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Approximately 2,500 species of fleas infest birds and mammals around the world but we typically encounter only a few of them, the most common being the cat flea. Although called the "cat" flea it infests both dogs and cats equally and is what most pet owners encounter. The cat flea has 4 stages in its life cycle, the egg, larva, pupa and adult.
Egg- Female adult fleas lay tiny, pearly white eggs (about 1 per hour) on the host where they fall to the ground and larva hatch in one to six days depending on conditions.
Larva- are slender, white and maggot-like. Because they avoid sunlight they burrow down deep into your carpet or in the cracks and crevices of your hard surface floors where they feed on organic debris. The larval stage usually lasts five-11 days but can be extended up to three weeks depending on conditions.
Pupa- When the larva is matured, it secretes silk and spins a cocoon where it molts to a pupa and then molts to the adult. During this stage the pupa is very resistant to insecticides and can also lie dormant for up to a year if they have adverse environmental conditions or the absence of stimuli such as movement, heat, carbon dioxide or a host.
Adult- Once the pupa evolves into the adult it emerges and finds a potential host where it will remain for the duration of its life starting the cycle over again.
Understanding the life cycle of fleas will help you understand treatment. Since the eggs fall onto the floor, treatment should concentrate on floor areas, pet bedding and other areas where pets lay and the pets themselves. Treatment should be done using a product containing a growth regulator (IGR) which will render the fleas sterile so they won't be able to reproduce and will kill the adults. However, there is no product on the market that can penetrate the hard pupa stage, therefore after treatment you will continue to see fleas for about 3 weeks until all pupas hatch out and come in contact with the residual insecticide. We tell our customers to be patient; you need to let them hatch out. Daily thorough vacuuming will go a long way in reducing the amount of eggs, larva and pupa speeding up treatment. Be sure to empty your vacuum bag or canister into an outside trash receptacle or sealed plastic bag to prevent reinfestation. Wash pet bedding and have your pet treated professionally or use a topical flea product such as Frontline or Advantage on your pet. We also recommend having the lawn treated since that is where most fleas originate.