Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis)
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Structure, Appearance and Characteristics
Small, wingless, average 2-4mm in length.
Darkish brown or black in colour.
Body narrow from side to side and covered with spines projecting backward.
Piercing/sucking mouth parts.
Long powerful legs enable them to jump 17-20cm vertically 35-40cm horizontally.
Can be differentiated from dog fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) by looking at first spine of genal comb. On the dog flea this first spine is distinctly shorter than the other spines whereas on the cat flea this spine is approximately the same length.
Larvae (the young):
Larvae are small, active and worm like in appearance. They are white or greyish in colour with 13 body segments, chewing mouth parts and no legs.
Mature 3rd instar ranges 3-5mm in length approx.
0.4 mm wide.
Complete metamorphosis (egg > larva > pupa > adult). Eggs are smooth, round 0.5mm in size. Eggs are laid in bedding or nest of host, but are not attached to the host. Thus they fall off and hatch on ground, in nests, carpets etc. The female will lay a few eggs per day until no more are produced. Normally 4-8 eggs are laid after each blood meal. A single female can lay in excess of 500 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs hatch from 2 days up to several weeks depending on temperature and humidity. Eggs are killed when exposed to low temperature (below 7„aC) for a number of days or by freezing. Larvae grow through 3 instars which can take from 9-15 days but can extend up to several months.
Mature larvae spins a cocoon covered with grains of sand, dust or other debris within which it pupates (approx. 4x2mm). Larvae fail to develop below 13 C or above 34 C and are susceptible to desiccation. Adults emerge from cocoon in 7-14 days in good conditions but as long as a year in adverse conditions. However they can lay dormant in the cocoon for several months. They do not emerge from the cocoon until a food source becomes available by sensing vibrations, heat and carbon dioxide. At this point adults are ready to feed and mate. Adult life span can be as long as one year.
Prefer locations where dust and debris accumulate. Commonly found in houses especially among soft furnishings, under loose cushions, carpets etc. Also found under buildings and in yards, especially areas frequented by animals.
Larvae feed on all types of organic debris. Often ingest faeces of adult fleas in which undigested blood is often found. Adults feed on blood only and prefer dogs, cats and human hosts but may be found on a wide variety of other animals such as rats. Adults can live up to 3 months without food. Adult females will not mate and consequently lay eggs until after their first blood meal.
Adult stage is considered the pest. Irritant to humans and animals. Noted as carriers of disease such as plague and typhus. Intermediate hosts of dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). Children can become infested with this tape worm by accidental ingestion of the infested fleas. Typical reaction in humans to flea bites is formation of small, hard, red slightly raised itching spot. A single visible puncture point in the centre of the spot is generally apparent. The spots commonly do not swell are much as bites by mosquitoes, bees, wasps or bedbugs. Of course reactions vary between each human.
To control fleas requires a variety of approaches. The environment needs to be controlled by wetting soil, vacuuming, and chemical treatments to eradicate the existing infestation. The source of the infestation, normally animals, must be treated by spot treatments, collars, powders, dips and rinses, systemics etc. Because of the nature of the pupae, external stimuli, eg. vibration by living animals, must be present to force adults to hatch and come in contact with insecticide treatment.
Our licensed technicians can assist you with a flexible, tailored solution to meet your needs and prevent these pests from becoming a problem in your home or workplace. Please contact us to see how we can help you maintain an environment free of these and other pests.
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