Fleas develop by complete metamorphosis. Like the butterfly, the life cycle of the flea involves an egg, larva, pupa, cocoon and adult. The reproductive cycle of the female flea begins 24 to 36 hours after her first blood meal, when she lays her first egg. |
Many flea control problems are aggravated due to the lack of understanding and knowledge of the pupal stage of the flea. Even with advanced technologies in pest management, the flea pupae has proven to be the hardest to control of all stages of the flea life cycle. Many people believe that their flea control program is failing when in fact they just do not understand the tough nature of the flea pupae.
Flea pupae development actually begins during the third and final instar of the larvae. Flea larvae spin their pupal case with a combination of materials collected in their immediate area, with the help of a special silk produced by the larvae. This silky material (produced by saliva of the larvae) helps bind together debris collected by the immature flea. In a home, these materials include pet and human hair, lint, dust and fabrics from carpets, furniture and upholstery. Using these materials, the larvae puts together a water-tight cocoon that is almost invisible - totally camouflaged by blending in with its surroundings. The major change occurs inside of the pupal case: the legless, eyeless worm is changed into a highly developed insect that is engineered to detect warm blooded nesting animals, jump high enough and fast enough to latch on to the animal and feed voraciously from the animal's blood.
If you were to open a flea pupal casing you would either find a fully developed adult flea, a changing flea larvae or an undeveloped larvae that has been deformed by an insect growth regulator. An IGR does not effect any fully developed flea pupae. A larva that has been deformed by an IGR can actually live long enough to pupate but it will never emerge from the pupae stage. IGR sprays only effect the eggs and larvae of fleas.The pupal stage only lasts about a week or 10 days. Although the change is complete, the fully developed adult flea will not necessarily emerge at this time. Nature has a way of protecting creatures from starvation to the point of extinction. Immediately after emerging, the adult flea must have a blood meal to survive and mate. If the fleas emerge and there is not a suitable host in the immediate area, the fleas would not survive. Nature protects fleas by giving them the ability to remain in their cocoon (pupal casing) until there is a good chance that a host is close by. It is not unusual for the protected flea to remain dormant for several months at a time. Without sensing a possible meal, the flea remains dormant. Many people return home from vacation only to find thousands of fleas that they did not know existed before they went on their trip. The very act of walking around, shutting doors, etc., produces vibrations that cause thousands of fleas to hatch at the same time - hungry fleas that attack anything that moves, in search of a meal.
Controlling Flea Pupae
This is the most frustrating part of flea control and is the reason why an understanding of the dormant stage is so important from an integrated pest management point of view. Most people assume that as soon as a home or lawn has been sprayed or otherwise treated, they will not see any more fleas. This just is not the case. Pesticide sprays kill adult fleas that are exposed to the spray. Insect growth regulators effect only flea eggs and flea larvae, preventing them from becoming adults. Flea Stoppers kills flea eggs and flea larvae. Pesticides, insect growth regulators and borate carpet treatments (Flea Stoppers) do not kill fleas that are in their protected pupal casing. The case or cocoon is water tight and not effected by sprays. This means that control of flea pupae involves removing them mechanically (cleaning, vacuuming) and encouraging them to hatch. Your vacuum cleaner is your best friend and most important tool for controlling flea pupae in your home. As mentioned in development of fleas inside pupae, there are only three possible creatures inside of the pupae: a fully developed flea, a maturing flea and a larvae deformed by an IGR that will not live. Once you have treated your home with a product for eggs and larvae, the next step is to get rid of as many pupae as possible. Vacuuming carpets, rugs, floors and furniture accomplishes two important jobs:
Picks up pupae that can be disposed of in an outdoor garbage receptacle. Entices adult fleas to hatch.
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