Thursday, January 7, 2010
By Linda Cole
Fleas are nasty little critters that think nothing of hitching a ride on our pets or on us anywhere in our homes. One or two fleas may not seem like a problem, but it only takes a few to morph into a serious infestation in a matter of weeks. Winter is the best time to attack and mount a counter offensive against this invading pest that can be hard to find and even harder to eliminate. The first line of defense begins by understanding the life cycle of fleas.
Just because you don't find fleas on your pet, doesn't mean you don't have a flea problem. That’s because adult fleas spend most of their time in your home rather than on your pet. Our pets are nothing more than a meal ticket and a place to lay eggs or hitch a ride. The female flea will lay eggs anywhere in the home, not just on your dog or cat. Not only are fleas a biting terror, some have tapeworm eggs which can infect your pet.
The perfect temperature for the flea life cycle is between 70 and 85 degrees and 70% humidity. Winter is the best time to attack fleas because lower humidity levels can slow their development down. They are still in the environment, but less active. If you have a flea infestation in your home, only 5% are adult fleas. The real problem is the remaining population made up of 50% eggs, 30% larvae and 15% pupae.
The flea life cycle begins with the egg
An adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. Eggs that have been laid on your pet will drop off onto carpets, furniture, our beds, your pet's bedding, along baseboards and cracks in wood flooring. Winter is the best time to attack a flea infestation because under ideal conditions, the tiny white eggs will hatch in about 2 days up to a couple of weeks. The dry heat from our furnaces slows the process and gives you more time to move furniture and do a deep cleaning of carpets, furniture and along the floor before the eggs move to the second stage.
The second stage of the flea life cycle: larvae
At this stage, they can move using tiny hairs that are attached to the larvae. They will go through three transformations as larvae and eat the feces of adult fleas (dried blood), organic material they find in carpets, bedding and outside in the soil. This stage will last 5 to 18 days and can be longer depending on weather conditions. The larvae will then spin a cocoon and move into the next stage.
The third stage of the flea life cycle: pupae
This is the last stage before fleas become adults. The flea will stay in this stage anywhere from 3 or 5 days up to a year or more if necessary. At this point, they are only waiting for the right conditions to emerge into adult biting pests.
Being aware of the life cycle of fleas helps to understand why winter is the ideal season to fight these nasty pests. First of all, it's important to continue treating your pets with flea control throughout the winter months. The next step is to begin an aggressive cleaning offensive. Vacuuming daily will help pick up fleas in all four stages. Add a flea collar or spray flea control directly into the bag to kill any fleas you picked up and immediately remove the vacuum bag when you are finished. If you leave the bag in the vacuum, any fleas that hatch and are not affected by the flea collar or spray will have a chance to escape and start their own egg laying. Don't forget to vacuum all of the furniture as well as along the baseboards and under the furniture.
To help break the life cycle of fleas, wash all bedding, removable furniture coverings and clothing your pet may have been on. For severe infestation, winter is the best time to attack fleas with a visit from your local pest control company. Foggers can also be used, but make sure to follow all of the instructions, warnings and cautions if using foggers.
Winter is the best time to combat fleas because you have a fighting chance of getting a handle on any infestations you may have. Unfortunately, you could have millions of fleas in your home in one stage of development or another, and dealing with them is an ongoing battle. But if you take advantage of the flea’s slower development during the winter months, you may be able to break the life cycle of the flea. It may take some time, but with proper flea control and dedicated cleaning practices, it is a battle you can win.
Read more articles by Linda Cole