When you are a pet owner, fleas could be a source of concern. No one wants to be around fleas because these small blood suckers live and feed on dogs and feathered creatures, among others. Unlike ticks, they do not take on humans but that does not spare you from being bitten with red, itchy, skin bumps.
But not all flea looking pests or insects that could also jump are fleas. Like other insects and pests, fleas have their own lookalikes. In this post, we will cover some of the most common bugs that look like fleas and jump. This includes their identification, intervention for infestation and when you should worry when they are around.
In this article:
- What are fleas?
- Flea facts
- How do you identify fleas?
- Bugs that look like fleas and jump
- FAQs on Bugs That Look Like Fleas
What are fleas?
Fleas are hoppers and prolific breeders. With a rate of 50 eggs laid per day on the fur of your pets, it is only a matter of time before your home gets a full infestation. They are tiny, wingless and can be mistaken for something else because they share some characteristics with other insects and pests.
Fleas are more commonly mistaken for bed bugs and flea beetles. They embed themselves in the skin of their hosts and feed on the blood. They are also considered as health risks because they can transmit deadly diseases as they move from one host to the next. As a matter of fact, they are one of the creatures listed to have been responsible for the high transmission rate of the Black Plague during the 14th century.
Related: Plants That Repel Fleas
Aside from being the low-key transmitter behind the plague that eliminated almost half of Europe’s population during the plague and prolific blood suckers for your canine loved ones, here are other flea facts that you should know about.
- Fleas have a fast life cycle. From egg to adult ticks, it only takes 21 days before they could make an outbreak in your home through your pets.
- They are harder to eradicate compared to other destructive insects and pests because they lay at least 50 eggs a day.
- When there is a flea infestation and you want immediate intervention, treating your pet is not sufficient. You are required to have a general cleaning because they are high and fast jumpers.
- Like ticks, fleas can survive for 2-6 weeks without feeding.
- Not only do their bites become a source of discomfort for your pet dogs, they could also be prone to allergies and other diseases like anemia.
- Fleas can also be potent disease vectors for humans. If ticks transmit Lyme disease, fleas transmit Bartonella virus to humans causing cat scratch disease.
- There are more than 1500 species of fleas present around the world. The most common is the dog flea.
- As soon as a flea attaches itself to the skin, it would start feeding in just 5mins and could stay there bloodsucking for 3hours straight.
- A single flea can live in your dog’s skin for more than two months.
- Female fleas will lay at least 2000 eggs before dying.
How do you identify fleas?
So how would you know if it is fleas that are pestering your home and not something else? For one, they are very tiny (at around 2-8mm in length), they can jump high at 30cm into the air and they are flat-bodied like bugs. They also have six legs (with identifiable hind legs used for hopping).
If you are suspecting flea infestation in your home, these are the signs that you should be on the lookout for:
- Pets (especially dogs) scratch their skin continuously or when dark specks are spotted along their skin. Hair loss and dry spots in the fur of your pets are also signs of flea infestation.
- Flea dirt or flea feces on the floor. They would turn reddish-brown when they come in contact with water.
- Flea bites in your pet’s skin or in your skin. They are itchy, swollen, and bumpy. They are mostly concentrated in the neck, hind legs, ears, and belly of your pets.
- You can also do the white sock test. Just wear knee-high socks and walk along your carpeted floor or around your pet’s nook. If fleas attach, that is a sign of infestation.
- Check your pet’s gums. If the gums are pale, their anemia is most likely caused by fleas.
- Also, make rounds for flea eggs. They are usually white spots scattered in your carpet or in wooly textiles. They are most likely below your pet’s beddings also.
Bugs that look like fleas and jump
If you suspect the presence of fleas in your home, checking is the first step to apply intervention. Because chances are, they might not be fleas at all. As such, here are some of the most common flea look alikes or bugs that look like fleas and jump.
1. Bat bugs
These ones are very comparable to bed bugs and fleas. They have the same reddish-brown color, tiny, wingless, and could jump but with more hair. Their native niche is caves because they generally feed on bat blood. But if they make it into your home, they will gladly turn on your or your pets for food source.
Like bed bugs and fleas, they are most likely in floorboards, boxes, mattresses, blankets, carpets, and wooly textiles. They share the same spreading habit as that of bed bugs. Unlike fleas, they may bite, causing itchy blisters on the skin but they do not transmit any harmful diseases.
2. Bed bugs
They are the ones that are often mistaken for many pests and insects and not just fleas. They share the same flat body, tininess, absence of wings and dark to light brown colors of fleas. Like fleas, they also bite humans for their blood and their bites could cause itchy blisters on your skin.
Their main difference is that bed bugs are not high jumpers. As a matter of fact, they may not even jump at all. You can also tell them apart with their eggs. Flea eggs are white while bed bug eggs are black or dark brown. When it comes to bites, flea bites would look like mosquito bites while bed bug bits are more of red, swollen welts.
3. Black carpet beetles
As the name suggests, these bugs are shiny black in color and could be a source of serious pestering in the household especially that they feed on the fibers of carpets, textiles, and fabric covers of furniture. Like fleas, they have a flat body, wingless, and are jumpers (although not as high as fleas).
They also have six legs, but they are usually hairier and more hunchbacked than fleas. Aside from fabric, clothing, and textiles, they could also infiltrate pantries, feeding and contaminating your dry goods there. Look for black carpet beetle eggs along the dark areas of your home and make the necessary interventions.
4. Confused Flour Beetle
This is considered as one of the peskiest bugs for stored products in barns, silos, as well as in kitchens and pantries. They were named as such because they were originally just feeding on grains but now, they have become a concern because they now destroy goods in groceries and homes.
While they are not biters and bloodsuckers like fleas, they share the same color, size, absence of wings and are flat bodied. They are also pesky for the home because they leave a pungent odor and could contaminate the taste of your dry goods.
5. Crickets and grasshoppers
These two are out and about during summertime and are known as high jumpers like fleas. But the main difference is that crickets and grasshoppers can be seen as they are not that miniscule compared to fleas. Crickets have a shiny black color while grasshoppers are yellow green to green or sometimes even brown.
And unlike fleas, they want to be as far as humans as possible because they are easily
disturbed causing them to jump. They also rarely enter households because they are niching on farms and grasslands. Like the others, they are not so much a cause of concern for people.
6. Flea beetles
They are named as such because like fleas, they are also tiny, wingless, brown to black in color and are real hoppers. Fortunately, they do not niche on pets and humans but on plants. You would spot them in chomped holes in your plant’s leaves and stems.
They usually jump whenever they are disturbed. They are more of a nuisance in the garden than in your household and they will never bite you or your pets because they are 100% herbivores.
These ones are more harmful to plants and trees than pets and humans. They are tiny, at just 6mm in length, with the same brown color of fleas and are high jumpers (they have higher jumps than fleas at 70cm).
They feed on tree saps and you would know they have been there because they leave a trail of a foamy spit along the bark of trees after they are done feeding. Nonetheless, they are hardly causes of concern for households because they only feed on tree saps.
8. Fungus gnats
These ones are generally harmless but having them indoors could still be a cause of discomfort. Unlike fleas, they do not bite humans. Unlike bugs and beetles, they do not munch on plants and unlike termites, they do not cause structural damage. They usually hover around the soil of indoor plants feeding on their roots.
They lay their eggs in your plant pots and you would know they are there when you see soil debris on the floor. They look like flying ants, with black heads, grayish white body, winged, and with the same hind legs like fleas.
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9. Head louse
Like fleas, head lice are parasites to humans, feeding on their blood by entirely niching on the hair and scalp. They are most rampant during summer days, causing irritating itchiness on the head.
In terms of appearance, they are comparable to fleas because their colors range from white, brown, or black depending on how full they are of blood. They are also wingless, tiny, and with an oval and flat body like fleas. They can be eliminated through the use of anti-lice shampoos or the use of permethrin, Listerine or diluted vinegar.
10. Brown Dog Ticks
As the name suggests, they are only mostly found among dogs like fleas. They also share the same brown or black color, do not have wings, very tiny, high jumpers, and feed on the blood of canines. Unlike deer ticks, they do not carry Lyme disease.
However, they are the main vectors of deadly canine diseases (such as fever, anemia, and lameness that can lead to death) and can be more dangerous to your dogs than fleas. They embed in the skin of dogs like fleas, and they should be removed immediately. Although rarely, they could also attach themselves to the human skin.
This one is comparable with fleas because they really are high jumpers and could cover long hopping distances like springs.
They come in brown, white, or gray colors and are found in high moisture areas because they feed on fungi, decaying matter, and molds. But unlike fleas, they never bite on animals and humans so they should not be a much cause of concern.
FAQs on Bugs That Look Like Fleas
Is there a flea season?
Like ticks, flea outbreaks happen during summer. They thrive more in hot and humid temperatures but overall, they exist year-round. The best time to start flea-proofing your home is during spring but if you see your pets scratching their furs even before summer, it is time to do some preventive measures before an outbreak happens.
When do fleas bite humans?
Fleas bite indiscriminately. It does not matter who is around as long as it is a probable host. Unlike bed bugs, they also bite any time of the day and you would not even notice because they are too small. You would, however, know that it is a flea bite if the bumps are lined in a row.
They would not turn into lesions immediately but the more you are exposed to flea bites, the more you develop hypersensitivity to them, turning bumps into lesions on the next bites. When you have bites like these, check your beddings and spot flea eggs or dirt. You can also do the white socks test to confirm.
How do I prevent flea infestation in my home?
Aside from regularly checking on the nearest pest control outlet around you if you see signs of flea infestation, there are also ways to keep your home flea-free until then. Here are some steps that need conscious effort to have a flea-free home.
- Never let your dogs sleep in your bed or have them hangout in your furniture with fabric cover.
- Make sure that you regularly vacuum the spots in your home where your dogs usually go to.
- If possible, eliminate all attractive niches for wild animals such as birdbaths.
- Remove food sources like feeders around the home.
- Check for rodent infestation. Seal holes and gaps in the home. Remember, rodents are also favorite hosts of fleas.
- When coming from a hike, camping or generally the outdoors, sanitize and make sure that no ticks or fleas are attached to your clothing.
How fast can flea infestation happen in your home?
Flea infestation cannot be detected easily but it can take just three months for a full flea infestation to happen. Eradicating the infestation proves to be harder as it could take more than six months for you to fully get on top of it.
This is the reason why it is recommended that on your first time of treating insect or pest infestation in your home, better get the services of your trusted pest control outlet.
Can fleas lay eggs on skin?
No. Unlike some very dangerous species of mites that can lay eggs under your pets’ skin, fleas lay eggs in wooly textiles, carpets, old boxes, and floorboards much like ticks.
After laying eggs, they jump to a host and niche on the surface of their skin. Among dogs, regular combing and grooming would reveal the presence of fleas on their skin, under their dense fur.
Like ticks and bed bugs, fleas are a serious concern for households because they do more than giving discomfort to your pets. Aside from being a menace to the household because of their dirt, they are also vectors of diseases for your pets and for you too. They hop from one host to the next so you do not know what microorganism could attach to you too.
Fortunately, there are signs to look for that could indicate flea infestation in your home. There are also easy preventive steps that you can carry out to inhibit an outbreak. Fleas are mostly identified with the black specks on your fur babies’ skins, on your carpets, beddings and with their dirt or eggs. If an outbreak is suspected, contact the nearest pest control outlet in your area.