Fleas
 
Fleas

Physical Characteristics
  • Fleas are small, wingless, brown to black, blood sucking insects. They do not have
    wings.
  • Fleas are flattened literally, and have spines on the body that are aimed backwards. This
    enables them to move rapidly and efficiently through the body hair of an animal.
  • They have piercing-sucking mouth parts that are somewhat like a "siphon".
  • Fleas jumping ability is 7"- 8" vertically and 14"- 16" horizontally.
  • Fleas have a complete life cycle.
  • There are about 2,250 species of fleas.
  • Flea larvae have been observed to burrow only to a maximum depth of 1/2 inch.
  • Flea larvae will crawl long distances (several inches) to reach cover and escape bright
    light.
  • Fleas are able to jump 20 times their own height. The equivalent of a 6 foot man
    jumping 120 feet.
  • The adult flea will spend 99% of its life on a host animal.
  • The most common flea in our service areas is the cat flea.

Feeding Habits
Flea larvae stays very near the surface to be close to their food supply-adult fleas feces and
other animal derived material.

Flea larvae primary food is feces of the adult flea, but will feed on other materials such as pet
dander, flea eggs, injured larvae, and proglottids-the shed body segments of the dog and cat
tapeworm.

Reproduction
  • Fleas have a complete life cycle; egg, larvae, pupae, adult. The time required to
    complete a cycle depends on temperature, humidity, and the food available to the
    developing insect.
  • The female flea can lay 300 to 500 eggs in her lifetime. Flea eggs are about 1/50th of an
    inch in length.
  • Flea eggs hatch in 1 - 6 days and fleas can develop from egg to adult in 17 - 21 days.
  • The female mates only once, she lays her eggs loose on the host animal and must
    have a blood meal before she can lay fertile eggs.
  • The adult flea can live up to 20 weeks in the pupa case.

Disease Carriers
Their chief fame, the ability to transmit disease. Of the 2,237 species, less than a dozen are an
urban pest.

Fleas can carry Bubonic Plague and Murine Typhus. Some fleas, especially those from
squirrels in the Sierras, still carry "The Plague."

About 75% of fleas are associated with rodents.

Dog and cats can get tapeworms from the flea. The egg containing proglottids exit the host's
body via the anus, These tiny egg packets dry to form what looks like sesame seeds. Flea
larvae chew into them, swallowing tapeworm eggs. These eggs hatch in a flea larva and form a
cyst within its muscles. Here the tapeworm waits for the larva to metamorphose, and the adult
flea to be eaten by the cat or dog during grooming. When the dead flea is digested the
tapeworm is released.

More Facts
  • Adult fleas can live for months without food.
  • Eat dried fecal blood (larval stage).
  • Live on their host but eggs can roll off and thereby spread infestation.
  • Fleas resting in their cocoons come out in response to vibration (such as vacuum
    cleaners, people or pets moving about).
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