FLEA SPECIES

Differentiate between fleas, mites and ticks

There are many types of fleas, but cat, dog and bird fleas cause most of the problems in America. The most uncomfortable thing about fleas is the inconvenience and discomfort that flea bites cause in humans and pets.

Besides fleas, mites and ticks are other common parasites.

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Dog flea

(Ctenocephalides canis)

The dog flea feeds on the blood of cats and dogs and occasionally that of humans.

Dog flea

Look

  • The adult flea is black and reddish-black after its blood meal.
  • Adult dog fleas grow 1 to 4 mm long. The legless larva is cream-coloured and up to 5 mm long.

Reproduction

  • The fleas go through a four-stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupa, the adult flea.
  • The larvae are longer than the adult fleas and feed on dry blood particles, excrement and organic matter.

Way of life

  • The body is flattened on the sides so that fleas can quickly move through the animal’s fur. Spikes on the back ensure that they can hold on to the host animal while being cared for.
  • They can jump about 15 cm and move in this way between the individual hosts. They can also infest the lawn.

Cat flea

(Ctenocephalides felis)

Cat fleas often only decide after the bite whether the host is suitable. If the host does not like the flea, then it leaves it again on its own.

Cat flea

Look

  • Cat fleas are 3mm long wingless insects with a laterally flattened body and long legs that allow them to jump.
  • They have genal and pronotal crests (ctenidia) that set them apart from most other domestic flea species.

Reproduction

  • Fleas go through four phases: eggs, larva, pupa, and adult fleas. The eggs are small and white. The combined phases vary between two weeks and eight months.
  • The adult flea wakes up to movement (of the host animal), pressure, warmth, noise or carbon dioxide to eat its blood meal.
  • A cat flea cannot complete its life cycle if it only feeds on human blood.

Way of life

  • Cat fleas nest in the host’s usual resting place, for example, in the cat basket. Here they often lay their brood to maturity.

Bird flea

(Ceratophyllus gallinae)

Bird fleas can multiply enormously in chicken coops, breeders, battery cages and similar environments.

Bird flea

Look

  • Adult fleas are usually brownish and between 1 and 5.5 mm in length.
  • The eyes and antennae are distinctive. Your mouth area is ideal for penetrating the skin and sucking blood and is shaped from the head downwards.
  • This species is the widespread bird/chicken flea.

Reproduction

  • Bird fleas can only survive for a short time indoors, and they’re also only in nests.
  • They breed during the nesting phase when the host and/or the young can be tapped regularly.

Way of life

  • Adult bird fleas live in bird nests. When the birds leave the nest, the adult fleas must find a new host.
  • As soon as the nest is occupied again, the pupa hatches, matures and continue the incubation cycle.
  • Bird fleas can multiply enormously in chicken coops, breeders, battery cages and similar environments.

Itch mite

(Sarcoptes scabiei)

Bird flea

Look

  • These tiny creatures are only 0.1-2.0 mm long. Adult mites have four pairs of legs.
  • The mouth area can pierce and suck.

Reproduction

  • The itch mite lives four to six weeks.
  • The mite goes through the following stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult mite.
  • The female lays her eggs close to the skin, and the young mite burrows into the skin.

Way of life

  • Mites attack the upper layers of the skin.
  • Mites are transmitted through contact and infected clothing.

Bird mite

(Dermanyssus gallinae)

Bird mite

Look

  • 1 mm.
  • Soft yellow-green body and eight legs.
  • When it is fully saturated, the body will turn bright red.

Reproduction

  • Seven days from egg to adult mite (under favourable conditions).
  • The adult mite lives for about 90 days.

Way of life

  • Feeds on bird blood.
  • Prefers warm, humid conditions.
  • Occurrence in bird nests and poultry houses.
  • May affect the birds’ egg production. Can kill young, sick or old birds in severe cases.
  • In homes, mites also bite people when they are looking for food.

Brown dog tick

(Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Brown dog tick

Look

  • Reddish-brown colour.
  • Long body.

Reproduction

  • The dog mite is a three-host mite, which means that the host animal must change between the three growth phases (larva, pupa and adult mite).
  • Only three blood metals are needed for development: one in each growth phase.

Way of life

  • They are found on dogs, kennels and houses, and occasionally in wildlife, but rarely in humans.
  • Several generations of mites can be expected every year in warm regions.
  • Mites often settle on the parts of the dog’s body that are most difficult to care for by the animal itself.

Pigeon tick

(Argas reflexus)

The pigeon tick is a nocturnal ectoparasite and primarily attacks pigeons. It is a disease carrier.

Pigeon tick

Look

  • The male pigeon ticks reach a size of 4 to 5 mm. The females are about 7 to 10 mm long.
  • The mouth area is arranged centrally and covered by the front part of the body and therefore not visible from above.
  • The bodies have no shield, and the skin looks wrinkled and leathery.

Reproduction

  • The females incubate at intervals, their body weight tripling; then they lay bulbous, dark brown shiny eggs in stacks of 20 to 50.
  • The larvae fatten themselves from the host for six to eleven days, whereas the adult pigeon ticks only eat for up to 12 hours.
  • Pigeons are the primary host animal, but other bird species can also be infested. Humans can also be bitten.

Way of life

  • The pigeon ticks eat at night and hide during the day.
  • It is found primarily in attics and near dovecotes.
  • A strong infestation can lead to the death of the host pigeon.