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Understanding the Life Cycle of a Flea

a flea on skin

If you’re dealing with a flea infestation in your home, it’s important to approach it with the best techniques for controlling these pests. That includes controlling them throughout life cycle, not just the adult fleas.

The Homeowner’s Guide to Understanding the Life Cycle of a Flea

Fleas go through four stages during their life cycle: the egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. They are resilient pests, and each life cycle stage can create a problem for homeowners and pets.

The Egg Stage

Flea eggs are laid on hosts, such as cats or dogs. After a blood meal, adult female fleas prefer to lay their eggs in an animal’s fur where they are barely visible.

However, sometimes, female fleas will lay their eggs in the surroundings of the host instead of on the host. When that is the case, they’ll choose upholstered furniture or bedding to hide their eggs in the crevices of the fabric. They prefer spots where animals have been around, such as your dog’s favorite bed.

It’s also common for flea eggs to fall off their hosts as the pets move around, causing them to hatch in the host’s surroundings as well.

Flea eggs are tiny, white and oval-shaped, and they are extremely hard to detect unless you are an expert. Female fleas lay their eggs in batches of 20 and can lay up to 50 eggs per day. Flea eggs often account for 50% of a flea population.

The length of the egg stage varies based on environmental factors, such as humidity and temperature. Higher temperatures and humidity levels will cause flea eggs to hatch quicker, sometimes in only two days.

On the flip side, lower temperatures and humidity levels extend the egg stage. If the environmental factors are not right, it can take up to a few weeks for flea eggs to hatch.

The Larva Stage

Once flea eggs hatch, they enter the larva stage. Flea larvae are translucent insects shaped like worms, typically measuring one-fourth of an inch in length. Like eggs, larvae are extremely hard to see.

Like other insects, fleas use the larva stage to eat and grow before they enter the cocoon stage. Flea larvae feed on flea excrement, adult flea exoskeletons and other debris they can scavenge.

The length of the larva stage is also dependent on environmental factors. It can last anywhere between five days and several months.

The Pupa Stage

Next, fleas enter the pupa stage, which is when they transform into a cocoon. Their cocoons are tiny white ovals. Fleas are savvy and often hide their cocoons in debris so they cannot be found. The silk-like casing of their cocoons is also resistant to insecticides.

Fleas undergo their metamorphosis and emerge from their cocoons as fully-formed adults. Once again, the amount of time that fleas spend in this stage varies based on environmental factors.

Fleas wait until the conditions are warm and humid enough before emerging from their cocoons. Depending on the time of year they enter the larva stage, they could stay in this stage for a few days or an entire year.

The Adult Stage

Finally, fleas leave their cocoons and become adults. At first, adult fleas are dark and flat insects. However, as they feed on blood meals, they grow and become lighter in color.

Adult fleas can jump great distances, and they do so to find new hosts to feed from. With a new host and in the proper environmental conditions, adult fleas can live for up to two to three months.

However, adult fleas that do not find a new host or live in temperatures that are too cold and lack humidity will only live for one to three weeks.

It’s important to understand that adult fleas only make up a small percentage of the flea population. To control a flea infestation, you need to treat them throughout their life cycle. Since fleas are tough to detect, the most effective way to deal with a flea problem is to call in pest control specialists.

a flea on skin

Can Fleas Live Without a Host?

As parasitic creatures, fleas cannot live very long without a host. They need blood meals to develop and procreate. Adult fleas that do not have a host will die in a few weeks at best and a few days at worst. Adult fleas live for a few months when they do have a host.

Fleas detect new hosts using many impressive methods. For example, they can locate a new host by detecting their movement, body heat and the carbon dioxide that the potential host exhales.

Once fleas detect a host, such as a cat or a dog, they wait in the host’s environment until they can transfer onto it. The most common fleas waiting areas are where the host sleeps, such as a dog bed or rug.

When the moment comes, fleas can easily jump onto their hosts. Most fleas can jump over 200 times the size of their bodies.

Once they latch onto a host, fleas pierce the host’s skin and begin consuming their blood meals through their siphon-like mouthpieces. Fleas consume several blood meals a day and often consume 15 times their body weight in blood.

The Impact of Fleas on Your Pets

As you can see, fleas can majorly impact your pets. Their presence can cause distress and discomfort. In addition to painful flea bites, pets can have allergic reactions to flea saliva. Small pets’ blood loss from fleas can lead to anemia.

As a pet owner, protecting your beloved furry friends from fleas is important. Regular grooming, including going through their fur with a fine-tooth comb, can help remove fleas. You should also use the flea prevention products that your vet recommends, such as flea collars, oral medications or spot treatments.

Next, reduce the likelihood of fleas by keeping your home clean, especially in areas where your pets sleep. Wash and vacuum their bedding regularly and use flea control products when necessary.

If your pet is in pain due to a flea infestation, take them to your vet. You should also bring in a pest control service to control the flea infestation and bring peace to your pet.

flea bites

Why Do Flea Bites Itch?

Whether they bite pets or humans, flea bites are known for being very itchy. The reason flea bites itch is that fleas secrete saliva into the bloodstream of their host. The body registers the saliva as an allergen, which triggers an inflammatory response and sends histamine to the area. Histamine will cause the flea bites to swell and itch.

Detecting flea bites is often the first signal of a flea infestation, so it’s important to know what they look like. Flea bites are small red bumps that are surrounded by a red halo. You will often see them in linear patterns or clumped together in clusters.

It’s important for humans and pets to avoid scratching flea bites, as that can lead to a secondary infection. Instead, use an anti-itch product to ease the itchiness. Additionally, contact a pest control company to take care of your flea infestation so that you and your pets don’t have to deal with itchy flea bites anymore.

Control Fleas at Every Stage of the Life Cycle

As you can see, completely controlling a flea population is a complex process. It’s important to deal with all stages of their life cycle, and many of the stages are hard for homeowners to detect. Bringing in expert pest control services is the best way to deal with fleas and give your pets their peace back.

ABC Can Resolve Your Flea Problems

Keeping fleas at bay takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge. The most effective way to handle a flea infestation is to call in a professional. The pest control pros at ABC Home & Commercial Services can control flea invasions by treating inside your home and in your yard. We have been controlling fleas for decades, and can even inspect your home for signs of potential infestations.

Russell Jenkins

Russell Jenkins is the Chief Communications Officer for ABC Home and Commercial Services in North Texas. Russell has been working as part of the ABC Family since he was 12 years old under the direction of his father, Owner Dennis Jenkins, and has since held several leadership roles at ABC. Russell holds a degree in Agricultural Leadership from Texas A&M University, and is a Food Safety Specialist. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and two children, playing tennis, and gaming.

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