Fleas develop through a life cycle known as complete metamorphosis, beginning with the flea egg. This smallest stage of the flea's life cycle is seldom seen, due to its small size. These tiny eggs are well distributed by the host of the flea (dogs, cats, nesting animals) and should be considered in any flea control program. Knowing flea egg development will give you a better understanding of the pest and aid in flea control and flea prevention.
The species most encountered by pest management professionals is the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides canis, and the majority of the information listed here will pertain to the Cat Flea. Do not let the name of the pest mislead you. C. canis prefers the temperature of a cat's blood but will feed on the blood host of most warm blooded nesting animals found in and around homes in the United States. Specially designed electronic flea traps have a heat source that emits energy in a manner that confuses adult fleas. Most fleas in the general vicinity (an area up to eight feet surrounding the trap) will move towards the trap, mistaking it for a cat or other similar warm blooded animal. A flea trap is often used in combination with Flea Stoppers, a product that quickly dries out any flea eggs in the treated area. Flea eggs and larvae are dried out and killed by the products desiccant action.
Flea eggs are small, only about 1/50 inch
long. They are smooth and translucent. When found in high numbers
along with flea fecal matter, the eggs are "salt" in the "salt
and pepper" look of these tiny particles. People often report seeing
particles (sometimes called "flea dirt") that slightly resemble salt and pepper in pet bedding or in locations
frequented by their pets. Many people confuse the two, believing the
small, dark objects to be flea eggs. As will be discussed in adult
flea information, the female adult flea consumes far more blood from her
host than her body needs. The excess she excretes in tiny droplets that
quickly harden. These hardened, dried drops of blood serve as food for
immature, flea larvae. When larvae hatch
from flea eggs, they will need a food source. This is why flea eggs and
adult flea droppings are often found in close proximity. As animals
scratch, shake or jump off of furniture these fecal droppings and flea eggs fall
off of the host.
As your pet runs, jumps, eats, sleeps in your home it is helping to distribute flea eggs about the house. A thorough cleaning and vacuuming will help pick up many of the eggs, making sanitation job number one in flea prevention and flea control. If there is a favorite bed, couch or chair that a dog or cat prefers to jump on, there will be a more intense population of flea eggs under and around that piece of furniture! Flea eggs, flea larvae and flea pupae can be found in large numbers at these locations. It is rarely a good idea to treat only isolated rooms of a flea infested home. Clean and treat the entire house while paying close attention to these flea hot spots. Vacuuming not only picks up flea eggs but also removes a great deal of the dried blood needed as a food source for the next stage of the flea's development: flea larvae.
It is important to use a flea insect
growth regulator (IGR) inside the home. An IGR
overloads flea eggs and flea
larvae with a juvenile hormone mimic - in other words, immature fleas
exposed to an IGR will not grow up or develop into fully developed adult
fleas. Insect growth regulators can be used alone (for flea prevention) or
combined with an insecticide that is approved for
indoor flea control. Precor IGR and Nylar
IGR are both approved for controlling flea eggs indoors. Nylar is also
approved for outdoor use.
We can kill adult fleas with pesticides (Suspend, Permethrin, etc.) and we can prevent flea eggs and flea larvae from becoming biting pests but there are no chemicals available that can effectively penetrate the cocoon or pupal stage of the flea. Patience, thorough sanitation, prevention and use of approved products are all needed to rid your home of fleas. Understanding the capabilities of each stage of the flea gives you the knowledge to safely get the job done. Patience and understanding will help you get through the aggravation of the flea pupae stage. Prevent fleas from becoming pests by targeting the egg and larval stages.