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Bird flea

Biology

After mating, the female flea lays several hundred eggs in batches after each blood meal, in the bird's feathers, nesting material, resting sites and in areas where the birds can be found. The eggs are small (0.5 mm) white and oval in shape.

From the egg emerges the larval stage which is again is white in colour, legless but covered in large bristles.


The larvae are not blood suckers but feed on general organic debris which is to be found in the birds nest. When mature the flea larva is about 5 mm long and it spins a cocoon of silk which very quickly gets covered in a large amount of dust and debris.

The pupa develops within the silken cocoon and, when triggered by suitable stimuli such as vibration, the adults emerge to feed on a suitable host, e.g. starlings, sparrows, owls, crows, tits, magpies etc.


Distribution

There are 50 members of the genus Ceratophyllus .


Certatophyllus gallinae gallinae is the commonest bird flea in the uk and has been recorded on 75 different host birds. It is found throughout Europe, the USA and New Zealand.


Significance

Although birds are the preferred hosts of c.gallinae gallinae, they are capable of of feeding on humans and do so readily. However they are unable to complete development on human blood alone.


The occurrence of the flea in premises where birds are nesting is relatively common.

In addition, it is common flea of poultry, being found in intensive farming and free range flocks.


Control

Please call East Lancashire Pest Control on 0800 023 6116


Key features

The bird flea is small, around 2 mm long, reddish-brown in colour and is flattened laterally, a feature which enables it to move easily amongst the feathers of its host.

The most distinctive features of the bird flea are the large jumping legs and the row of at least twenty four black non-sensory spines on the rear of the first thoracic segment. These bristles or combs are a diagnostic feature of the bird flea.

The eyes are apparent in this flea, the antennae are apparent and the mouth-parts, adapted for piercing and sucking, can be seen projecting downwards from the head.