Fleas are one of the most difficult household pests to live with — and to get rid of! One of the reasons is that they multiply so quickly. Female fleas are capable of laying more that 5,000 eggs throughout their lifetime (which is a relatively short 2-3 months on average), meaning that if you start seeing a flea here and there, brace yourself, because you’ll soon be seeing many more!
The Four-Stage Life Cycle of Fleas:
- imago (adult)
The number of eggs a female flea lays depends on its species, with some laying as few as two eggs and some laying as many as two-three dozen at a time. Many varieties lay their eggs on their “blood host” (i.e., your cat or dog), whereupon the eggs drop to the ground or the floor of your bedroom, living room, or wherever your pet frequently lies down to catnap or rest. Once laid, flea eggs take anywhere from two days to two weeks to hatch, again depending on the species.
The larvae emerge from the eggs and proceed to feed on any organic material they can find, such as dead insects, feces, yeast and non-viable eggs. Larvae are blind and avoid sunlight, preferring to hide their small, pale, worm-like bodies under carpets and in bedding for example.
Next, the flea larvae pupate (weave silk cocoons in which they finish developing into imagoes — adult fleas. They’ll stay ensconced in the cocoon until they sense the presence of a host to feed on). When the fleas first emerge they’re sterile, but as soon as they have their first meal of blood, they’ll become sexually active.
The imago, or adult flea, has two goals in life: 1. Find blood and 2. Reproduce. And thus the cycle repeats itself, over and over again unless and until you eradicate all four life cycle stages! In other words, killing any adult fleas that you see does not mean that you’ve made more than a tiny dent in a flea infestation in your home.
One of the most annoying things about fleas is that they’ll feed on anything with blood and can easily jump from host to host, which means that they’ll not only make your pet miserable, they also make you and everyone in your family itchy and frustrated!
Ridding your home of fleas will require a three-fold attack:
- Contacting a good exterminating company to arrange for a flea treatment.
- Bringing your pet to a veterinarian for a professional flea-removal treatment.
On the day you’ve arranged for a visit from the exterminator, you should thoroughly clean and vacuum your home, focusing on high-traffic areas, carpeting, upholstered furniture and bedding. Doing this will make pupae emerge from their cocoons, making them easier to kill. (Without this step, pupae will remain in their cocoons, which are more resistant to insecticide treatments.)
Next, your exterminator will apply an insecticide designed to kill fleas in all stages of development. (Although there are DIY flea removal products on the market, it’s best to rely on a professional exterminator to ensure that a thorough and effective job and the best possible result.
Once your home has been treated, you should continue to vacuum floors and carpets daily for two to three weeks to help prevent a resurgence from any fleas that might have survived treatment. As mentioned, it’s not easy to get rid of fleas, and total eradication can take up to four weeks, so be patient — and diligent about vacuuming daily!
If you’ve got a problem with fleas in your Des Moines, Iowa-area home, contact Miller Pest & Termite, AKA “Miller the Killer!” We’ve got a BBB rating of A+ and serve the Des Moines region including Ankeny, Ames, Urbandale, Johnston, West Des Moines, Clive, Indianola and other surrounding cities.