Common Flea Species

There are many species of fleas but in the U.S. it is cat and dog fleas that cause most problems, which is why it is always better to prevent fleas by taking some simple precautions.

The main concern about fleas is how to identify whether the distress and discomfort that you or your pets are going through may be as a result of flea bites.

Cat Flea

(Ctenocephalides felis)

Cat fleas are often unable to determine whether a host is suitable until it has been bitten. If it is deemed unsuitable, the flea soon drops off.

Appearance

  • Cat fleas are 3mm long wingless ticks, flattened from side to side with long legs enabling them to jump.
  • They have both genal and pronotal combs (ctenidia), differentiating them from most other fleas of domestic animals.

Lifecycle

  • Fleas pass through four stages: eggs, larva, pupa, adult. The eggs are small and white. These stages combined vary from two weeks to eight months.
  • The adult flea is awakened by the detection of vibration of pet or human movement, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide for potential blood meals.
  • A cat flea cannot complete its life–cycle feeding only on human blood.

Habits

  • Cat fleas nest where the host is in its usual resting place, for example the cat basket. This is where the young often drop to mature.

Dog Flea

(Ctenocephalides canis)

Adult Dog fleas feed on the blood of dogs and cats, and they occasionally bite humans.

It is a vector of the Dog Tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum, which can also affect humans.

Appearance

  • Adult is brownish black in color, but appear reddish–black after a blood meal.
  • Adult dog fleas are 1 to 4 mm long. The legless larva is off–white and measures up to 5 mm long.

Lifecycle

  • The fleas go through a four–stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae, adult.
  • The larvae are longer than the adults and feed on particles of dry blood, excrement, and organic substances.

Habits

  • The body is laterally flattened, which allows it to move easily through an animal’s fur. Spines project backwards from the body of the flea, which help it to hold onto the host animal during grooming.
  • As they can jump approximately 6 inches, they can move from host to host. They can also infest garden lawns.

Bird Flea

(Ceratophyllus gallinae)

Bird fleas can multiply enormously in hen houses, breeders, and other similar environments.

Appearance

  • Adult fleas are generally brownish in color, and 1/32"-5/16" long. 
  • The eyes as well as the antennae are apparent. Their mouthparts are well adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood and project downwards from the head. 

Lifecycle

  • Bird fleas can only live for a short time indoors and only in nests. 
  • They breed during the nesting period when the host and/or young are available for regular blood meals.

Habits

  • Adult bird fleas live in bird nests. When the birds move from the nest, the adult fleas must find a new host. 
  • If the nest is reused, the pupae will hatch, mate and continue the breeding cycle. 
  • Bird fleas can multiply enormously in hen houses, breeders, etc.