Surprisingly, adult fleas make up only a minor portion of the total flea population in an infested area such as inside a home. Most of the time the eggs and larvae compose about 80% of the fleas in a home. Understanding all stages of the flea's life cycle will give you necessary information to use when controlling indoor fleas. |
A flea is specially designed for its life style, with both body and senses that enables the insect to locate a host, maneuver the body of its host and to feed in a way that supplies its own needs and those of its offspring.
Flea saliva, like other biting skin parasites, contains an ingredient that softens, or "digests" the host's skin for easier penetration and feeding. The saliva of fleas is irritating and allergenic -- the cause of all the itching, scratching, and other signs seen with Flea Allergy Dermatitis, or FAD. Special Flea Characteristics
Locate suitable host by detecting movement, vibrations, animal breath (warmth, humidity, carbon dioxide,) body heat. Incredible jumping power that gives them the ability to reach their host. Body hair that helps staying on and moving through the hair of animals. Saliva that prevents immediate detection of its feeding. Mouthparts and special hairs that maximize feeding. Ability to drink enough blood to sustain life of itself and its future larvae. Fecal material (blood) dries quickly so as not to stick to animal but to fall off. Tiny eggs that easily drop off of animal and land in same area as fecal material. Blind, legless larvae can locate fecal material needed as food source. Larvae saliva helps bind together materials which make up structure of water-tight, camouflaged pupal casing. Completely developed adult flea can remain in pupal casing for over a year, waiting for signals of suitable host.
Fleas have four main stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The total flea life cycle can range from a couple weeks to several months, depending on environmental conditions.
EGG: The eggs are not sticky and they usually fall off of the animal into the carpet, bedding, floorboards, and soil. When the flea egg hatches varies -- anywhere from two days to a few weeks, depending on environmental conditions. The larva emerges from the egg using a chitin tooth, a hard spine on the top of the head that disappears as the flea matures.
LARVA: The larval stage actually has three developmental stages within this stage.They have small hairs along their body and actively move. They eat the feces of adult fleas) and other organic debris found in the carpet, bedding, and soil. Depending on the amount of food present and the environmental conditions, the larval stage lasts about 5 to 18 days (longer in some cases) then the larva spins a silken cocoon and pupates.
PUPA: The pupa is the last stage before adult. The adult flea can emerge from the cocoon as early as 3 to 5 days, or it can stay in the cocoon for a year or more, waiting for the right time to emerge. When is the right time? Stimuli such as warm ambient temperatures, high humidity, even the vibrations and carbon dioxide emitted from a passing animal will cause the flea to emerge from the cocoon faster. This brings us back to the adult flea.
ADULT: The adult flea is very flat side to side. There are hair-like bristles on the flea body and legs to aid in their navigation through pet hair. Fleas have 3 pairs of legs, the hindmost pair designed for jumping. Fleas are well known for their jumping abilities.
Being sensitive to light, the larvae are usually close by but underneath or behind objects. Put your knowledge of the adult flea habits and the complete flea life cycle as the major tool in flea management.
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