Have you ever thought about how long fleas live or what the flea life cycle looks like? If you’re a pet owner, chances are that you’re familiar with fleas and the issues they may create. However, even people without pets may have to deal with these annoying little insects.
The two most prevalent flea species are the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis). However, the total number of distinct kinds of fleas that exist exceeds 2,000. Despite their names, either species of fleas can be found on cats, dogs, and other fuzzy mammals. Believe it or not, they can be found on birds as well.
If you’re trying to get rid of fleas on your pet and in your home, there are a few important factors to take into account. In order to totally eradicate the flea population, it is crucial to first comprehend and be familiar with the flea life cycle.
How to Identify Fleas
Before moving on to the discussion of the flea life cycle, let’s first overview how to identify those parasites. Fleas are tiny insects without wings that are rarely longer than an eighth of an inch. The adults’ small size can often make identification challenging, but they can be identified by their black or brown bodies that are bulbous or rounded at the rear. They have firm plates and a variety of backward-facing hairs and bristles.
Fleas may puncture the skin and suck the blood of their victim thanks to a lengthy proboscis that extends from their mouth. They have sharp claws on the ends of their lengthy legs, which are also well-suited for leaping and grabbing their hosts’ bodies. After sucking up blood, brown or black fleas frequently turn a shade of red.
The flea’s life cycle is short in comparison to other insects. Depending on the circumstances, the stages of the flea life cycle might take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to many months. In optimal conditions, adult cat and dog fleas may survive up to a year, but they only have a short lifespan of one to two weeks in the absence of a host.
Adult fleas move from one body to another as they find accessible hosts. Fleas are blood-feeding insects that require a meal to reproduce. People frequently get bitten around the ankles because a hungry flea may hop onto the next animal it sees.
Within the first 24 hours after emerging from the cocoon, an adult flea will search for a blood meal. Within ten seconds of touching down on a host, it will start to feed. Even though they require a host, fleas can spend up to 90% of their lives on surrounding surfaces. Although they don’t often take long leaps, they can jump up to 13 inches high, or 200 times their own size.
4 Stages of the Flea Life Cycle
The egg, larva, pupa, and adult are the four stages of a flea life cycle. The full life cycle might take a few weeks to many months, depending on the ambient temperature and humidity levels. Fleas like temperatures between 70 and 85 °F and 70% relative humidity.
When an adult female flea produces eggs after ingesting blood from the host, the flea life cycle begins. Adult fleas must consume blood to reproduce eggs. These white, tiny eggs, which are produced in groups of around 20, are smaller than a grain of sand and are found in the pet’s fur. Approximately 40 eggs can be laid daily by a single adult female.
Flea eggs aren’t connected, so they will gently fall to the ground and stay there until they hatch. The eggs will drop off your pet as it travels, dispersing them all over the area where your pet spends most of his or her time.
Eggs require anywhere between two days and two weeks to mature before hatching when the surrounding environment is ideal for them. The time it takes for the eggs to hatch depends on the weather and humidity. If it’s cold and dry, it will take longer; if it’s warm and humid, it will take less time. After the eggs hatch, the next stage of the flea life cycle is the larvae stage.
Normally, flea eggs hatch in 2 to 12 days. After hatching, the small, legless larvae emerge, which are almost transparent and white. These larvae lack appendages, but they do have robust, fully-formed lips. In the summer, the larval stage of the flea life cycle is shorter, and the pupal stage can be reached in 4 to 24 days.
Due to their blindness, the newly emerged larvae will stay out of the light. They grow over weeks by consuming organic waste from the surroundings as well as pre-digested blood, sometimes referred to as “flea dirt,” that adult fleas pass.
Flea larvae are white (nearly transparent), legless, and can grow to be up to one-fourth of an inch long. In the typical household, 35% of the flea population is made up of larvae. After emerging from their eggs, the larvae will begin to spin cocoons in around 5–20 days if the circumstances are right. When the larva is big enough to change, it will frequently look for a dark area on the floor or anywhere else in the house to build its cocoon. This leads to the pupae or cocoon stage, the next life stage.
In the larval stage of the flea life cycle, those creatures don’t resemble adults at all. They have a long, segmented body that resembles a worm, with small bristles in place of legs.
About 10% of the flea population in a residence is made up of pupae, the third stage of the flea life cycle. The flea develops through this cocoon stage before emerging as an adult. Before the flea adult emerges, the pupae are shielded by the cocoon for a few days or weeks.
Cocoons have a sticky exterior layer that enables them to conceal themselves deep inside the carpet and prevents them from being quickly removed by sweeping or mild cleaning. The cocoon can shield the flea larva for months or even years if the environment is not favorable for emergence. Some species have the capacity to postpone growth until they detect a nearby host.
The last stage of the flea life cycle is when they emerge from cocoons and become adults. The adult flea won’t come out until a suitable host is detected, which might happen through vibrations, increased carbon dioxide levels, or body heat. The flea may be alerted to emerge from its cocoon to feed by your pet strolling by or humans moving around the house.
A flea must start feeding on a host within a few hours of emerging from the cocoon. Within a few days of the initial feeding, adult fleas will reproduce and start laying eggs. Flea females cannot lay eggs until they have had a blood meal.
New adult fleas are tiny, black in color, and have a flattened look. They will grow bigger and lighter in color after feeding on your pet, taking on the more identifiable flea form. Less than 5% of the total flea population in a residence are adult fleas. They can survive anywhere from a few weeks to many months on the host animal, where they spend most of their time feeding, reproducing, and laying eggs.
How To Get Rid Of Fleas
The most common way that fleas get into a house is by using a pet as a host. Owners of cats and dogs should be especially watchful for indications of an infestation in the home. A veterinarian will advise either an oral pesticide in capsule or tablet form for treating your pet or a topical insecticide placed in between the shoulder blades. For approximately a month, this should kill adult fleas or stop them from reproducing.
After your pet has had treatment, you should use a strong vacuum or steam cleaner every day for several weeks on the bedding, carpets, floors, and upholstery. Especially in areas where you know your pet has been. After each usage, the vacuum bag should be thrown away to stop the fleas from coming back right away. The contaminated bedding should be washed in hot water and dried on the highest heat setting.
In order to guarantee that all fleas are eliminated, you can use an aerosol spray. While methoprene or pyriproxyfen will be effective as a type of pest management for the egg, larva, or pupa stage of the flea life cycle, chemicals like permethrin often work for adults. Make sure there isn’t any long grass or trash nearby (where the insects may hide) because pets might get fleas from your yard. Future infestations can be avoided by using all of these tactics at once.
To sum up, fleas go through a whole metamorphosis. The egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages make up the flea’s life cycle or phases. The flea life cycle lasts an average of 21 days. However, this might change depending on the environment’s humidity and temperature levels.
To terminate infestations and prevent new ones, it is crucial to treat and prevent them at different stages of the flea life cycle since they are very resilient and persistent parasites.