If you have a pet and live in central California you have probably had to deal with fleas at least once. There are several species of fleas that occur in our area, but the Cat Flea is, by far, the most common pest. Although it is named “Cat” flea, this insect will feed on the blood of most warm blooded animals, including you and me.
Fleas are parasites. The adult female flea must ingest a blood meal before she can lay her eggs. The eggs fall from the host animal and collect on the surfaces below. This is usually where the animal spends most of it’s time, such as a bed or den. The waste material from the adult’s digested blood meals will also accumulate in the animal’s bed. There it becomes a ready food source for the developing larvae.
The larvae feed on the cast of dead skin from the animal as well as the dried blood-waste. When mature they enter a pupa (or cocoon) stage. When conditions are right the pupa may be ready to emerge in just over a week. The entire life cycle can be completed in about two weeks when conditions are optimal.
Flea control consists of a combination of sanitation and pesticide applications. Thorough shampooing of pets will remove the dried blood and much of the dead skin that will serve as a food source for the developing larvae. Shampooing the pet with flea shampoos can kill the adults on the animal. Removal and thorough cleaning of pet beds and resting areas will remove many of the eggs, larvae, and food sources for new populations. Pesticide applications to areas where the pets spend much of their time will provide immediate reduction in flea populations. It is usually good to apply an insect growth regulator to impede the development of new flea larvae.
Good sanitation is the key to long-term control of fleas. If you have more than one pet, sanitation becomes even more important. In fact, the more pets you have, the more effort must be given to sanitation and pet grooming if you want to keep your home “flea-free”.
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