Fleas are highly specialised bloodsucking parasites belonging to the order of insects called Siphonaptera (meaning “wingless siphon”)
Did you know they have the reputation for claiming more victims than all the wars ever fought? For example; the “bubonic” (Black Death) plague spread throughout the world in the 14th century causing the deaths of over 200 million people. Quite a different story to the annoying itches we blame them for today.
Fleas are light brown to a deep brown colour and are roughly oval shaped. Their flattened shape means they can quickly move through the host’s hair/fur. A 2-8 mm in length, adults are entirely covered with a series of bristles and combs that assists them in clinging to the host and the head is equipped with sawing and sucking mouth-parts. Their eyes are small and simple.
So without very good eyes, how do they find their hosts? They possess two short antennae on their head that are sensitive to heat, vibration, traces of carbon dioxide and even minute changes in air currents as their ‘prey’ moves past. Once they have detected their next host, it is their incredibly well developed hind legs that allow them to jump many times their length to make a safe landing on their next walking meal – often your beloved pet!
Both female and males fleas rely on blood for their nutrition, but can survive for several months without it, so follow-up treatment is recommended when getting rid of these pests. A small amount of anti-coagulatant is injected with the saliva, to permit easy siphoning of the blood. Each female flea uses her meal of blood to nourish developing eggs, depositing up to 4 eggs after EVERY meal… laying at least 100 eggs in their lifetime, so you can see why they grow in number so fast!
The eggs are oval, white to cream in colour and measure 0.5mm in length amd they usually hatch within 1 week. Often the emergence of adults from the pupal stage is triggered by vibrations, which occasionally happens on entering an unoccupied home of previous pet owners.