Most Wanted: Fleas

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June 1, 2013

These conspirators maliciously and covertly thieve and abscond with the lifeblood of humans and their companion animals. Fleas assail, feed and flee their feloniously assaulted victims.

As adult perpetrators, these siphonapterans (Greek, siphon or tube and aptera or wingless) are less than 6mm long and are compressed laterally like a tooth in a comb. Their maligning eyes are ocelli on either side of their heads. With mandibles absent, their assaultive piercing-sucking mouthparts have well-developed maxillary and labial palpi. Their antennae are held in a fossa (hollow), and their legs have large coxae for insidious jumping. Female suspects have panoistic ovaries (a primitive form).

The lawless, three-instar larvae are wormlike, 13 segmented and eyeless. They have a one-segmented antennae and a terminal segment with an anal strut (support). Public enemy pupae mandibles are immobile, their appendages aren’t immobile or “glued” to the body, and they form a hideout cocoon.

Fleas are criminally external parasites of mammals and birds. Larvae are host-intimate as a function of feeding adult fleas. Flea fugitives are vectors of disease and intermediate hosts of tapeworms. Fleas have diabolical developmental stages occurring in a criminal population of about 35 percent eggs, 55 percent larvae, 9 percent pupae and 1 percent adults.

Arrest the 99 percent of nonadult flea developmental stage populations, and you’ll have essentially rounded up the crime ring. Still, pest management detectives must apprehend that 1 percent of adult flea populations to ensure they achieve 100-percent successful prosecution of fleas.

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About the Author

MITCHELL, D.O., DVM, PsyD, BCE, is technical director of PestWest, and a frequent contributor to PMP.

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