Adult female fleas lay about 20 eggs per day, however this number can go as high as 50 per day. Flea eggs make up roughly 50-percent of the flea population and represent a swarm of nuisance pests waiting to mature and invade your home and pets.
Fleas are a pain all year round in most parts of the country, but their numbers surge in the summer when the temperature and humidity are perfect for breeding.
Learning to identify both fleas and their eggs can help you to spot infestations early and allow you to completely get rid of fleas.
How to Identify Fleas
Adult fleas, although tiny, are much easier to spot than their eggs so this is a good place to start when attempting to identify an infestation.
The average adult flea measures about 1/16 to 1/8 inches and has a flat body that allows it to easily navigate animal fur. Young adult fleas that haven’t had their first blood meal are smaller than engorged (fed) fleas and are black.
Once fed, the flea takes on a lighter brown or reddish-brown color and expands in body size up to 1/8inches.
What do fleas look like?
Fleas are categorized as parasitic insects and their bodies are divided into three distinctive parts; the head, thorax, and abdomen. Unlike most insects, fleas are wingless and rely on their hind legs for movement. They have three pairs of legs and use their hind legs to jump onto hosts. A flea can jump up to 150 times its body length, making it the second-highest jumper, rivaled only by the froghopper.
Fleas have antennae on their head for detecting vibrations, carbon dioxide, and heat. These cues indicate the presence of a host in the immediate environment. Fleas also use their eyes to pick up visual or light stimuli in the environment, which also indicates the presence of a host.
Although the flea’s body looks smooth, it is armored with hard plates known as sclerites. These plates protect the flea from hazards such as animals licking, scratching, or shaking their fur while attempting to kill the pest. This is why fleas are so hard to crush with your fingers.
Fleas also have long, straw-like mouthparts that allow them to pierce into a host’s skin to feed.
The abdomen, which is the rear-most part of the flea, makes up the ‘heart’ of the insect. This section contains the insect’s respiratory system (comprised of a series of air-filled tubules), its digestive organs, and the flea’s respiratory system. Female fleas grow and mature their eggs inside the abdomen before they are deposited on hosts.
Identifying flea bites on humans
Many times, the only thing that people have to go on when faced with a flea infestation is strange insect bites. These bites can come from any number of pests including ticks and mosquitoes so it is useful to learn how to recognize flea bites early.
Bite location – Fleas usually bite humans on the shin, ankles, and legs because these parts are the easiest to get to. These parasites will occasionally bite the upper body including the groin, breasts, waist, armpits, knees, and elbows. By comparison, bed bug and mosquito bites tend to appear all over the body.
Bite appearance – Flea bites often come in 2 or 3 bites that form a trail. These bites are small, with a hole in the middle, and a red halo around the bite. Bed bug and mosquito bites usually appear as red, swollen spots, with bed bugs causing larger swelling than mosquitoes.
Bite symptoms – Most people aren’t allergic to flea bites. Common symptoms include a strong, sharp pain accompanied by intense itching. These symptoms go away relatively quickly. Allergic reactions to flea bites include severe rash around the bites, headache, diarrhea, fever, and shortness of breath.
Signs of fleas on dogs
Fleas prefer to live on furry animals so your dogs are the perfect target for infestation. Your pets can alert you of an infestation in your home long before you are bitten or have spotted live fleas.
Flea allergic dermatitis – Flea allergic dermatitis or FAD is a skin disease caused by an allergic reaction to flea saliva. This allergic reaction leads to severe itching and irritation, causing the dog to bite or scratch at its fur incessantly. Visible signs of FAD include scabs, hair loss, redness, bumps (papules), and pus-filled bumps (pustules).
Fleas visible on dog’s coat – You may be able to see the fleas on the dog’s coat. The most notorious hiding places include around the ears, groin, stomach, back, tail, and armpits. Running a flea comb or fine-toothed comb slowly through the dog’s fur is a good way to catch and identify fleas living on your pet.
Flea dirt on fur – Flea dirt is the flea’s feces and is made up of undigested or partially digested blood. Flea dirt looks like clusters of black pepper on your dog’s fur. You can confirm that the dark specks are indeed flea dirt and not regular dirt by blotting them with a damp paper towel. You should see red rings or red spots on your paper towel if the substance is flea dirt.
Excessive scratching – Flea bites are painful and uncomfortable and will provoke a reaction from your pet, usually incessant scratching and biting. The problem might also be a skin condition such as a rash, dandruff, or dry skin. Do a thorough inspection if you notice your pup scratching more than usual. Excessive scratching isn’t always related to flea allergy dermatitis.
Pale gums – Pale gums is a sign of anemia. Anemia is fairly common among dogs with severe flea infestations where red blood cells are depleted faster than the dog can replace them. Visit a vet as soon as you notice this symptom.
How to Identify Flea Eggs
Female fleas lay roughly 20 eggs daily so a flea infestation almost always comes hand in hand with flea eggs on your pet. You are most likely to find the eggs under the pup’s stomach, around the ears, and around the tail.
Flea eggs drop off the host after about two hours of being deposited, so there is always a small chance that you won’t find the eggs on your pet. Look out for other signs of fleas on your dog including flea dirt and adult fleas.
Other places where you are most likely to find the fleas include places where your pets like to spend their time including on pet bedding, carpeting, curtains, sofa, furniture, and your bed and bedding.
Flea eggs are much easier to see when placed in front of a dark background so consider using a dark piece of paper under the eggs for easier identification. A magnifying glass will also come in handy and allows you to notice all the features that will help you to positively identify the eggs.
While almost similar in size, flea eggs and flea dirt have a different appearance. Flea eggs look like someone sprinkled salt on your pet or bedding while flea dirt looks more like black pepper.
What do Flea Eggs Look Like?
Although barely visible to the naked eye, you may chance upon flea eggs. You can identify a flea infestation by the presence of the eggs.
Size – Flea eggs measure roughly 0.5mm long and 0.3mm wide. This is only slightly larger than a grain of table salt.
Color – Freshly deposited flea eggs are semi-transparent, shiny, and colorless to white. The eggs take on a more opaque and pearly-white color as they mature. The eggs retain their semi-transparent color all through their development, so much so that you can see the developing larvae through the eggshell in later stages.
Shape – Flea eggs have an oval, elongated shape with rounded ends.
Texture – Freshly laid flea eggs are sticky but dry out a few hours after being deposited on the host. Good eggs have a smooth surface while compromised flea eggs or eggs that have been exposed to insecticides have a collapsed or dimpled surface.
Comparisons – Flea eggs are often compared to miniature pearls, grains of salt, sugar granules, miniature china eggs, or dandruff flakes.