Fleas are pests that many pet-owning and even some non-pet owning households deal with every year. They are a nuisance and without proper control, can cause health concerns in pets and people. Yet flea control is not as easy as it may seem since these critters are especially resilient. Besides arranging for flea control services, getting rid of these pests once and for all means understanding their life cycle to provide the right and timely treatments.
Stage 1 - The Adult Flea
All flea infestations begin with adult insects. They come into the home in various ways, on pets or even on people’s clothing, and are in search of a blood meal. After eating by biting its host, the adult drops off and lands in the home, getting into the carpeting and seeking out warm, dark places to hide and reproduce. As soon as a female has had a blood meal, she is strong enough to begin dropping eggs, as many as 25 a day, wherever she is. Any female adults not killed with flea control preparations at this point will continue to drop eggs daily.
Stage 2 - The Flea Egg
Depending on the species, some fleas reproduce asexually, while others must actually mate before the female can drop fertilized eggs. In either case, a fed female inside the home begins dropping her tiny round, white eggs almost immediately into carpeting, flooring, upholstery, and sometimes right into a pet’s fur. These eggs can begin hatching in as little as a few days in the right heat and humidity conditions or may sit dormant for weeks, hatching later. The egg stage is a critical period for planning flea control services, since applying preparations that include growth regulators prevent the eggs from actually hatching.
Stage 3 - The Larvae
Eggs that are not prevented from maturing with growth regulator flea control will hatch into a larva in as few as two days or as long as a few weeks. Larvae feed on dried blood, flea dirt (droppings), and other debris left by pets and people, gaining strength to change forms once again as they pupate. Once strong enough, usually within five days to a few weeks, larvae then spin themselves into a cocoon for their next transformation. Certain products used by flea control services can also kill at the larval and pupal stage.
Stage 4 - The Pupae
Once encased in the pupal cocoon, pupae may take as few as five days to pupate but may also remain viable in their cocoons for many months or up to a year or more. In favorable heat and humidity conditions, the transformation within the cocoon is completes and a tiny immature flea emerges from the case. Babies emerge hungry and immediately go in search of a blood meal so they can begin the process all over again. After a few more days, immature individuals are old enough to begin reproducing, quickly increasing populations.
Based on this rather complicated life cycle which usually lasts between 18 to 28 days, it is easy to see how only spraying for adult fleas is not enough to treat an infestation. Proper flea control involves using pesticides and growth regulators that can attack the insect at various stages in the life cycle in order to interrupt the process and eventually reduce populations. This usually requires multiple treatments by flea control services to ensure all fleas are eventually killed off at their various life stages or are prevented from hatching!