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What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny reddish-brown insects with a flattened body from side to side covered in a hard protective shell. Fleas are a parasitic insect that feeds on the blood of warm-blooded animals, and they are known to cause problems for both pets and their human owners. Their sole means of survival is feeding on the blood of their warm-blooded hosts. 

The most common type of flea living in Florida and across most of the country are the cat flea and the dog flea. Their preferred hosts are cats, dogs, rodents, wild animals, pets, and livestock. Despite their names, cat fleas will still bite dogs, and vice versa. 

Both species of flea grow to about 1/8 of an inch length and boast a flattened appearance with brownish-black coloring. When full of blood, the flea may appear reddish-black instead. The fleas lack wings. They are found throughout the United States. The shape of the flea’s body and large pair of back legs allow them to move easily through their host's thick fur. Despite their lack of wings, their large hind legs also provide them with the ability to jump great heights. 

flea identification

What do fleas eat?

Due to their nature as parasites, fleas feed and survive solely on blood from any warm-blooded animal, which includes humans.

Are fleas dangerous?

Fleas, although tiny in size, do pose some dangers to both people and animals. Having fleas living in your yard or home is not optimal, and their presence should be dealt with quickly. 

Fleas will bite anything that is warm-blooded and accessible. As such, both pets and humans are at risk of fleabites. In general, the bites are small, itchy, and result in painful red bumps that possess a "halo" around the bite center. They are usually found in groups of 3-4 in a straight line.

Fleas bite us and our pets to feed, leaving behind red itchy welts. In those allergic to their saliva, the itching sensation is very intense and uncomfortable. Secondary infections can occur because of frequent scratching at the bite sites. Large flea infestation on pets can lead to hair loss and the development of anemia. 

In most cases, the bite remains small and fades in time. However, they may cause allergic reactions in pets as well as humans in the form of dermatitis. Save for allergic reaction cases, the bites subside on their own without medical intervention needed.
 
Keep in mind that fleas are the most common transmitter of the bubonic plague. In addition, they're also known to transmit tapeworms, anemia in pets, murine typhus, and other diseases, which is why it's important to pay attention to any symptoms that develop after discovering fleabites on your person.

In addition, fleas are a secondary host for tapeworms and can pass them onto people and pets. The spread of disease by fleas in the U.S. is not a significant concern, but they can transmit diseases to people, including murine typhus, tularemia, and bubonic plague. 

How do I know if I have a flea problem? 

While having fleas is a major nuisance, fortunately, the signs are quite obvious when you have a flea infestation, allowing you to quickly start working toward a solution. 

  • Some of the most common ones to expect include:
    Excessive scratching, licking, or biting by your pets 
    You or others in your home scratching excessively 
    Hair loss
    Red bumps
    Small black flecks (flea feces) in pet beds, carpets, or rugs
    Actual observation of fleas in action (adult fleas are easy to see compared to ones in their larvae stage)

If you’ve started experiencing these signs in your home, it’s time to call a professional flea exterminator for help. 

Why do I have a flea problem?

One of the biggest reasons why fleas have become a problem on your Florida property is because rodents have introduced them there. Rodents make the perfect hosts for fleas and they are often covered in them. As they feed and nest on your property or in your home, flea eggs drop off the rodent’s body and onto the ground, where they quickly develop into new biting fleas. 

When fleas get into your yard or home, they will find the nearest host to feed on, usually you or your pets.

Other ways fleas can find a way onto your property:

  • Larger wild animals or stray pets can introduce them into your yard. The fleas then jump onto you or your pets and are brought into your home.

  • They can ride into your house on used furniture or a rug infested with flea eggs or larvae.

  • A previous owner or renter of your home may have had animals with fleas. Fleas can remain dormant for months until hosts are available. After moving into an empty house, the flurry of new activity causes fleas to become active, using you and your family as a food source. 

Where will I find fleas?

Fleas not feeding on a host are waiting for a host to come by they can jump onto. Fleas spend the majority of their adult lives on the body of a host. Not only do fleas live and feed on their host, but they also breed and lay eggs on them. 

After a female lays her eggs, they will fall to the ground to develop into new adults. Outside fleas do best in dark shady areas that keep them out of the sun’s direct light. Spaces under decks, shrubbery, leaf piles, dense vegetation, and areas of your yard where your pets spend a lot of time are where fleas like to gather.

Fleas are hitchhikers and do so by clinging onto rodents and other accessible mammals. Since they feed on blood, whatever animal they're attached to is their home. With pets being high-risk for fleas without proper flea protection, your household can suffer a flea infestation easily.
 
After making it inside the home, the flea may choose to hide in furniture, beds, carpeting, and other areas with high human or pet traffic for easy access. If fleas are in your home, they will either be on a host (usually a pet) or hiding in rugs, bedding, upholstered furniture, or linens waiting for a host. While people are not a flea’s preferred host, when they get into our homes, it is common for them to bite feed on us. 

How do I get rid of fleas?

The humid, warm weather found in Florida throughout much of the year means that fleas are a constant source of frustration for residents. 

Once fleas have invaded your home, the only solution is to invest in professional pest control services. Thanks to their lifecycle, it can take weeks, if not months, to effectively end an infestation without intervention.

If fleas have become a problem on your property, don’t hesitate to contact Native Pest Management for help. We know how difficult fleas are to control and how populations can seem to explode overnight. Our pet-safe pest control services performed by our knowledgeable professionals will ensure the elimination of your flea problem. With our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, our team is in a position to not only tackle your flea problem today, but place measures to keep them away in the future, so you and your pets can enjoy a flea-free life.

If you are interested in learning more about our residential or commercial pest control services or would like to schedule a free pest control inspection, call Native Pest Management today! 

How can I prevent fleas in the future?

  • Make your home uninviting to rodents. Don’t leave food out in the open, seal gaps in exterior walls, and keep lids on trash cans.

  • Keep your grass cut short to allow the sun to hit your lawn’s soil to keep it drier so larvae won’t be able to develop into new adults.

  • Know flea hot spots and remove them from your yard, such as dense vegetation, leaf piles, and compost piles.

  • Install a fence around your yard to keep your pets in and neighbors’ pets out.

  • Make sure if you own pets, they are on an appropriate year-round flea preventative. 

  • Make sure if you own pets, they are on an appropriate year-round flea preventative. 
  • Comb/brush your pets regularly to remove fleas or detect them early
  • Clean and vacuum the home regularly
  • Wash bed linens regularly
  • Enlist in the professionals at Native Pest Management for year-round pest protection
 

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