Flea larvae are 6mm long when fully developed and look much like fly maggots. They have 13 body segments, are a dirty-white colour with backward projecting hairs on each body segment. They also have a pair of hook-like appendages on the last abdominal segment.

Adult fleas are normally 1-4mm long, brownish in colour, without wings but with powerful legs adapted for jumping and piercing, and have sucking mouthparts. Their bodies are covered with backward projecting spines that help them move between the hairs on the host animal.

Cat and dog fleas are usually found together and are similar in appearance.

Where to find them

Adult fleas live exclusively as parasites of warm-blooded animals. The females lay their eggs close to or on the infested animal. Wall-to-wall carpeting and soft furnishings also provide a relatively undisturbed environment for fleas to develop. They can also live in cracks and crevices in bare floors.

Spread of disease

Fleas are not thought to transmit any serious illness to humans.

Flea bites

Although not all people are affected by flea bites, they can cause severe irritation.

Flea control

  • Hygiene – regular cleaning, particularly with a vacuum cleaner, will help prevent the build-up of infestation by removing eggs and larvae from floors, furniture and where pets sleep
  • Treatment of pets – in order to achieve effective control, pets must also be treated with a product approved for veterinary use

Chemical – the standard treatment for infested premises is the application of a residual insecticide, either as a powder or a liquid spray. The insecticide is applied to all floor surfaces. Note: these areas must then not be vacuumed or washed for at least 10 days after the treatment, or longer if possible.