Discover everything you need to know about fleas in our guide below.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas (scientific name Siphonaptera) are insect pests that live near humans and domestic animals worldwide.
While fleas evolved to feed on non-human mammals, they will take their blood meals from humans when infestations become severe. Fleas can spread disease and cause irritation when they bite people.
The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Fleas
Fleas are tiny, wingless insects between 1/12”-⅙” long. They have narrow bodies that allow them to move between individual hairs in an animal’s fur or a human’s skin and fit into narrow cracks and crevices.
The bodies of adult fleas are covered with spines that face backward, which makes them difficult to remove by scratching or shaking.
Adult fleas are also equipped with blood-sucking mouthparts that allow them to break the skin of their hosts and suck their blood. Thanks to their long, powerful legs, fleas can jump as far as 16 horizontal inches and eight vertical inches.
Fleas lay their eggs on host animals or in harborage areas like carpeting or bedding. Even if flea eggs are laid on a host, like a person or domestic dog, they often fall off and hatch in carpets, textiles, and cracks in flooring.
Since female fleas can lay about 300 eggs (which hatch within 2-3 days), flea infestations can quickly grow out of control.
What Damage Do Fleas Cause?
Fleas carry parasites and diseases that they can transmit to humans and domestic pets. Fleas can transmit plague, typhus, cat-scratch disease, and flea-borne parasites like tapeworms.
Fleas transmit these diseases to their hosts through the process of feeding.
Even when they do not spread diseases, flea bites can cause allergic reactions with symptoms ranging from raised welts on the skin to itching and difficulty breathing.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
Getting rid of fleas requires attacking them from all angles. If you believe your domestic pets have brought fleas into your home or are currently infested with fleas, visit your vet to have them treated for fleas and ticks.
Once you’ve treated your pets, we recommend applying insecticides indoors, focusing on all possible flea harborage areas, including but not limited to carpeting, furniture, pet beds, and resting areas, upholstered furniture, textiles, and more.
To kill all fleas, spray the lower 12-18” of drapes, curtains, and furniture. Move furniture as needed to ensure you can spray beneath and behind it thoroughly.
After spraying, use insect growth regulators (IGRs) to interrupt the flea’s lifespan, prevent reproduction, and stop the infestation. Follow up with additional treatments, as needed, until the flea infestation is resolved.
View our comprehensive guide on how to get rid of fleas.
Yes, as long as it’s equipped with a HEPA filter. Vacuuming carpets, textiles, cracks, and crevices is a great way to remove fleas, eggs, and larvae.
Remember, however, that vacuuming the fleas won’t kill them, so you’ll need to empty the contents of your vacuum into a bucket of hot, soapy water, or dispose of it in a tightly sealed trash bag in an outdoor trash can. Vacuuming also won’t eliminate a flea infestation without additional treatments with insecticide formulations.
The most common way for fleas to enter your home is by hitching a ride on a pet, like a cat or dog. When your domestic pets go outside, they may come into contact with wild animals like squirrels or mice who carry fleas and transmit them to your pet. Your pet then returns to the house, lays on the couch or bed, and introduces fleas into your indoor environment.
After a comprehensive treatment by a pest management professional, the infestation should resolve within a few days to a week or more. Remember that good flea treatments target fleas at all life stages – not just the adults.