The Life Cycle of Fleas and Ticks
Due to the increasing number of pets in our homes and yards, we are experiencing an increasing need to control the pests that torment them.
Fleas and ticks are not only annoying, they can also carry diseases. They can transmit tapeworms, bacteria and other microbes to both pets and humans.
Pets’ skin can also become irritated and inflamed from excessive scratching as the pets try to rid themselves of these itchy parasites.
Getting rid of these common pests can be frustrating. After eliminating fleas from the pet, re-infestation often occurs once the eggs that had been lying dormant in the pet’s environment hatch and mature.
Since fleas spend most of their life cycle off of the pet, successful elimination requires effective treatment of both the pet and the environment.
By helping our customers understand the life cycle of these insects, we will be better able to control and/or prevent infestation in their homes with the wide variety of products that are available in today’s market.
The Life Cycle of the Flea: Fleas pass through four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- Eggs: Female fleas need a blood meal to lay their eggs. In order to feed, they must find a host among dogs, cats, humans, or any other warm-blooded animal.
The female can lay anywhere from 200 to 1,200 eggs, beginning a few days after the blood meal and continuing up to several weeks.
Eggs may be laid anywhere in the home or on the animal. Because the eggs are white and approximately the size of the point of a pencil, they are difficult to see.
Eggs laid on upholstery or carpets will stay put until they hatch.
If laid on the animal they will fall off onto bedding, carpets and anywhere the pet frequents.
Hatching occurs within a few days to two weeks. Frequent vacuuming can remove up to 50% of the eggs in carpets and upholstery before they hatch.
After vacuuming, make sure the vacuum bag is disposed of immediately. Pet’s bedding should also be washed weekly to remove any eggs clinging to its surfaces. Treat the environment using products containing Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) to stop re-infestation by preventing the eggs from developing.
IGRs will last from about 200 days to a full year, depending on which one you use. Products with insecticides such as permethrin will control existing populations by killing the adult fleas.
Foggers such as Zodiac’s Fleatrol Fogger are good for reaching surface areas and sprays such as Zodiac’s Fleatrol Carpet Spray are effective in reaching fleas hidden in carpets, under tables, behind drapes and in upholstery.
Remember to treat any other areas the pet frequents such as cars, pet carriers, and garages.
- Larvae: The flea larva that hatches is very small, about 1/16" long, and looks like a tiny worm, grayish-white and legless. Their natural habitat is cracks, crevices and corners. They eat organic debris, which can be anything from food crumbs to animal hair or flea feces.
How long it takes them to develop depends on environmental conditions. If favorable, this can happen in as little as two weeks, but it may take as long as several months.
Environmental treatments, both indoors and outdoors, will help eliminate fleas in the larval stage.
- Pupae: Once fully grown, the larva spins a cocoon in which it becomes a pupa. The pupa can lie dormant in the cocoon anywhere from a week to a year, but most will hatch as adults in 12-14 days. The mature adults will begin the cycle all over again.
While in the pupa stage, it is impervious to insecticides. This is why, when instituting a flea control program, it is imperative to repeat the process in 14 days to kill the newly hatched fleas that were not overcome with the first treatment.
Continued treatment of both pet and premises will ensure you eliminate both immature and adult stages of each generation.
- Adults: The adult flea has a lifespan that, like every other stage, is variable depending on conditions. A flea population needs warm, moist environments to thrive. With temperature in the seventies and high humidity, a flea can survive up to a year. It can also go for several weeks without food.
However, hot, dry weather will shorten its life to as little as a month. The reason for this is that fleas do not actually drink, they absorb moisture from their surroundings.
Successful Flea Control: A successful flea control program also depends on eliminating the parasites from the animal.
A wide variety of products are available for eliminating and controlling fleas on pets.
Choices include shampoos, dips, sprays, powders, collars, and spot-on treatments. Spot-on treatments are quick and easy to apply and provide month-long flea protection. Grooming the pet with flea combs will also help remove both fleas and eggs hidden deep within the animal’s coat.
Some oral treatments such as Program will only eliminate the juvenile forms while other such as Defend only kill adult fleas.
Others that contain both IGRs and adulticides will do both such as Biospot and Frontline Plus.
Reading ingredient labels will help you determine the product or combination of products to best suit your needs.
The Life Cycle of Ticks: Ticks are parasites that can also plague pets. Like fleas they can transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease to pets as they feed off their blood. Ticks differ from fleas in that they do not completely metamorphosize through larva and pupa stages.
The stages are egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The immature larva and nymph stages resemble smaller versions of the adult form except the larva has three pairs of legs while the adult has four pairs.
The male and female mate while on a host, and soon after the male will drop off and die. The female remains on the host, feeding for 4-10 days. When she is fully engorged with blood, she will drop off to lay her eggs. She will lay 4,000 to 6,500 eggs over a period of two to four weeks.
The female dies soon after laying is complete. The eggs hatch into tiny seed ticks, or larvae within one to two months. Their hosts are small rodents, on which they feed for about a week.
When fully engorged, they will drop off the host and find a protected place to develop into the nymph.
The nymph can be differentiated from the larva by counting the legs. The larva has only six, while the slightly larger nymph has a full complement of eight like the adult tick.
The nymph will find a host and feed for about six days, then, under ideal conditions, drop off and molt one last time into the adult.
However, many times, it will go through an entire winter as a nymph, continuing its development in spring.
Products formulated to quickly eliminate ticks from pets and/or the environment come in a variety of forms including dips, sprays, powders and shampoos.
The Tick Arrest collar for dogs contains a compound that prevents ticks from penetrating the dog’s skin while helping to detach ticks already on the animal by paralyzing the tick’s mouth parts.
By paying attention to the flea and tick life cycles, we can make sure that our customers keep their pets as free of these irritating pests as possible.