Sticktight Fleas The Eyes Have It

Traditionally we think of fleas as hopping all about our socks and infesting our pets and for the most part that is correct. There are however over 2400 different kinds of fleas and the variety of nature didn’t pass them by. Sticktight fleas are about 1/2 the size of a cat or dog flea and mainly infest chickens or other farm type animals like other birds, goats, dogs, cats and even sometimes humans. They get their name because they spend their time actually attached or more correctly ‘burrowed’ into their host and don’t bother with the hopping around so much as their cousins do so well.


You’ll usually find the sticktight around the eyes of a chicken which can be very disconcerting, they look like little dark bumps and since they don’t run around you might pass them off as some kind of growth like a birth mark. They can congregate up to 100 or more and sometimes infections occur and even blindness for the helpless fowl. On humans they can also attack the head and mouth area which is really creepy when you try to pull that thing out.

Holometabolism- Fancy Word For Complete Life Cycle

The female ejects her eggs and they take about 2 weeks to hatch in the soil or litter below. The larvae complete their life cycle, pupate and emerge as adults about 2 weeks later. Sticktights live in the soil and just hop around freely until mating and the female will then attach to the host and the process starts again. It’s very difficult to remove the sticktight flea and pulling them with tweezers might cause more harm than good but you can do it. Some suggest to put petroleum jelly on the exposed fleas and this suffocates them but even then they may remain attached for several weeks before they finally drop off.

How To Get Rid Of Sticktight Fleas

Treatment for this flea should be done at the soil level. Insecticidal sprays or powders will work but remember you’re dealing with animals in contact with the surface you are treating so I wouldn’t recommend that unless you can keep the animals off the area for an extended period of time. If possible keep the ground dry and this will go along way to retarding the development but in a barnyard that’s also hard to do. Food grade DE (diatomaceous earth) will do an excellent job on the larvae in the soil. Not an insecticide per se but the sharp micro particles will act to ‘cut’ up the larvae and adults still on the ground without harming the birds or animals. Spread the DE over the surface and even rake it in slightly but you may need several applications since DE doesn’t fair well when it gets wet. Not super heavy and you should be fine. Another alternative for chickens anyway, is to ‘raise the floor’ by elevating the birds using chicken wire for flooring. 3 feet is recommended and this should eliminate the flea from coming in contact with the chicken. Not sure if they make goat wire:) Other suggestions might be to separate the animals with the fleas to stop them from spreading and some consider removing the top inch or two of soil as a way to physically take out any eggs, larvae or adults.

Highly Toxic To Fish And Birds

I read a lot of forum posts where people use insecticide such as Sevin powder or Malathion sprays directly on the animals or inside where they live and I think that’s crazy. Read almost any label and you’ll find a warning that such and such a product is HIGHLY TOXIC to fish and birds. They use canaries in coal mines remember? This notice isn’t on there to just take up space. If you’re raising the animal for food or to be processed in any way I don’t see direct pesticide application to their body as a smart thing to do. If you’re still having problems down the road check with a Veterinarian and get something approved for use on the animal.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

This entry was posted in Fleas and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Miss Hippie Girl

    oh my nabors dog has them ewwwww

  • Well put, they are gross and I feel so sorry for the animals.

  • Suffering

    My dog had them–they were not hard to get off of my dog but now I have them in my house, car and garage and I can’t get rid of them. I’ve tried FleaBusters and that helped but I can’t get them out of the parts of my house with tile floors and in the garage. They are horrible–their bite burns and my feet and arms are raw from washing them off of me with strong stuff because they don’t come off with just soap and water. They are so small that in sufficient numbers, they swarm and get in my eyes, nose and ears. I often have them in my hair and crawling all over me biting. It is very difficult to get them off. They stick to clothing and burrow through to bite so clothing does not stop them. I just talked to an exterminator who said that these fleas are a flea but they act more like lice or a bedbug. He said they will be very difficult to get rid of.

  • Man- I feel for you. It’s not often this becomes a human problem but it sounds like you’re one of the few. I hope your bug guy gets aggressive and gives you some quick results.

  • Suffering

    I am having literally the same experience you are having with stick tight fleas in my home. My situation is even worse because these fleas attached to me (biting the whole time) and followed me into the school where I teacher. Now they have completely infested my classroom with a carpet and the whole library which has linoleum. The school district sent out their ‘safety expert’ who brought in an exterminator. The exterminator set flea traps and didn’t see anything. I can only assume that the stick tight fleas don’t like the stuff in the flea trap or they did jump in and the exterminator just doesn’t recognize them as fleas. The other thing I had happen when they swarmed me was that I was burned. Literally burned–my skin felt on fire and it left a purple and red mark that hurts and takes weeks to heal.

    My boyfriend who has been fighting them with me for 7 weeks accidentally took them home and he now has them in his car, truck and home. I haven’t been to anyone’s home for two months.

    We have started making progress against the fleas by first finding the source. The infestation appeared to begin when my dog got them but an exterminator that we consulted told us that there would be a source (a nest) on the property, attic or roof and until we found it–we wouldn’t be able to get rid of them. My boyfriend searched the whole property and couldn’t find a nest. So he just started cutting everything back and down until he finally found two abandoned bird’s nests in a dense bush that was partially overgrown over the fence with my neighbor. He said the fleas were swarming over the nests and all around the bush. He disposed of the nests carefully and then sprayed the area and the whole yard with bleach and a strong insecticide. Now we are trying to get them out of the garage, dog run, car and house. Be very careful of FleaBusters–I thought the same thing you did a week ago. I was WRONG and it has caused me amazing suffering.

    The FleaBusters seemed to be not working on the floors just put in on the baseboards but it started working when I dusted the tile and wood floors lightly. Also and most important. I thought the FleaBusters was working because it did definitely stop or cut down a lot the Fleas biting me in my area rugs, carpet, sofa and chair. HOWEVER that only lasted for about 2 to 3 weeks then I sat on one of my area rugs and was swarmed. Completely head to toe swarmed by the smallest fleas yet all of them biting me furiously. There were thousands of them and they jumped all around the room biting me and landing on the walls, floor and all furniture. It was the worst experience yet of this and that’s saying something. I immediately put the other area rugs in plastic and sealed them to go to the dump. I then made the mistake of asking my boyfriend to seal the two sofas in plastic and seal them so that I wouldn’t be swarmed by the fleas in them next. He did but when he turned over one of the sofas, it bit the floor hard and released thousands of the baby fleas and we were swarmed again. It took days of being bitten furiously to get them under control. I did it by dusting the floors, wall, and all furniture with FleaBusters.

    Now we are using heavy pesticides in the garage, my car and outside. I am still trying to use powders inside in my main living area so that I don’t have to be exposed to the strong insecticides. They make me very sick.

    If anyone has had thing experience and can help with any suggestions. Please let me know.

  • That is terrible… I think you’re on to it with finding the birds nest but the interior problems sound bad. Have you tried Pre cor? Either in a water mix or an aerosol spray called Precor 2000 Plus. It has a long residual and is not as harsh as what you describe. Please let us know how you do & please be careful.

  • Suffering

    It is terrible–you are very kind to reply–An exterminator is going to be fogging and spraying my whole house tomorrow. I have taken all carpet beds and any upholstered chairs or sofas to the dump. I’ve thrown away half of what was in the garage and closets. We were using a #1 pesticide to kill the adults and Precor 2000 Plus. The precor is particularly hard on me–something about the fumes but I know it is essential to break the cycle of fleas. The pesticide that the exterminators are going to use will kill the flea and the eggs. There is no way that even the fogging and spraying will get them out of cushions, beds or upholstery; they burrow too deep and lay their eggs that deep and protected,

    These fleas are amazingly contagious. My boyfriend, who is a general contractor has been working with me to stop these from the beginning. After about two weeks, he had them in his house, his car and his truck. I took them into the middle school where I work as a teacher and infested my classroom which has a carpet. Because I’m a resource specialist instead of a classroom teacher, I then moved around the school thinking I wouldn’t cause an infestation if I stayed in areas without carpets. But I infested the library and a new classroom without a carpet. Can they really be this contagious? I am very sensitive to the bird fleas but others seen to either not feel them at all or feel a skin itching, irritation or crawling feeling. I will be forced to leave my job and have nothing if I can’t convince the lausd exterminators that this is real. I’ve explained my home situation to them. They put out sticky pads but this is such a rare and unusual problem and the bird fleas are so amazingly small that I believe that they won’t diagnose this problem accurately. I will then be swarmed in all the common areas such as the library. I am keeping the fleas under control in my new classroom with a hard floor by mopping everyday. I don’t know what I will do when I am off for Thanksgiving and can’t mop for a week. My aide at school also feels the bird fleas. She experiences them in a similar manner to my boyfriend. She feels itching and a crawling feeling. She did see one bite her on her hand once. My principal is very kind and let me move around campus but he says that he must go with whatever the exterminator finds. He doesn’t understand why everyone in the library isn’t complaining of itching and crawling or worse. I don’t know. I do know that both Dan and my aide took a short period of time to become sensitized to the bites before they could feel them. I wonder if students are taking these fleas home with them and causing symptoms in their families that are hard to understand or diagnose. In order to try to communicate with the lausd exterminators more effectively, I am trying to catch the fleas to see them under a microscope. My exterminator for my home says he will ID them if I get him a sample. The first time I tried to get samples of what I thought were dead fleas, I got a lot of flea droppings. I had not idea that the fleas were really so small that it’s almost impossible to see them without magnification. So my boyfriend (Dan) and I began trying to figure out how to get a sample of a real flea even though they are about the size of a pinhead (the adults) and jump every time you look at them. Do you have any suggestions on how to get a live sample. Do you have any idea what portion of the population of people will feel or be affected by these fleas. My son and Dan’s two son’s who all smoke do not feel the fleas at all. So from my very small sample of exposed people, three do not feel at all, two feel crawling and itching and one (me) feels bites, itching and crawling and experiences swarm burns.

    I appreciate your feedback on any of this. Dan and I have been at this for two months now not having any idea what a nightmare this really is. If I had known, I would have called an exterminator the first day.

  • Again, I’m so sorry you are having such trouble. I caution you though to continue to seek positive ID before you go through such expense and effort. Fleas are small but you can easily see them (both sticktight & regular) with the naked eye and need no magnification. To catch and confirm fleas you can use a green light flea trap–works very well

    If what you’re having is so small you may consider the possibility of mites or even springtails–I’d say more likely mites.

  • Suffering

    What do I need to do to capture a mite and who can ID a mite? Do you know anyway to capture a mite sample? We know for sure that there were stick tight fleas on my dog and the contractor that took out the abandoned bird nest was able to easily see the the pest that looked like black dots crawling on him. However, in my house, I am begin bitten by a very small pest that needs magnification to be seen. Is it possible that this is a new hatch of stick tight fleas? Can they be that small?

  • Sticktight fleas won’t be that small. If the contractor could see them you should able to as well. Did you try using a white sheet or pillow case in an area of suspected activity? Once you find them there you can catch a few on a piece of clear tape or get them into a bottle of rubbing alcohol. From there take it to a local college entomology dept. and they usually jump at the chance to study things like this–thus you’d get your ID.

  • WhiteTaxedNotRepresented

    The nest has spawned so many fleas that they will just build more … You have to use a hose end sprayer and spray trees and bushes . We had a bad problem . We took Vets advice and treated dogs with the topical stuff … WHAT JOKE… None of that stuff works .. . The only thing that keeps them off the dog is Comfortis or Trifexis . The vets have moaned untill you can’t get ANYTHING THAT WORKS from the pet store or feed store . You have to spend alot of money and get it from them …We put sevin dust on the floor in the garage where they sleep and any bedding . Dump Cedar shavings in the zipper of their bed bag . Every month it’s a ritual … Or every time it rains … Don’t beleive that D.E…. B.S. We spent a fortune on that too. you have to poison them out and keep the animals off the treated area for a week . Eventually , they will begin to disappear … Get rid of your bird feeders

  • WhiteTaxedNotRepresented

    D E is over rated . It doesn’t work … You have to declare war on them and poison the outside areas that need treating EVERY MONTH and keep the animals off of those areas . Use sevin dust and don’t let anybody tell you that D.E. does it … Keep your yard raked and burn the dibris . Vets have made it next to impossible to get stuff from feed stores and pet stores that work good enough . They have declared war on your wallet . They want you to buy insurance do that you can spend your time there and they can charge more .

  • WhiteTaxedNotRepresented

    Poison the soil or burn it off .

  • DE would be better.

  • Ursula Van Lelyveld

    I’m so stressed, our chickens went to an animal shelter while we were on holiday and came back with stick tight fleas. I’m now so worried about our family being infested by them. I put vasaline on the chickens and have been pulling them off manually but I’m very worried about the whole life cycle starting here at home

  • Betina G Mansbach

    i found one under my cats eye , it had been there at least a week, though it was dry scab as i tried to get it off , but when i put my readers on it was there , alive UGGHH the cat never scratched at it…my cats are indoors but i am rv ing and i must have brought one in …i hope …please advise as to what to do now …THANKS my email is or even better facebook me