The Itchy and Scratchy Show: Flea Hatch Rises

June 12, 2012By 0 Comments

TheNewsStar.com: The Itchy and Scratchy Show: Flea Hatch Rises

Officials at the LSU Ag Center said they have seen an increase in problems with fleas in northeastern Louisiana.

Entemologist Gary Wilson said his office has had three calls this week about fleas.

“This is because of our drier weather,” Wilson said. “If it were wetter outdoors, there would be more fungus, which is a major flea deterrent.”

Wilson said if a flea has had a chance to feed and lay eggs, they could thrive in the right conditions.

According to documents released by the Ag Center, flea control can be difficult. It usually takes two to three applications of the proper insecticide to get good control. One application of an insecticide on the surface or in the area where the fleas are will not take care of the problem. To control fleas, always apply at least two to three applications at 10- to 12-day intervals. The animal, its bedding and the area where the pest spends most of its times should be treated.

The center stated fleas can cause injuries to house pets. They said they cause skin disease with their biting. This can result in infection or produce an allergic response. The flea is well known for producing an allergic response in dogs or cats. Substances in the flea saliva can produce allergic skin reactions. For animals highly sensitive to the flea, only one or two may cause intense itching and disease. On the other hand, several fleas may be present and not produce an intense allergy problem. Heavy infestation on small puppies and kittens has caused anemia because of blood loss.

Wilson said some fleas tend to be somewhat host specific. That is, dog fleas usually get on dogs, rodent fleas on rodents and cat fleas on cats. However, cat fleas tend to use any host available. All will feed on other hosts, including humans, but they usually prefer their specific host. Therefore, fleas that are brought into the house and yard are from dogs, cats and rodents. There are many other species of fleas.

The center says fleas feed by siphoning blood through piercing mouthparts that contain salivary and food tubes. Only adult fleas feed on the host. They can survive several weeks or months without food. It is important to note fleas spend most of their life cycle off the host animal. This means if fleas are left in an area after a host animal is removed, they can wait patiently for the next host to move into the area.

The female flea must have a blood meal before she can lay fertile eggs. She will then lay several hundred pearly eggs, and larvae hatch in three to 15 days. The little white grub-looking worms mature in 15 to 30 days. The eggs are usually laid on the host and then drop onto the bed of the host or onto the flooring where the larvae will feed on the dust, dried blood and organic matter in and around a sleeping area. The larvae do not suck blood, so they are not animal pests.

Fleas seem to have a built-in mechanism for survival. For example, if an egg is in a good environment with the proper amount of moisture and proper temperature, the larva may hatch in as few as three days. The same thing is true of the larval stage of the flea. If it has good food and an optimum environment, the flea will develop from an egg into an adult in about two and a half to three weeks. In poor conditions, it may take six to eight months to become an adult.

Ideal conditions for the flea development include a temperature of 80 to 90 degrees, adequate moisture and sufficient organic matter for food of larvae. When these conditions exist, the flea can complete its life cycle in 18 to 21 days. The adult flea itself will live from several weeks to several months.

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