Fleas are well known insect pests that are distributed all over the world. Most people are not aware that more than 2,000 flea species have been documented worldwide, and 300 species have been documented within the United States. In the US, the cat flea is the most common domestic tick species. While ticks are well known for being nuisance pests that can inflict irritating bites, the insects are also a public health concern due to their ability to transmit disease-causing pathogens to humans. The flea species that can be found in Arizona include the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), the Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis), the sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacea) and the human flea (Pulex irritans).
Fleas can be hard to notice due to their small size and fast jumping movements that give some people the impression that they fly, but fleas do not possess wings. Most flea species are light brown to dark brown in color and they possess hard flattened bodies that allow them to move rapidly through animal fur and feathers. Fleas are clearly designed to be external parasitic insect pests on animal bodies, but many species will not pass up an opportunity to feed on human blood as well. Fleas also possess rigide comb-like hairs that allow them to remain attached to the external body of animals and humans. This makes fleas difficult to remove by scratching at skin or combing through animal hair. Not only can fleas carry disease-causing pathogens to humans, but they are also direct disease vectors, meaning their bites alone can transmit pathogenic microbes into the human bloodstream. Fleas lay their eggs onto their human and animal hosts, but these eggs eventually slide off and land on nearby surroundings, making many species potential indoor pests. Once fleas mature into larvae, they remain hidden within cracks, bedding and furniture in homes. Both larval and adult fleas feed on blood.
Have you ever spotted fleas within your home?