What is a Flea?

Fleas are small parasites with no wings that live by sucking blood from their hosts. To find one to feed on, fleas detect body heat, movements, and breathing to locate their ideal host.

Fleas have specialized mouthparts designed to pierce skin to extract blood, while their hind legs have evolved for jumping; some species can leap 200 times their own body length! Fleas are known for spreading Bubonic Plague and murine typhus in humans as well as causing allergic reactions in pets; their lifecycle encompasses four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adulthood.

Adult Fleas

Fleas are small wingless insects measuring about 1/8 of an inch long (this size would correspond with the dot on your thumbnail). Their flattened pancake-like bodies enable them to move easily through animal fur or feathers; their hind legs have special development for jumping, while they have a slender proboscis that extends forward when taking blood meals.

Female fleas begin laying eggs within two days of taking their first blood meal, on average 27 per day, consuming 15 times their own body weight in blood each day and excreting it as partially digested feces, also known as flea dirt – often seen on pet fur and bedding.

Larvae hatch from eggs within several days to several weeks, depending on environmental conditions. They feed off of adult flea excrement as well as organic debris in their environment, feeding on both protein and other sources of sustenance.

At maturity, larvae spin cocoons that they protect by depositing debris from their environment into them and may also use shed pupal skin as insulation against environmental threats.

Cocoons may appear white, tan, or darker than their surroundings depending on environmental conditions. A vibration from something such as passing pet or footsteps will trigger larva to emerge from its cocoon and become an adult flea, creating an infestation in otherwise vacant homes or apartments that had long lain dormant for an unexpected “burst of activity.”

Once an adult flea emerges from its cocoon, it quickly searches for a host. Moving quickly towards it and quickly finding cover under hair or other obstructions on their body, they quickly begin feeding with saw-like mandibles to cut into skin and draw blood while also secreting saliva containing chemicals to stimulate circulation in order to sustain life in their host.

Fleas are ectoparasites (parasites that live off animals), making them hard to eradicate from your home or yard once they establish themselves there. One effective strategy for ridding yourself of fleas in your property is regular vacuuming in areas where pets rest and where their routes traverse throughout it; vacuum these spaces especially often in order to combat any infestation issues on your property.

Larval Fleas

Fleas begin their lives as eggs that often fall off a host animal and hatch into larvae, which feed off of any skin shed by adult fleas. When large enough, larvae spin cocoons with debris to camouflage themselves before emerging as adult fleas after up to eight months as pupae. The lifecycle can last as much as eight months for this cycle to complete itself.

Adult fleas are tiny wingless insects with flat bodies and large hind legs. Their flat bodies allow them to fit easily into crevices of animal hosts where they can hide until a blood meal presents itself. Fleas are equipped with piercing mouthparts designed for sucking blood from hosts’ veins while being capable of jumping seven times their body length, giving them access to other parts of an animal host’s body quickly.

Female fleas lay four to eight eggs after every blood meal they take from a host. These oval-shaped, white eggs can lay as many as 50 in their lifetime and will often fall off and land on the floor or their bedding, eventually reaching up to fifty at one time!

Eggs of fleas are hard and can survive up to one year even in dry environments, although humidity, warm temperatures, food availability, and warmth all play key roles in egg development. When the larvae hatch they appear as white worm-like creatures without eyes that avoid light. Being phototactic makes these larvae particularly active feeders who feed off organic debris such as dried fecal material from adults (commonly known as flea dirt).

As larvae develop, they move around by spinning silk threads onto which they attach themselves and secreting sticky substances that help secure them to their hosts. Larvae are highly active creatures, often searching for food sources.

As soon as larvae have reached adulthood, they spin a silk cocoon and add debris for camouflage. Larvae may remain dormant for up to a year until sensing an animal host; carbon dioxide levels, vibrations or body heat could trigger their awakening as well. Adult fleas typically feed on warm-blooded creatures but if hungry enough will bite humans; their bites can be itchy and potentially result in secondary infections called flea weals.

Pupae

Fleas go through several life stages before becoming adults, beginning with their larval stage that resembles a worm and can grow up to a quarter of an inch long. They feed for 4-20 days on skin sheds and hair from host animals before beginning the transformation into pupae that are typically found outside; however, they may also inhabit carpeting, pet bedding, blankets or other parts of your home as pupae.

As they develop from pupal stage to adulthood, fleas shed their wings and transform into insect with highly developed legs used for jumping. Their legs feature pads of thick protein called resilin that store energy; when fleas prepare to jump off of surfaces such as walls or floors, these compress to store energy which then transmits through their legs into an elastic recoil effect that propels them off of them.

Resilin on their legs enables fleas to stick tightly to surfaces as they climb, while their feet feature special pads designed to dig into surfaces for climbing purposes – thus enabling them to climb your cat’s fur or your couch despite lacking wings!

Scientists divide pupal stages into five forms. Two that may help when dealing with flea infestation are exarate and obtect; these terms refer to insects completely encased in cocoons such as those created by ants, beetles, sawflies and wasps; while insects like fleas and Lepidoptera butterflies (butterfly species) use other classifications of pupae called obtect pupae instead.

Coarctate pupae are another form of pupal form used by aquatic Diptera and some other insects; these pupae can swim using locomotory structures on their posterior abdomens such as paddles. Caddisflies, scorpionflies, and hanging flies all utilize coarctate pupae for pupation.

Eggs

Flea lifecycle begins with eggs. Each day, female fleas lay approximately 15 to 20 eggs on their host animal’s fur – typically when resting or walking – which resemble tiny oval pearls that come loose as the pet moves and fall off if unattended or can even be shed off by moving about itself.

Once an egg hatches, its larva consumes its outer shell and membrane containing albumen (white). If an egg has been sitting too long or overcooked for too long, its contents may emit the characteristic “rotten egg” smell due to hydrogen sulfide gas produced by bacteria consuming protein; these same bacteria cause discoloration as well as smell off-odor; even if an egg appears good and still smells sulfuric or off-color, discard immediately as these indicate its inedibility.

Flea eggs can hatch within 24 hours under ideal conditions of warmth and humidity. Once their larvae hatch, they feed on particulate matter such as organic matter associated with feces or blood meals digested by adult fleas; once mature larvae emerge as pupae that may remain dormant for 14 days until pupation takes place again.

At an appropriate moment, pupae become adults and search for hosts to bite. A flea’s mouthparts contain chemicals which cause irritation as well as anemia – weakening and sickening an animal as it attacks it from within. Anemia often strikes young animals such as kittens due to their smaller body mass.

As soon as your cat or dog stands on a white piece of paper, and you run a comb through their fur, you should see signs of flea infestation: dirt flecks in the comb as well as actual fleas themselves may appear; infected animals often scratch excessively due to being scratched by fleas causing sores on their body and may scratch excessively as a response. If these symptoms arise, contact your veterinarian and make an appointment for appropriate treatment; whether that means swallowing tablets swallowed directly by their pet, applying solutions or powders directly onto skin/fur or using collars which release insecticides etc.

Lisa Thompson
 

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