Fleas, Lice & Gnats
Size: Fleas are the most common fleas and reach about 1/6 inch in size.
Color: Fleas are wingless insects with flattened bodies and long hind legs for jumping. They are black to reddish black in color.
Habits: The flat body of the flea allows it to pass easily between an animal’s hairs, and it infests both cats and dogs. Pets typically pick up fleas outdoors and carry them indoors where they rapidly reproduce. Fleas are usually most abundant in areas where the pet sleeps.
Diet: The cat flea is a blood feeder and adults will remain on an animal until forced off.
Reproduction: The female lays smooth, oval eggs on the host animal which are dry and easily slide off the animal’s body to the surface below. The white eggs are virtually impossible to see against a lawn, carpet or bedding, so they rest on these surfaces until the worm-like larvae emerge. Females produce between 18 and 25 eggs every day at the rate of about one per hour. If a dog has just 10 fleas, they can produce over 1,200 eggs per week.
Lice are scavengers that feed on skin, blood, and secretions from a host to which they are attached. Lice are common among most types of animals, and can inhabit the scalp and body hair of humans. Once lice are removed from their host, they cannot survive for very long.
Lice vary in color from grey, to beige, to even a dark reddish color after they are done feeding on blood. Lice eggs found in hair tend to be white and will turn a dark yellow if they are dead. Lice infestations can be controlled with lice combs, and medicated shampoos or washes. Lice can transmit diseases and parasites, and can reduce the life expectancy of the host in which they are living.
Gnats are part of a diverse, cosmopolitan family of flies. Gnat is a generic term for many tiny flying insects. Some parts of the United States will call them midges. Gnats can be carnivorous, feeding on blood and other insects, or some will only feed on plant material. Some gnats will bite humans, and have been know to spread disease and carry parasites.
Gnats have a very short lifespan, and show gradual signs of maturing. As in other species of flies, temperature plays an important role in influencing the lifespan, of this pest. Generally considered a simple nuisance, some gnats destroy plants by feeding on their roots.
One of the most common types of gnat is the fruit fly, which are attracted to over-ripe or rotten fruit. Eating fruit that contains fruit fly eggs or larvae can make someone sick.