Fleas, of course, are the parasitic insects that love to try and infest your pet. But did you know that the little black insects you may have seen on your pets are only part of the problem?
Adult fleas - the ones that jump around - are only representative of 5% of their life cycle. Instead, fleas spend most of their life as eggs, larvae, or in cocoons. This can cause quite an issue, as it is usually when fleas are in these forms that they are the least visible. If they are not dealt with while still in this form, they can become a real nightmare once they reach adulthood! As such, understanding the life cycle of a flea and how to beat them at every stage is the key to knowing how to beat them for good.
Once a female flea has fed on an animal, it is able to lay eggs. Flea eggs are very difficult to recognise, as they are smaller than a grain of sand, and likely buried deep inside of your pets fur. As your pet moves around, some of these eggs drop off from their fur and fall to the ground, where the egg could sit for months while it matures and waits for the right conditions to hatch. The most important condition to them hatching is warmth, and if sufficient heat is given, even from artificial sources (such as from a vacuum cleaner) they will begin to hatch. Other eggs may even remain on the animal until they are ready to hatch, and so it is important to keep thoroughly checking through your pet's fur after they have had a flea infestation.
Once hatched, the tiny flea larvae that emerge tend to feed off food left behind by its mother (flea dirt, a black dirt-like substance made from dry blood and excrement that may be seen on your pets) or other loose organic matter (such as dead skin or food particles) rather than on any living animals. They like to bury themselves away in dark areas, staying away from light sources and moving towards heat, and can also generally be very difficult to find.
When matured, like many insects, a flea larvae will make itself a cocoon and will gradually change into an adult flea. The cocoons are very resistant (but importantly, not unbeatable!) and are able to sit for months or even years until the outside conditions are perfect for the adult fleas to emerge. Once ready, the fleas that emerge from these cocoons will finally be adults, and will be ready to jump onto the nearest moving animal they see to start feeding on their blood.
So now that you know the flea's life cycle, it can also be important to know when to expect fleas to reach particular milestones. Although fleas population numbers can fluctuate a lot at any time of year, and largely depend on how usual (or not!) that the weather is, they generally follow a particular pattern. We generally recognise spring as the time of year when fleas usually start appearing in force. They will then slowly ramp up during the summer, in what we call 'phase one'. This, of course, is the time of year when we can see so many adult fleas on our pets.
However, there is also a follow-up 'phase two' to also consider. Phase two refers to a point during the year in which most of the adult fleas have died off, but they have left plenty of eggs and young behind. You can expect to not see too many of the jumpy black insects, but that doesn't mean that the problem has completely gone away, unless you've been appropriately treating your pets and their home.
Overall, this means that, for the best possible defence against fleas, it can be important to employ a range of strategies that target both phases in order to reduce the flea population in your home, both visible and invisible.
While there are certainty many products to combatting adult fleas alone, such as flea shampoos, pump sprays, and tablets, for a more wholistic treatment plan, we would suggest two things; Firstly, ensure that your home has been properly defested of fleas. Secondly, start a flea treatment plan that also targets flea eggs and/or larvae in addition to adult fleas. Doing both of these will ensure that you have taken the best possible steps to rooting out any flea infestations.
To ensure that your home is fully defested, you will need to invest in plenty of either flea spray or flea bombs. Flea bombs can be good at covering large areas, but be aware that it won't cover underneath furniture or in small crevasses such as spaces between skirting boards or between sofa cushions - which are also the places that flea young are most likely to hide! Either way, a good run over the house with either of these treatments followed by a thorough clean-up before and afterwards with a vacuum cleaner is the best method to clear the home. Doing this both in the summer during the height of flea activity as well as in the early spring of the next year before flea larvae begin to re-awaken is the best course of action to keep yourself protected.
In terms of a flea treatment plan for your pet, it is recommended that you start to treat your pets in early spring with products that protect against fleas, as some flea solutions (such as shampoos and tablets) do not typically have long-lasting protections. For example, a Johnson's flea collar will keep a pet protected for three months, or a treatment like Frontline or Frontline Plus will keep a pet protected for one month per treatment, typically being sold in packs of three or six. The most effected method amongst these is the Frontline Plus, as it has a special formula that will not only kill adult fleas, but will also poison flea eggs and larvae in a way that will prevent them from being able to grow into adults, leading to them dying without reproducing - this will break the flea cycle in your home for sure! Just bear in mind that Frontline Plus is a prescription-only drug - though if you like the sound of it, we always have someone on staff who is able to write these prescriptions for you, and can do so in-store.
And so we have now reached the end of this article. We hope that you have found the information here valuable and informative, and has left you feeling better prepared to fight future flea infestations. If you have any further questions or need any more help in fighting fleas or getting the products you need to do so, you can click here to contact us, or come and visit us in store, where we may be able to help you further.
We only ask one thing before you go - please share this article and the information you have learnt from it with your other pet-loving friends - due to the parasitic nature of fleas, a wider effort by all pet owners can drastically reduce flea populations in the wild, and so it is best for us all if every one of us takes action!
Thanks for reading, and all of us here hope to see you in-store once again sometime soon.
Henry Jackson, head of IT for Pet Food Plus More.