DISTRIBUTION Of the 2,237 species described as of 1979, less than a dozen have been widely reported as urban pests and only a few species pose a serious medical or veterinary problem.
DESCRIPTION The body of the flea is well adapted to its ectoparasitic life-style. Dark colored adults are flattened from side to side with many bristles that point backwards, facilitating forward movement through fur, hair, or feathers, and attachment to the host. The presence of general combs also serves to help anchor the flea to the host preventing its dislodgement. Fleas are wingless creatures, with strongly developed legs, and hind legs that are especially adapted for jumping. They have sucking mouthparts designed to feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Their life cycle undergoes what is known as a "complete metamorphosis"; that is, they have an egg, larval, pupal and adult stage.
HABITS The males usually emerge first and are less numerous than the females. The female flea will not mate and lay eggs unless she has obtained a blood meal. The adults of many species of rodent or bird fleas visit their hosts for only a short time in order to obtain their blood meal. Others attach to their host for most of their lives.
Egg production begins two days after the first available blood meal, with the greatest production on the sixth and seventh days. Estimates of the number of eggs laid per female cat flea range from 300 to 800. Fleas are often referred to humorously as "jumping dandruff" and they are indeed famed because of their saltatorial talents. The human flea is able to jump vertically 7,75 inches/20cm and horizontally 13 inches/33cm.
POTENTIAL HAZARDS Fleas prefer warmth and are repelled by cold. Thus, the rat, which is supposedly the first to leave a sinking ship, is likewise the first to be deserted by its flea when it dies. This last item should be noted with special care, for bubonic plague may result from infected fleas leaving a dead plague rat and biting man. The bite of a flea varies with the flea species and the person bitten. The bite of the human flea is said to be painful and results in severe reaction.
PREVENTION This may include:
  • The elimination of vegetation or the restacking of lumber pile which provides rodents' harborage.
  • Careful inspection where the pet spends most of its time will reveal at least the hot spots of the infestation that need special attention.
  • It is important to remember that flea larvae will only develop in protected microhabitals where it is warm and humid and where there is a source of dried adult flea fecal blood.All outside trash areas must be kept clean. Garbage and trash should be placed in plastic bags before being placed in trash receptacles. By placing trash in bags, odors can be markedly reduced therefore attracting fewer flies.
  • Whenever flies are found breeding around the building, the breeding source needs to be removed. An example of this is garbage that may fall under a dumpster and is not removed on a regular basis.
  • A further step in reducing the number of flies near a building is to locate trash receptacles as far from the building as possible.
  • CONTROL It must be emphasized that the role of the pest control operator does not include the treatment of pets. However, when the professional operator proposes to treat the building with insecticides, he may suggest the pet be treated with product which do not cause this effect.
    Under certain circumstances it may be necessary to have the pet treated. This can be accomplished by a veterinarian pet groomer or by the pet owner himself but should be done at the same time the premises are being treated.