Scratching the Surface: Facts about Fleas

  • There are more than 2,000 species of fleas worldwide.
  • In the US the most common flea is the “cat flea.”
  • The cat flea is found on both cats and dogs.
  • Largest breed of fleas are found on beavers and can be up to 1/3 inch in length.
  • Common myth that fleas jump from host to host.
  • Can remain on one host for more than 150 days (if untreated).
  • Locate their host by visual and thermal cues.
  • 83% of fleas develop around the base of carpets or rugs in homes.
  • Fleas can jump 8 inches high or 150x its own height.
  • The power from a flea jump is roughly equal to that of a space rocket.
  • Depending on the temperature and humidity, the flea life cycle can be as short as 14 days or as long as a year.

Fleas go through 4 life stages

  1. Egg:
    -found in the environment
    -can hatch within 1 second of being stimulated
    -in ideal conditions eggs can last up to a year
    -account for 50% of the flea population within an environment
  2. Larvae:
    -hatch from eggs in 1-10 days
    -crawl around in the environment and/or host
    -get a substantial amount of required nutrients by feeding on the feces of adult fleas
    -cannibalistic and will consume egg remnants as well as other larvae
    – after 5-11 days they will cocoon and pupate
    -account for 35% of the flea population within an environment
  3. Pupae:
    -occurs while in a cocoon state
    -pupae cocoons do not act as a insecticide barrier
    -pupae cocoons can survive for up to 6 months
    -account for 10% of the flea population within an environment
  4. Adult:
    -3 seconds after emerging from the cocoon the adult flea is jumping and can start feeding
    -a freshly emerged hungry adult flea can jump 40,000 times without a break
    -unfed adults can survive 1-3 weeks after they emerged
    -adults have a hard outer coating, 6 legs and can grow between 1/6 and 1/8 inches
    -only account for 5% of the flea population within an environment

Adult fleas can bite up to 400 times in the first day.

  • Female fleas can increase their body weight by 140% within the first 48 hours (male increase by 19%).
  • Just 70 female adult fleas can cause up to 1ml of blood loss daily.
  • Mating first occurs about 8 hours after the first feeding and egg production/laying starts within 24-48 hours.
  • Can produce 40-50 eggs per day or up to 2,200 eggs in a lifetime.
  • A pair of fleas within 9 months can produce up to 2 TRILLION descendants.
  • Flea saliva is highly antigenic and contains a variety of histamines-like enzymes.
  • Flea can be hard to spot on pets due to self-grooming, chewing and scratching.
  • Cats are often the hardest to see fleas on due to their grooming nature (one study showed that 50% of fleas placed on a cat were recovered in the cat’s feces).

And one last itchingly cool fact:
The ukulele means “dancing flea” in Hawaiian. In 1878 a Portuguese sailor played a small guitar-like instrument for the Hawaiian natives. The natives thought that his fingers were as nimble as dancing fleas.

Flea and Tick Prevention for Cats   •   Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs