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Flea Life Cycle

Summary : The flea life cycle has been controlled by various new products over the past decade, but fleas are making a strong comeback. Having a good understanding about the flea life cycle is becoming more and more important.

Macey T; Old Hickory, TN asks: I have fleas. I bathed and treated my pets. I have washed everything twice and vacuumed everywhere. I even sprayed my yard, but I still can't get rid of them. Please help!

Dear Macey: Flea control requires your understanding of the flea life cycle. So, here's your first flea control lesson.

The life cycle of a flea includes egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. A typical flea population consists of 50 percent eggs, 35 percent larvae, 10 percent pupae and 5 percent adults. The flea life span from egg to adult takes from two weeks to eight months depending on the temperature, humidity and food. Normally after a blood meal, the female flea lays about 15 to 20 eggs per day. Eggs hatch in two days to two weeks into larvae.

The larvae can be found indoors in floor cracks & crevices, along baseboards, under rug edges and in furniture or beds. Larvae do not suck blood.

Adult fleas cannot survive or lay eggs without a blood meal, but may live from two months to one year without feeding.

Okay! Now you've got a basic understanding of what the flea population is likely to be in your house. You also know how long it takes for them to hatch and how long they will live. Now, let's set up monitors to determine exactly where your fleas are hiding.

To check your flea populations you can place a shallow pan of water with a little dish detergent (acts as a wetting agent which breaks water surface tension) on the floor. Any detergent like Joy or Dawn will do. Position a gooseneck lamp with the light on about five to six inches above the surface of the dish. Adult fleas will leap toward the light at night, fall into the detergent solution and drown.

Once you discover where the major flea populations are you should wash or dry clean pet bedding or any other locations where pets are permitted access. Vacuum the carpet with a beater-bar type vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming has to be done every other day to be effective. Most of the larvae can be found deep in the carpet at the base of fibers entwined within the carpet. After vacuuming, discard the bag in an outdoor trash container.

For flea control treatments you will need to use an insect growth regulator (IGR), which is a hormone to prevent eggs from hatching and larvae from pupating into biting adults. The IGRs methoprene (Precor) is odorless and non-staining on carpets or fabrics. Methoprene usually will reduce flea populations up to 95 percent in just 14 days. IGRs do not kill pupa or adults and must be mixed with a residual pesticide specifically labeled for fleas. There are literally hundreds of products on the market for flea control. Before application, read and follow the insecticide label and safety precautions. People and pets should be out of the house when treatments are made and not return until the treated spray surfaces have dried.

Usually, a licensed professional pest control operator has the experience, training, equipment and most effective insecticides for overall flea control.

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