Fleas are wingless insect forming the order of Siphonaptera. They are external parasites that pierce the skin and suck blood from mammals and birds. There are a variety of fleas species like the dog fleas, cat fleas, rat fleas and the rabbit fleas.
Fleas are about 1/16 to 1/8 inch long and their body is hard, polished with long legs. Their bodies laterally compressed, permitting easy movement through hairs or feathers of their host. Fleas’s body are tough and are able to withstand great pressure and can survive attempts to eliminate them by scratching or mashing. Hard squeeze between fingers are insufficient to kill a flea. The hind legs are well adapted for jumping. Fleas can jump vertically up to 7 inches and horizontally up to 13 inches, making them one of the best jumpers of all known insects. Fleas jump from host to host and they can jump from cats or dogs to humans.
Fleas lay tiny white oval shaped eggs and they go through four life cycle stages of egg, larva, pupa and adult flea. The adult flea must feed on blood before it can become capable of reproduction. During the pupa phase, the larva is enclosed in a silken, debris covered cocoon. Fleas make use of the fibre from our clothing to spin the cocoons.
Flea life cycle begins when the female flea lay eggs after feeding on blood. Fleas lay eggs in batches of about 20 on their host and some eggs can easily roll onto the ground, your carpet, your beddings and sofa seats. Hence, the areas where the host sleep and rest become one of the primary habitats of eggs and developing fleas. Flea eggs take about 2 to 14 days to hatch depending on the temperature condition. Their total life span can be as short as one year but can be several years in ideal conditions. Female flea lay about 5,000 or more eggs in their lifetime and that is a phenomenal growth rates which means one pair of fleas can end in a very huge number.
Fleas can live for several months without blood meal when they are still in their pupa stage. The optimum temperature for flea’s life cycle is about 70 degree F to about 85 degree F (21 degree C to about 30 degree C).
Flea bites are very itchy and can cause rashes and allergy reactions to the host. The bites can remain itchy and inflamed, lasting to several weeks or months. Fleas are vector of diseases. They can transmit a variety of viral, bacterial and rickettsial diseases to humans, your pets and other animals.