Fleas are tiny but formidable wingless insects that are among the most annoying pests to deal with. They are external parasites of mammals and birds and survive by feeding on blood.
Usually dark brown or black in color with flat bodies, fleas are vectors of serious diseases they carry through the blood which include: Bubonic Plague; Murine Typhus, Tularemia or Rabbit Fever, which is a bacterial malady treated with antibiotics, Tungiasis, a painful, itchy skin condition, and tapeworms.
Fleas have six legs, which are endowed with powerful claws on the bottom that allows them to hold onto a host, and mouthparts that pierce the skin and feed on blood. Under a microscope, the tiny flea is a frightening vision of all mouth and claws.
Our pest-control and pest-management specialists at Pestco warn homeowners that fleas are most active in Pittsburgh during the warmer months of the year.
Outside, they seek cool, damp and shady spots around trees, leaves, tall grass and shrubs.
They are known to hop onto dogs, cats and other animals when they walk by these areas. They jump and multiply very quickly, making it imperative to take action immediately and contact professionals if fleas have infested a business or residence.
Fleas gain ingress to homes in many ways, the most common of which is via pets or tracking them inside on clothing or shoes.
Once inside, fleas often jump off an infested animal and hide in carpeting, furniture, bedding and cracks in the floor.
What Are The Signs Of A Flea Infestation?
Although they are so very small, fleas do leave tell tale signs of their presence. Small red-brown or black specks around the home or on a beloved pet can be a clear indication that fleas have made their way into a home.
Fleas tend to gather in inaccessible spots, like the back of the head and neck on animals with especially thick hair, which provides the perfect hiding place for these unpleasant critters.
Homeowners must inspect these dots carefully because while it could be just ordinary dust, flea dirt is flea feces and it is often reddish in color due to digested blood.
Animals scratching excessively and fleas jumping all over drapery, carpeting or furniture means the time to call for help from the pest-control and pest-maintenance experts at Pestco has come and gone but still must be done in order to eradicate the infestation.
Fleas can make life miserable and damage a happy home. An infestation can be a test of patience and often requires serious persistence.
Spotting just one flea that might have been carried in on a shoe or piece of clothing may not mean there is an infestation, but our experts at Pestco advise homeowners to perform the white cotton sock test to see if any action is required.
It involves throwing on a pair of high white cotton socks and daring to walk around carpeted areas for a few minutes, shuffling feet while moving.
This is a message to fleas that prey is near, and if they are indeed hiding there, they are likely to jump on the socks.
And then there will be no secret about whether or not there is trouble for the homeowner with a capital “T.”
The Symptoms Associated With Flea Bites
Both male and female fleas feed on blood, leaving small, discolored bumps or rings around the bite, but it is the female that lays eggs after feeding.
They prefer to bite animals, particularly dogs ands cats, because the folds of their fur provide the perfect places for them to hide. They are not particular, however, and will bite humans if animals are not available.
If a pet is scratching more than usual, it is time to check for fleas or have a vet do so. If the family pet does have fleas, it’s likely that the yard and house will become a breeding ground, and pest-control and pest maintenance specialists should be notified immediately.
Bites itch because when the flea secretes saliva into the human bloodstream the body receives it as an allergen, causing the immune system to send the chemical, histamine, to the source of the bite to remove it from the body.
It is this process that causes itching and swelling. Some other common symptoms include: hives, rash; shortness or breath; fever; head aches; body aches; nausea; abdominal pain and dizziness.
How Are Flea Bites Different From Others?
Fleas are attracted to body heat, breathing (carbon dioxide), movement and vibrations because these aspects often lead them to warm-blooded hosts to feed upon. Flea bites differ from others because of their patterns and location.
They do not swell as mosquito bites often do and they often appear in a straight line or cluster on legs, feet, calves and ankles.
Bites rarely occur above the knee, unless a person spends a lot of time sitting or lying down.
Management and Treatment Of Flea Bites
Generally, flea bites do not require medical treatment, last only a few days and over-the-counter anti itch ointments, creams and anti-histamines in pill form or lotion can efficiently relieve any discomfort.
If more severe manifestations occur in the form of fever, headache or body aches, a visit to the doctor may be in order.
It is important not to scratch flea bites even though it may take some will power not to do so.
This action breaks open the skin, which exposes it to infection.
If the skin is broken, our pest-management specialists at Pestco advise that the area should be kept clean by washing with soap and water and covered with a bandage.
A Few More Interesting Facts About Fleas
- There are more than 2,500 flea species in the world and at least 300 species in the United States.
- Flies can jump more than 12 inches because their hind legs are stronger than those in the middle; and front parts of their bodies.
- Fleas can survive without a blood meal for as long as two weeks.
- The word, flea market, derives from the French, marché aux puces, which was an outdoor Parisian bazaar that got its name from the annoying fleas that often infested the upholstery of old furniture that was displayed for sale.
- A flea circus is a sideshow attraction in which mechanical fleas are attached (or at least appear to be) to miniature carts and seem to perform circus acts.
- Only about 5% of a flea infestation is made up of adult fleas on your pet, but 95% live in the home as eggs, larvae and pupae.
6 Key Flea Infestation Prevention Tips
- Keep the house as clean as possible because fleas thrive in mess and dirt.
- Vacuum thoroughly every day and wash all bedding often and pet bedding particularly in hot water every few days
- Minimize exposure to flea bites by wearing long socks and pants when outdoors.
- Speak to your veterinarian about how to protect your pets from fleas with topical medications.
- Dry the bedding on the highest heat setting possible as fleas cannot survive severe heat
- Make sure to vacuum along baseboards, cracks and crevices along floors, drapery and cushioned furniture as well as carpeting. After vacuuming, immediately empty contents into a bag, seal it and throw it away outside.
If you sense any fleas lurking about or have any other type of insect or pest problems, call our teams at Pestco today!
We offer home and business owners all throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area the friendliest, most reliable pest control services available!