary to engage the help of a pest manager. Even preventative treatments by a pest manager are a good approach, but it’s important your pest manager has a good knowledge of a flea’s lifecycle and behavior.
As well as vacuuming before a flea treatment it is also recommended that you mow your lawns before an external treatment this will trigger the pupae to emerge and also allow the chemical to penetrate the soil where the eggs and larvae are.
What Can We Do?
This is one of those treatments that’s a joint effort, “help us to help you!” scenario. As well as the previously mentioned steps prior to a treatment, you can help us by informing us of any areas that your pets frequent, such as their favorite sunning spot. I once had a call back to a flea treatment that didn’t work because the client forgot to tell me she locks the dogs in the garage sometimes. It was easy fixed once we realized the issue but it could have saved her a lot of grief if it was treated in the beginning. It’s also imperative that you treat your pets and their bedding.
The trick to flea control is balancing safety with control. Because we need to treat your carpets, rugs, cracks in floor boards and possibly furniture, it’s important we consider the safety of you and your family yet give you longer term control. That is why we use synthetic pyrethroids for a quick knockdown mixed with an IGR which will interrupt the flea’s life cycle and give a longer term residual. A flea treatment may either be an internal or external treatment only or both. Obviously we recommend both as it is a much more effective treatment for obvious reasons. An external treatment may include lawns, gardens, subfloor, verandahs and especially kennels.
What to Expect After the Treatment?
To be flea free of course! Initially you will notice the drastic reduction in adult fleas but your pet may still pick up the occasional flea this is nothing to initially panic about. There are numerous scenarios how your pet could have picked up this flea. What is important is that the flea isn’t able to reproduce and flea numbers don’t multiply again. This is why we use residual products and can’t stress enough the importance of ongoing flea treatments on your pet.
But as with all our treatments we guarantee our work and flea treatments are no exception so if flea numbers begin to rise again anytime within our 3 month free service period we will come back and re-treat.