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Common Flea Species

There are many species of fleas but in Barbados it is cat and dog fleas that cause most problems.

The main concern about fleas is usually the distress and discomfort that flea bites may cause you or your beloved pet.


Cat Flea

(Ctenocephalides felis)

Cat fleas are often unable to determine whether a host is suitable until it has been bitten. If it is deemed unsuitable, the flea soon drops off.


  • Cat fleas are 3mm long wingless ticks, flattened from side to side with long legs enabling them to jump.
  • They have both genal and pronotal combs (ctenidia), differentiating them from most other fleas of domestic animals.


  • Fleas pass through four stages: eggs, larva, pupa, adult. The eggs are small and white. These stages combined vary from two weeks to eight months.
  • The adult flea is awakened by the detection of vibration of pet or human movement, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide for potential blood meals.
  • A cat flea cannot complete its life–cycle feeding only on human blood.


  • Cat fleas nest where the host is in its usual resting place, for example the cat basket. This is where the young often drop to mature.

Dog Flea

(Ctenocephalides canis)

Adult Dog fleas feed on the blood of dogs and cats, and they occasionally bite humans.

It is a vector of the Dog Tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum, which can also affect humans.


  • Adult is brownish black in colour, but appear reddish–black after a blood meal.
  • Adult dog fleas are 1 to 4 mm long. The legless larva is off–white and measures up to 5 mm long.


  • The fleas go through a four–stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae, adult.
  • The larvae are longer than the adults and feed on particles of dry blood, excrement, and organic substances.


  • The body is laterally flattened, which allows it to move easily through an animal’s fur. Spines project backwards from the body of the flea, which help it to hold onto the host animal during grooming.
  • As they can jump approximately 6 inches, they can move from host to host. They can also infest garden lawns.

Bird Flea

(Ceratophyllus gallinae)

Bird fleas can multiply enormously in hen houses, breeders, batteries and other similar environments.


  • Adult fleas are generally brownish in colour, and 1/32"-5/16" long. 
  • The eyes as well as the antennae are apparent. Their mouthparts are well adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood and project downwards from the head. 
  • This species is the most common bird flea, the hen flea.


  • Bird fleas can only live for a short time indoors and only in nests. 
  • They breed during the nesting period when the host and/or young are available for regular blood meals.


  • Adult bird fleas live in bird nests. When the birds move from the nest, the adult fleas must find a new host. 
  • If the nest is reused, the pupae will hatch, mate and continue the breeding cycle. 
  • Bird fleas can multiply enormously in hen houses, breeders, batteries etc.

Bird Mite

(Dermanyssus gallinae)


  • 1/64" long. 
  • Soft yellow/green body and eight legs. 
  • When fully fed the body appears bright red.


  • Egg to adult in 7 days (under favourable conditions). 
  • Adult lives approximately 90 days.


  • Feed on birds blood. 
  • Favours warm, moist conditions. 
  • Common in birds nests and poultry houses. 
  • Capable of reducing bird egg–laying efficiency. In severe cases it may kill young, sick or old birds. 
  • In homes, bird mites may bite people in search of food.

Brown Dog Tick

(Rhipicephalus Sanguineus)


  • Reddish–brown colour. 
  • Elongated body shape.


  • The dog tick is a 3–host tick, so must change host between the 3 stages of growth (larva, nymph and adult). 
  • They require only three blood meals to complete development; once at each growth stage.


  • It is found on dogs, in kennels and houses, and occasionally on wildlife, but rarely on humans. 
  • In warm areas several generations of tick can be expected per year. 
  • The most common places for attachment on dogs are those areas the animal is unable to groom easily.

Pigeon Tick

(Argas reflexus)


  • Soft tick approximately 3/16" long. 
  • The mouthparts are ventrally located and are covered by the front margin of the body so they are not visible from above. 
  • Bodies lack a scutum (a hard thickened plate) and the skin appears wrinkled and leather–like.


  • The females feed at intervals, increasing their body weight by up to three times, then laying globular, dark brown shiny eggs in batches of 20 – 50. 
  • The larvae feed on the hosts for six to eleven days although the nymphs and adults only feed for up to 12 hours. 
  • Pigeons are the principal host but other bird species may also be fed upon. Humans may also be bitten.


  • The ticks feed at night and hide by day. 
  • They are commonly found in attics and rooms adjacent to areas where pigeons roost. 
  • Heavy infestations of these ticks can cause the death of the host pigeon.

Scabies Mite

(Sarcoptes scabiei)


  • These miniature creatures are only 0.1-2.0mm in length, and at adult stage have 4 pairs of legs. 
  • Mouth parts may be piercing and sucking.


  • The Scabies Mite only lives for around 4-6 weeks. 
  • The mite goes through the following phases: egg, larva, nymph and adult. 
  • The female lays her eggs close to the skin and the young bore into the skin.


  • Mites mine in the upper epidermis of skin. 
  • The mite is conveyed by contact and from infected clothing.

Flea Problem?

Check for common signs like flea dirt, eggs and scratching pets to see if you have a flea problem

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