Fleas lay an astonishing number of eggs as part of their life cycle, and they do so in an assortment of different places in and around your home; in carpeting, on bare floors, on your bed, underneath that highboy dresser in the guest room and of course, on the cat itself. Outdoors they are found just about everywhere, but especially in your grassy lawn and on damp soil in cool, shaded areas. Since fleas can live for 18 months (See: How Long do Fleas Live) while laying up to 50 eggs every day, it doesn’t require much imagination to see how an infestation can spread out of control in almost no time at all.
CC Image courtesy of Denni Schnapp on Flickr
Did you know?
Flea eggs amount for about 50% of the total population of fleas at any given time.
What Do Flea Eggs Look Like?
Flea eggs are tiny but easily recognized as you can see in the picture to the left. These minute white ovals are less than 1 mm in length and, along with the black flea feces typically found with them, are referred to as ‘salt and pepper’ by veterinarians. They are most easily found by rubbing your cat’s fur along the lower back, belly and around the head and neck while it is stationary on a clean dark surface. Flea eggs are, to the dismay of most pet owners, extremely tough and cannot be destroyed by disinfectants or insecticides.
Flea eggs are soft and smooth. For this reason they tend to fall from where they were laid – or your pet’s skin – and take up residence in the carpet or similar surfaces. Being oval and white, under magnification they look much like eggs from other species of animal.
What Color Are Flea Eggs?
They are white, which means they are most visible against a dark surface; a black sheet of paper works well!
How Big Are Flea Eggs?
Around 0.5mm in length. For a comparison, this is similar to the width of the lead in writing pencils.
Can You See Flea Eggs?
Yes. If you look closely you can see them without magnification.
How to Kill Flea Eggs
It’s always preferable to destroy flea eggs before they even hatch as opposed to letting them develop and then playing catch-up. With adult fleas which can jump over a foot and hide in tiny crevices around the home, it’s not an enjoyable game. Given that adult fleas suck blood and can transmit some pretty dangerous diseases, letting them develop is a risk that isn’t worth taking.
Although flea eggs can be very resilient, there are effective ways to kill them. Lab experiments have shown that exposure to a temperature of 3 degrees celsius (or 37F) for a whole day kills 65% of eggs. In addition, when the humidity is below 50% they cannot hatch.
CC Image courtesy of Denni Schnapp on Flickr
Natural Ways to Kill Flea Eggs
Vacuuming – studies have shown that vacuuming can remove up to 90% of the eggs and larvae which are laying low in your carpets. Vacuuming should be a part of any flea control procedure, so long as you remember to dispose of the bag afterwards. If you don’t, the fleas will thrive inside the bag and eventually crawl back out.
Flea Comb – a flea comb can be used as another natural way of removing flea eggs. The eggs will get caught in the teeth of the comb and you can then drown or dispose of them immediately.
Washer/Dryer – washing and drying clothing or bedding will kill flea eggs. The water from the washer should drown most of the eggs, while a high-temperature cycle in the dryer should kill off any survivors.
Other Ways to Kill Flea Eggs
Frontline Plus – While many other treatments just kill the adult fleas, Frontline Plus contains S-methoprene, which kills both flea eggs and larvae.
In addition to techniques that remove or kill the eggs, there are a large number of products on the market today that can prevent them from hatching. Products containing the insect growth regulators methoprene and pyripoxyfen stop eggs from hatching, interfere with larvae development into pupae, and keep pupae from hatching into adults. One of the approved-for-use treatments on cats includes:
Sentinel for Cats – the active ingredient in these tablets (Lufenuron) prevents flea larvae from being breaking out of their eggs. This essentially shuts down their life cycle at an early stage and prevents fleas from developing into adulthood.
Products for use inside the home include Siphotrol Plus II Premise Spray and Precor 2000 Plus Premise Spray. You can also find flea foggers (‘bombs’) and cat flea collars containing IGRs, though these are not considered by most veterinarians to be very safe or effective in comparison to home and pet sprays. Yard and lawn sprays which contain these same two ingredients are relatively safe to use because the active ingredients don’t linger in our environment.
Flea control products containing methoprene or pyripoxyfen are extremely safe and effective when used according to label instructions. They target the flea’s metabolism and don’t directly affect those of humans or cats. Cat owners can use them on and around their pets with confidence, knowing that they are not putting the health of their pet at risk.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How Long Does it Take for Flea Eggs to Hatch? – the time an egg takes to hatch is proportional to the temperature and humidity; it can range anywhere from one day to a fortnight. By lowering the temperature a fraction, you can significantly slow the hatching time.
- Can Fleas Lay Eggs on Humans? – it is possible, but unlikely. Human fleas, which are rare, can lay eggs on humans. Fortunately, most people deal with animal fleas which will not lay eggs on human beings.
- How Many Eggs Does a Flea Lay? – An adult female flea lays between 11 and 46 eggs per day.
- Do Flea Eggs Contain Tapeworms? – No. Tapeworms live inside adult fleas.
- Can Flea Eggs Be Black? – They are always white. However, they are usually seen along with flea feces which are black. This combination is referred to as ‘salt and pepper.’
- Are Flea Eggs Hard? – No, they are soft and smooth.
- Where Do Flea Eggs Accumulate? – The eggs laid by fleas tend to accumulate where the pet spends a lot of time. Even though eggs are usually laid on the animal, most fall off because they are smooth. You will usually find eggs concentrated in the area where your pet sleeps or rests.
- Does Capstar Kill Flea Eggs? – No, Capstar Tablets do not kill eggs. These tablets are specifically for killing adult fleas.
- Does Frontline Kill Flea Eggs? – No, Frontline is effective only at killing adult fleas and ticks.
- Does Frontline Plus Kill Flea Eggs? – Yes Frontline Plus will kill the eggs and larvae, in addition to adult fleas.
- Does Advantage Kill Flea Eggs? – No, Advantage does not kill flea eggs directly. However, Advantage does prevent the eggs from maturing into larvae.
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