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What Do Fleas Look Like?

How to Spot a Flea

By Madeleine Burry. January 01, 2011 | See Comments

What Do Fleas Look Like?

Fleas are nowhere near attractive, but it's important to know what these annoying pests look like because they are very difficult to spot at first glance.

Fleas are quite small--they range between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch in length--which can make them very difficult to spot. Nearly every aspect of a flea’s appearance is designed to maximize survival: A hard, flat, and shiny exterior shell shields fleas from injuries after falls and bumps. This exterior also helps make fleas resistant to being squished between fingers or against skin. Their color ranges from light to dark brown, helping fleas to stay hidden in fur.

At the end of a flea’s eight legs are claws. Even though fleas are amazing jumpers, capable of jumping a foot or more in the air, they do not have any wings--it’s their legs that propel them upward. A flea’s mouth is shaped like a tube which helps to maximize feeding.

Flea’s eggs
--which females lay on hosts in copious quantities--are oval and white. In the larval form, fleas look like white worms, with a sticky, hairy exterior. In the pupa phase, the larva is encased in a cocoon formed from organic detritus (such as hairs, dust, and skin flakes).

If you are trying to determine if you have fleas or another pest, it is important for you to be able to identify flea dirt. What's flea dirt? It's a more "dignified" name for a flea's dried up feces. Flea dirt looks like small, dark specks--almost like a sprinkling of black pepper over your pet’s fur. The dark color is actually a deep red; because fleas ingest blood, feces are also mainly comprised of blood. If you moisten flea dirt, and put it against a white tissue or piece of paper, you can watch it turn red as the dried up blood dissolves. Fun!

Not so fun is a flea infestation. There are plenty of ways to avoid a flea problem in your home, yard and pet. Comparing popular products is a good place to start.

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