Fleas can be a problem in the yard as well as inside the home. Because treating flea problems indoors requires different techniques and materials, this file deals only with cat and dog fleas found outside in the yard. The most troublesome flea species are the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (C. canis).
Adult fleas are small, hard-shelled, shiny brownish insects little bigger than the head of a pin. They are severely flattened from side to side, which helps them move about easily on a furry animal. They are wingless, with piercing-sucking mouthparts and powerful hind legs for jumping.
Their Growth Stages
Fleas feed only on blood, and the females deposit their eggs only after a blood meal. Cat fleas will reproduce on some other animals such as rats and raccoons, but generally in most home landscapes, the cat or dog is the only source for that one meal before reproduction. The eggs are laid on the animal or in the pet’s favorite outdoor resting places.
Flea eggs are white, abut 1/50 inch long. Only a few are laid at any one time but several hundred may be laid during the flea’s lifetime. The eggs hatch in 2 to 14 days. The larval stage lasts 1 to 5 weeks, during which the larvae live on bits of organic matter. They don’t bite pets or humans. When full grown, the larva forms a cocoon, which becomes dirty and so blends in with other dust on the floor or in the soil. Adult fleas usually emerge from the cocoon when a host such as your pet is nearby. They may feed several times a day on the animal, but they can live for weeks without a blood meal. Outdoors, fleas are most abundant during humid, rainy summers and are more common outside in the southern United States than in the north.