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What Do Baby Fleas Look Like?

By Chris Williams on February 7, 2017.

Our dog just had a terrible bout with fleas. We’ve treated him thoroughly and he seems to be doing okay now. But I saw a few tiny brown things in his hair that don’t quite look like fleas. Could these be baby fleas? H. W., Framingham, MA

I’m not sure what you saw, but I can assure you that they are not baby fleas. If you’re looking for immature fleas on your dog, you’ll never find them. And if you’re looking for a smaller version of an adult flea, you won’t find that either.  Fleas have what we call complete metamorphosis which basically means that the immature form and the adult form look and act completely differently (see What Does a Flea Look Like?). As a caterpillar looks nothing like the butterfly it will become, so it is with fleas.

Gross! Flea Larvae Are Tiny Worms!

“Baby” fleas, called flea larvae, are small (less than ¼-inch), whitish, and worm-like. They have a small head but no legs. They don’t suck blood like the adult flea so they aren’t found on the pet. Because they don’t have legs, they don’t travel far from where they hatched out but tend to burrow down into carpeting and into cracks and crevices.

The fact that the larvae are not found on the pet is one of the main reasons why successful flea control is so difficult (see Why Didn’t Our Flea Treatment Work?). People treat their pets but, since they don’t understand where to find immature fleas, new fleas continue to develop and the pet is reinfested. Flea larvae are found in various places where your pet sleeps or rests. Actually since they hatch from eggs that fall off of the pet, they can be found anywhere, but more eggs will fall off and hatch in pet resting areas.

Inspecting for Fleas? Look for Salt & Pepper

If your pet has a pet bed, or rug, or towel or similar that it sleeps on, take a close look. We often say that you are looking for “salt and pepper” scattered in the bedding. The salt is flea larvae (they’re almost that small) and flea eggs. The pepper is black feces that drops from the adult fleas. This feces is mostly dried blood from your pet and this provides the primary food for the flea larvae.

If you think you’re also killing the baby fleas when you kill the adult fleas, you’re wrong. If you have a flea problem, it’s very important that you have a pest control professional treat areas of your home to kill flea larvae in carpeting, under furniture, and in pet resting areas. It’s also important that you keep ahead of the game by regularly vacuuming and cleaning your pet’s bedding (see How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Pet’s Bedding).

Flea Questions? Give Colonial Pest a call!


Photo Credit : By Kalumet – self created 11/01/2006, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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