Adult fleas live off the blood of a variety of warm blooded-animals and birds. They are not host specific and will feed on other animals in the absence of their preferred host.
Fleas are carriers of both disease, such as typhus, bubonic plague, and parasitic worms. Rodent fleas, in particular, are a prevalent source of murine typhus.
Fleas are less of a concern for disease in the UK but their bites are painful and irritating. Fleas usually require a specific host, but will often feed on other animals if their preferred host is not available.
Fleas body length ranges 2-3mm, and are thin and flat, a useful adaptation that enables them to move easily through the hairs or feathers of the host and are well known for their jumping capability.
The colours can vary from a light brown, reddish brown to black.
The life cycle of the flea usually takes place in the resting place of the host, eggs are laid by the female and are white and oval in shape and 0.5mm in length. The female may live for several months and lay 20-39 eggs per day.
The egg hatches in a week depending on the temperature, however they may remain dormant for up to 6 months.
When hatched the larvae searches for food, feeding on organic remains until they are an adult. They will then lie in wait for a passing host.
All development stages of the flea will be found in the habitat of the host, it is essential that this area be thoroughly treated.
For example, if a pet might carrying fleas then this animal must be treated using an insecticidal shampoo or powder obtainable from your veterinarian, along with the bedding of the animal must be cleaned regularly.
If you use a vacuum then it is advisable to use a small amount of crawling insect powder inside the bag.
Where fleas are found in a property where there are no pets, then a careful search for old birds nests in the loft or eaves may prove worthwhile.