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What's the Difference Between Fleas and Ticks?


In these blogs I’ve often said that you don’t need to be an entomologist to acquire a little knowledge about various insects, especially the ones that can pose a threat to us humans and, of course, our pets.


For the record, I strongly disagree with the notion that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I’m not sure what the poet Alexander Pope had in mind when he penned that in 1711, but I maintain that a little knowledge is better than none, especially when you’re dealing with the vast range of bugs that can cause you, and your family, a problem.


Ticks and Fleas: What They Look Like


Case in point: The difference between fleas and ticks, and their effects. At Sterifab® we get a lot of questions about ticks and fleas, and how to tell them apart. The fact is that while ticks are generally more difficult to identify, they are usually larger than fleas.


Fleas are generally 3.17 mm in length (i.e., about 1/8th of an inch) and look like small, dark specks.


Ticks, which are a little easier to see (though not by much) can be identified by their darkly colored, flat, teardrop shape.



Ticks and Fleas: Their Similarities


However, before we start enumerating the difference between these pests, let’s look at some of the characteristics they have in common:


  1. Both ticks and fleas can carry diseases. Fleas, for example, can trigger skin issues and flea allergy dermatitis, and also spread tapeworms. Ticks can spread diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

  2. Both ticks and fleas feed on blood, and their respective bites can leave behind visible red marks.

  3. Pets are especially vulnerable to these pests, and, if bitten, can develop quite acute health issues if they are not taken care of in short order.



Ticks and Fleas: Their Differences


But fleas and ticks have more differences than similarities. Fleas, for instance, are wingless insects with six legs which enable them to jump very easily. Ticks, on the other hand, have six to eight legs and are arachnids, meaning they’re part of the spider family. And there are other notable differences as well. For example:


  1. Adult fleas usually attach themselves to one host, such as a dog or cat, and stay there until they die. Ticks will feed on a number of hosts (e.g. rodents, rabbits, deer, and pets) for up to two weeks. They can live on a host for up to three years.

  2. Fleas usually infest a home once they gain access. They can multiply rapidly and make their way into every part of your home, including furniture, closets, bedding and clothing. Ticks are more opportunistic in their approach to invasion: they usually just wait around outside on a leaf or a blade of grass, and latch onto a host as it walks by. Pet or person, it doesn’t matter to the tick!

  3. Although we tend to associate ticks and fleas with the warmer months of the year, fleas tend to prefer hotter weather. They thrive in it. Ticks also tend to do well in warmer surroundings, but they are actually better adapted to endure cold weather. There have even been reports of ticks hiding under snow for protection.

  4. If you are unlucky enough to have become the victim of a flea infestation, you’ll need to tackle the problem in an entirely different way than you would ticks. The use of a safe, and effective pesticide/insecticide is called for. We suggest you use Sterifab (but more of that later) to treat, clean, and finally disinfect your home. Ticks, however, need to be removed as soon as possible, especially since the CDC lists no fewer than 16 tick-borne diseases on its current US watchlist. Here’s our guide on how to remove a tick.



Ticks and Fleas: How to Eradicate Them


If the foregoing items have you concerned, that’s actually a good thing. You should be worried. The fact is that ticks and fleas can cause you and your family (and your pets) enormous problems if their presence isn’t immediately acknowledged and dealt with promptly.


Fleas first. Among the many problems posed by fleas is the fact that, if your dog or cat brings one into the house, that’s all it takes to initiate an infestation cycle. Fleas can lay as many as 50 eggs a day, and most of them will fall off your pet’s fur and onto...everything! Rugs, carpets, sofas, bedding, clothes- nothing is immune.


If this is taking place you should take your pet(s) to the vet right away. There are many choices of treatments available, and your vet will tell you which one is best. However, keep in mind that your anti-flea regimen will be just that: a regimen. Be prepared for the fact that you will need to continue treating your pets for a while!


Now ticks. Here’s the unavoidable truth: You can never be sure that you have purged each and every tick from your home. Sorry. It’s just not possible. But here are some steps you can take to protect against ticks:


  1. Get rid of all the clutter in your house. Ticks love a mess!

  2. Wash your dirty laundry in the hottest water you can, fabric permitting.

  3. Clean the entire house- from attic to basement!

  4. Treat your home with a safe, reliable pesticide. We suggest Sterifab.



We manufacture and distribute Sterifab, so you’re forgiven if you think we’re being hopelessly biased when we recommend it. But it really, really is one of the safest, most reliable pesticides on the market. For decades now, Sterifab has been the choice of pest management professionals (PMPs) and members of the general public as their go-to choice when it comes to eradicating ticks and fleas. As one PMP recently told me:


“I’ve known about Sterifab for a long time. Everyone in the pest management

business knows about it. It’s very good at killing mold, mildew and fungus.

And it’s also very good at killing germs and microorganisms, which is

particularly important for our health care clients: hospitals, clinics, ERs and so

forth. Not only can it be used on fabrics, but it also eradicates pathogenic

odors and inhibits bacterial growth; it functions as a bacteriostatic to stop

bacteria from reproducing.”


In fact, you can use it to eliminate virtually any insect: bed bugs, ants, silverfish, cockroaches, mites, lice, and so on. You can also use it as a disinfectant, which is especially important if you’re trying to clean up after you’ve eliminated a rodent problem.


Bottom line: There are absolutely no other U.S. EPA-registered products now on the market that have so many uses: Viricide, bactericide, sanitizer, insecticide, deodorant, germicide, disinfectant, mildewcide, fungicide, bacteriostatic or fungistatic.


I should also mention that Sterifab is biodegradable. It only takes 20 minutes to dry, which means you can safely use it on upholstered furniture, mattresses, and, of course, carpets, rugs, and sofas. Oh yes, and don’t forget the places your pets sleep. Actually, you can use it on practically anything. Well, not anything! You should never use it on people or animals, or your cooking utensils.


One final point: If you have what you think is a really serious tick or flea problem, you’d be well advised to call an established pest management company.



Want to try out Sterifab on your tick or flea problem?

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