Your pet might welcome signs of spring, as more daylight means more walks in the park or curling up in a patch of sun. But with the flowers coming up and the bees beginning to buzz comes your pet’s worst enemy: fleas, hatching all over homes and outdoor spaces and preparing to pounce on their first victims.
Flea eggs can be tricky to spot, but turning a blind eye to their presence can have consequences when hatching time comes. Safeguard your home and protect your pet from discomfort by learning how to spot fleas at each stage of their life cycle.
The Flea Attack Plan
It’s a common misconception that fleas die in the winter. It’s true fleas prefer warm, humid environments — and they probably won’t survive subfreezing temperatures — but chances are that your centrally heated home is kept at a prime temperature for flea breeding year-round.
Flea eggs can enter your home when carried in by your pets, guests, bedding, or furniture. Eggs left over from your last round of fleas may also be lying in wait for favorable conditions to hatch.
This means your home may appear to be flea-free, but come hatching season, you could find yourself with a full-blown infestation on your hands. During winter, one adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs every day! A single flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in its lifetime, just biding its time for spring.
The Flea Life Cycle
Spring is fleas’ favorite hatching season. Learn about the egg, larva, cocoon, and adult stages to better understand how to spot fleas and squash infestations.
Eggs: Infestations begin before fleas even hatch. Female fleas, which can pounce on your pet from up to 6 inches away, feast on their host and then lay eggs in its fur — up to 20 at a time.
While your pet goes about its daily life, it unknowingly disperses flea eggs, which resemble white grains of sand, everywhere it goes. Flea eggs can end up in a range of places:
- Pet and/or human bedding
- Cracks in wooden floors
- Indoor plants
- Animal dens
- Grass and leaf piles
- Under homes
- Barns and sheds
- High grass
Half the fleas in your home are eggs. If you can learn how to spot flea eggs and dispose of them, you could prevent a flea outbreak.
Larvae: Eggs are temperamental and won’t hatch until conditions are favorable: 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity. They can hatch at any time throughout the year, but the danger zone is spring and into early summer.
Tricky to spot, larvae are nearly transparent or white and around ¼-inch long. They feed on flea dirt to get the large amount of energy they need to build cocoons and enter their next phase of life.
Pupae: Fleas will stay in their cocoons for months, until they sense a host is near. They detect a host’s presence through temperature, vibration, and carbon dioxide levels. When they see a moving shadow, they leap onto what they hope is a delicious, warm-blooded victim. If your pet has an unlucky encounter with a pupa on a hatching day, an infestation can begin.
You might find cocoons in:
Adults: Post-cocoon breakout, adult fleas are ravenous and immediately feed on their host. From there, their life becomes a vicious cycle: eat, breed, lay eggs, and repeat until death. Throughout their lives, they will rarely leave their host. Fortunately, adult fleas only make up about 5 percent of the flea population in your home.
Knowing how to spot fleas in your pet’s fur and checking it regularly can help save both of you some aggravation. Have your four-legged friend roll onto their side and check their abdomen for black specks; these could be “flea dirt,” which would indicate the presence of fleas. If your pet has a black coat, you may find it easier to locate fleas or droppings by brushing your pet on a white towel. Against this background, dark flecks will stand out.
Break the Cycle
You can interrupt the flea life cycle at any point by taking some precautions to shield your family and your four-legged friend:
- Use Parastar for Dogs or EasySpot for Cats spot-treatment products year-round. When you kill adult fleas, they can’t create more eggs or feed young larvae.
- Vacuum your home frequently. Vacuuming year-round can remove up to 90 percent of eggs, two-thirds of cocoons, and half of larvae from your home.
- Wash bedding and toys in soapy water to remove any hidden eggs or adult fleas.