Hoppin’ mad? Got the itch to figure out where those little red marks on your ankle came from? And your pet’s scratching at more than the door? Welcome to the micro world of fleas!
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are tiny insects (1/16 to ⅛ of an inch long) that commonly live as parasites on cats, dogs, and other warm-blooded animals. They are wingless and usually reddish-brown, with hard, polished bodies covered with microscopic backward-pointing spines and hairs.
Fleas’ bodies are compressed laterally (from side to side), meaning that they have a rather tall and narrow profile that allows them to move easily among the hairs of their host. A flea’s mouth is pointed and sharp, built for biting and sucking blood.
Where Do Fleas Live?
Fleas—members of the order Siphonaptera—are common almost everywhere. There are more than 2,500 species and subspecies of fleas, and it has been reported that 94 percent of all fleas feed on animals.
What Animals Do Fleas Target?
The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is virtually ubiquitous and attacks not only cats but also dogs and other animals. Dog fleas (C. canis) resemble cat fleas.
Other fleas target poultry, foxes, woodchucks, squirrels, rats, mice, and many other animals. Fleas are not picky, and sometimes a host animal can even be home to more than one type of flea. Fleas can carry numerous diseases, including plague, typhus, tapeworm, and many other afflictions of both man and beast.