Fleas (Siphonaptera)

Fleas (Siphonaptera)

Family Name
Siphonaptera also known as the flea.

General Characteristics
Adults are 1 to 8mm long and brownish in colour. They have no wings but do have muscular legs for jumping. Metamorphosis is complete, comprising egg, larvae, pipe and adult stages.

Pest control
Flea control measures will depend on the extent of the infestation. Often it is limited to a single pet. Insecticidal products have been developed to deal with most of these cases and the animal can be treated by strictly following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Efficient regular cleaning will deny the fleas their habitat and any bedding or clothing infected should be thoroughly cleaned or burned. Insecticides can be employed to remove the infestation and prevent re-infestation.

If rats or mice are identified as the culprits, then rodenticides can be used to control them and hence their fleas.

Fleas (Siphonaptera)<br />

Species Characteristics
Click on the name to see the species characteristics of the different flea varieties.


Cat Flea - Ctenocephalides felis

Cat FleaCtenocephalides felis
Adults tend to be 2 to 3.25mm long and are usually found on cats but can also be found on dogs, man and other animals. Often located in host’s bedding. Feral cats are the cause of many infestations in commercial premises and institutions.

Dog Flea - Ctenocephalides canis

Dog FleaCtenocephalides canis
Adults are 2 to 3.25mm long and are usually found on dogs but can also be found on domestic animals and man. Often located in host’s bedding.

Human Flea - Pulex irritans

Human FleaPulex irritans
Adults can be 2 to 3.5mm long and found on man but will also breed on badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and pigs. Found in the home, usually bedrooms.

Rabbit Flea - Spilopsyllus cuniculi

Rabbit FleaSpilopsyllus cuniculi
Adults are 1.5 to 2.2.25mm long. Found on rabbits but will also attack cats.

Tropical Rat Flea - Xenopsylla cheopis

Tropical Rat FleaXenopsylla cheopis
Adults tend to be 1.5 to 2.5mm long and are found mainly on rodents but occasionally man. Usual habitat is port areas.

Hedgehog Flea - Archaeopsyllus erinacei

Hedgehog FleaArchaeopsyllus erinacei
Adults are 2 to 3.5mm long and tend to be found outside in gardens and outbuildings and on hedgehogs but can be brought indoors on cats, dogs or man.

Bird Flea - Ceratophyllus gallinae

Bird FleaCeratophyllus gallinae
Adults usually 2 to 2.5mm long. Particularly found in birds nesting in dry situations including lofts. They breed mostly during birds breeding season and leave the nest when the fledglings do.

Mole Flea - Hystrichopsylla talpae

Mole FleaHystrichopsylla talpae
Adults grow to between 3.5 and 6mm long. Usually located on moles but also found in gardens and outbuildings.


Areas where they are found
Adult fleas live exclusively as parasites on warm blooded animals and, although they may prefer specific hosts, they will indiscriminately infect any animal. Cat fleas are responsible for many infestations as their numbers as pets has increased. There is also a general lack of cleaning of their bedding, encouraging proliferation.

Wall to wall carpeting provides an ideal undisturbed environment for flea larvae to develop in the warm temperatures supplied by modern central heating.

Significance as a pest
Fleas are capable of transmitting diseases and parasitic worms. The most serious infection they can spread is bubonic plague transmitted to man by rodent fleas. Rodent fleas can also carry murine typhus.

Dog fleas can host tapeworm which, though they usually attack the dog, can also transfer to man.

Flea bites are usually recognised as tiny dark red spots within a reddened area of skin and can be intensely irritating.

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