FLEAS

Flea is the bracket name for a total of 2500 species which are members of the order with Latin name, Siphonaptera. They are wingless parasitic insects that live on mammals or birds. The variety of species include the human flea (Pulex irritans) and the very common dog fleas (Tenocephalides canis). 

Other species of fleas are as follows:

  • Human fleas- attach to and suck blood from humans and pigs.
  • Chigoe fleas- these are sand fleas which also feed on humans. They are found on tropical beaches.
  • Oriental rat fleas- these fleas live on roof rats. They suck rat blood and transmit a variety of diseases causing microorganisms. These include the bacterium, Yersinia pestis which caused the bubonic plague.

APPEARANCE

Spotting a flea is quite easy. Unlike many other pests, fleas do not have wings and they are just about 3 millimetres in length at full size. Fleas have either a proboscis or a stylet. They are brown with a flattened or narrowly shaped body. They also have claws along with spines and hairs with which they attach to, and move through their hosts.

FEEDING

Fleas are hematophagic(feed on blood) in nature. For this reason, they have well-adapted mouthparts which they use to pierce the skin of their host. After piercing they are able to suck blood through another part, the epipharynx.

MOVEMENT

Despite their small size, and delicate form, fleas have proven to be very agile insects. They have strong, and well adapted hind legs with which they can jump to a distance of 18cm. Fleas have a very powerful, and fast jump. It takes a lot of energy to carry out these jumps so they do not only rely on their muscles. An energy boost is obtained from a protein known as resilin where fleas store energy that is rapidly released mid-jump.

REPRODUCTION

Fleas reproduce by laying minuscule white eggs which hatch to become worm-like larvae. The larvae which feed on organic matter grow while spinning cocoons. Eventually, it becomes pupae from which an adult flea emerges. An adult female lays about 500 eggs during her lifetime.

DISEASES

Fleas are vectors for many diseases causing organisms. Due to this, they transmit a wide range of diseases including which are mostly present in North America. Some are :

  • Bubonic Plague
  • Murine Typhus
  • Tungiasis
  • Tularemia

CONTROL

Pesticides:  Pesticides are a good way to control fleas, but there is a need to be careful of the pesticide product one chooses. It is important to ensure that the product is labelled for fleas control. Follow the Manufacturer or Doctor’s direction. You should also get into some protective gear before applying the product to stay on the safe side. Ensure you keep the pesticide products in a safe place, after use.

Clean Environment:  Vacuum surfaces, furniture, rugs etc and dispose of the bag immediately. Wash all beddings in contact with fleas in hot water, and dry in a hot drier. Also, remove debris from the environment.