Pest Information - Fleas

There are over 2,400 species of fleas and about 120 can transmit plague. Fewer than 20 bite humans. They feed on animal and human blood and will infest homes and yards. This site will focus on the fleas most commonly found in Hawaii. Learn about their Appearance, Habitat, Diet, Health Risks, and Reproduction.

Cat Flea

Fleas

Scientific Name

Centocephalides felis (Bouche)
AKA: Cat Flea
Of the 7 different kinds of fleas recorded in Hawaii, only the so-called Cat Flea annoys people to any extent. Several species of fleas also infest the Hawaiian rat and were presumably brought in when this rodent arrived with the earliest Polynesian immigrants.

Appearance

Adult fleas are about 1/16 to 1/8-inch long, dark reddish-brown, wingless, hard-bodied (difficult to crush between fingers), have three pairs of legs (hind legs enlarged enabling jumping) and are flattened vertically or side to side (bluegill or sunfish-like) allowing easy movement between the hair, fur or feathers of the host.

Habitat

In Hawaii, fleas thrive anywhere they have a food source in both indoor and outdoor environments. A pet's resting area is often where the most fleas will be found.

Diet

Fleas feed on the blood of mammals, which they need to produce their eggs.

Health Risks

Adult fleas are not only a nuisance to humans and their pets, but can cause medical problems including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, secondary skin irritations and, in extreme cases, anemia.

Life Cycle

The flea is a hardy insect with a lifespan of six to 12 months. During that time, a pair of fleas can produce millions of offspring. Fleas pass through a complete reproduction cycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Completion of the reproduction cycle from egg to adult varies from three to five weeks in Hawaii. Adult fleas may remain resting in their cocoon until the detection of vibration (pet and people movement), pressure (host animal lying down on them), heat, noise, or carbon dioxide (meaning a potential blood source is near). Hawaii’s warm, moist weather allows fleas to hatch year round. If no host is available, they can remain in dormant for up to 3 years.

Interesting Facts

Fleas have survived millions of years in a variety of environments. Some species can leap 15 to 36 inches high. That's equivalent to a man jumping over the 555-foot Washington Monument.