Fleas are small wingless insect pests of dogs, cats, humans and rats. Since fleas do not have wings, they can disseminate only by jumping on from one host to another host. Fleas use piercing and sucking type of mouthparts for sucking of blood from their hosts like dogs and cats. In addition, fleas transmit diseases like flea allergy dermatitis to dogs. This disease causes dog hot spots that are basically infected circular patches of skin. Since these hot spots are very itchy, dogs continuously keep them scratching and biting, and turning them into big wounds. Only adult fleas are capable of feeding on the host blood, transmitting diseases and causing direct damage to their hosts whereas their larvae are not harmful as they cannot feed on host’s blood or transmit diseases.
Adults: Adults of dog fleas are small, wingless, dark brown to black in color and about 0.5 inch long. Since adult fleas are wingless, they have jumping type of legs that they use for hopping on the body of dogs.
Eggs: Eggs are whitish in color and oval in shape.
Larva: Larvae of dog fleas are white in color with brown head capsule and chewing types of mouthparts.
Pupae: Pupae are white in color and enclosed in whitish silken cocoons.
The life cycle of fleas is very simple. They develop through four different developmental stages including eggs, larva, pupa and adult. Fleas lay eggs on dog’s body but these eggs fall off on the ground where dog usually rests or sleeps. Eggs hatch within 1-2 weeks into small larvae and begin feeding on organic matter. While feeding on the organic matter, larvae develop through three larval stages. The matured larvae then pupate inside the silken cocoons in soil. Adult fleas generally use cues like carbon dioxide, heat and vibration from their hosts to emerge from cocoons. The emerged adult fleas then hop on the host’s body whenever their hosts are visiting their resting and sleeping place. Once on the host body, fleas feed on the host’s blood, mate and lay eggs. Eggs fall off of host on the ground and life cycle continues. Fleas complete several generations during summer through the fall season and then overwinter as larvae and pupae in the soil mostly at the resting place of their host animals like dogs.
Currently beneficial entomopathogenic nematodes including Steinernema carpocapsae has been used as an effective biological control agent to manage fleas. This beneficial nematodes nematodes is commercially available and can be applied at the rate of 2300 nematodes per square foot area covering cat’s resting place. Please read product description for its application method to target larval stages of fleas (see below).
Following beneficial entomopathogenic nematodes can control dog fleas organically