Interesting Facts About Fleas
Fleas are tiny parasitic pests that feed on the blood of animals including humans. Here are some facts about fleas that you may find interesting and helpful too.
Common Facts About Fleas
Belonging to the order Siphonaptera, fleas are interesting creatures with a long history. But first, some scientific facts about them include:
- Usually around 3mm long and they can grow up to a maximum of 7mm.
- They drink blood from the surface skin of any warm-blooded animals and humans.
- Humans often encounter fleas on their pets’ fur
- Fleas are known to bite and feed off of humans as well.
- Signs of fleas may be your pet scratching away at red bumps.
- On humans, you may notice angry red dots on your legs.
Fleas can easily find a way inside your home. But where do they come from? How do they come in? Why do they exist? These insects have a very interesting history and biological characteristics that not many people are aware of.
Historical Facts About Fleas
Fleas have been on the planet for over 100 million years. They were around when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Compression fossils have suggested that fleas probably infested dinosaurs as well. A flea fossil found in China was reportedly 125 million years old!
There are about 2000 species of fleas scattered all over the globe. They have adapted over the years as the climate conditions of the planet have changed and successfully thrive in all regions. Even penguins have been found to have troubles with fleas suited to the cold climate.
However, fleas generally prefer humid areas. They are often found in moist, warm soil. They also hang around on the skins of tropical animals which allow them to move from place to place looking for more fresh blood and places to breed. Humidity and higher temperate are crucial for fleas to reproduce.
Biological Facts About Fleas
Fleas have a life cycle that is flexible according to environmental conditions. A flea’s life cycle has four stages – the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Fleas generally need a warmer climate to move from stage to stage.
In ideal conditions, the process takes 21 days. But if the environment is not favorable, the flea will wait for conditions to change before moving on to the next stage. This allows them to reproduce more successfully, and in larger numbers.
You might be wondering why fleas exist at all. They just drink blood and act like a nuisance, right? The truth is that fleas are important for the ecosystem. They are a part of the food chain and maintain the flow of nutrients from one organism to another. Fleas act as a food source for bigger organisms, and also help in maintaining the wild animal population.
Fleas don’t lay eggs on carpets or bed covers, they lay them on the fur itself, but sometimes these eggs roll off and fall down.
One of the false facts about fleas is that if your pet has fleas it will be covered fully with only adult fleas that will be visible. In reality, only 10% of the flea infestation will be adults, and 50% of them will be eggs. Also, 95% of the laid eggs will be found on the floor, the carpet, or the pet bedding. They hatch in these places – bedding, sofas and carpets.
The adult fleas that you see on your pet are just making sure that their eggs stick around. Oh, and they obviously want the blood. Many species of fleas need fresh blood to lay eggs. A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day. This is why it is important to contain a flea infestation as soon as it begins because imagine how many eggs will be laid in a month!
Diseases Carried By Fleas
One of the most frightening facts about fleas is that they are known to be carriers of dangerous diseases. Oriental rat fleas were the reason for the Black Death or the Plague which killed 200 million people in the 14th century. Fleas are also carriers of the notorious parasitic tapeworm. Murine typhus and mycoplasma haemofelis are some of the other diseases these blood suckers spread.
Fleas are also known to trigger allergies. Many animals and humans develop allergic reactions when their skin comes in contact with the saliva of the flea. The itching caused due to this can lead to secondary skin infections (as the constant scratching can damage the skin, making it vulnerable).
The red bumps caused by flea bites can turn into painful pustules at times. Even the contaminated fecal matter of fleas (which is dried blood and other enzymes) can cause certain diseases.
Physical Characteristics of Fleas
Fleas are laterally compressed, which means their bodies are flattened sideways. This allows them to roam and hide in the fur of animals. Their bodies are smooth as well enabling swift passage through all kinds of fur or hair. The proboscis of the flea (the sucking mouthpart) is hidden away between its long legs and under its belly when not in use.
Adult flea faces are just dried blood. Fleas drink a lot of blood and sometimes can go through 10 hosts in a day. They swell up after drinking blood, and their skin color changes from brown to red. Since they drink so much blood, their feces are primarily bloody matter as well. These dried blood feces are what the larva feeds on, so it’s an overall win-win situation for the flea.
Fleas do not have ears and have a very simple eye on the sides of their heads. These ‘eyespots’ do not enable them to form visual images but assist only in detecting light. Flea larvas are known to avoid bright lights and prefer dark places (such as your pet’s fur or the cracks in the walls).
Where Fleas Can Be Found
One of the interesting facts about fleas is they are wingless but can jump up to 150 times the length of their own body.
This jumping ability allows them to hop from host to host when looking for blood. They can jump almost 13 inches forwards and upwards, and that’s a lot considering that the average flea is 3mm long.
The reason fleas thrive so well is that their jumping ability allows them to easily access a range of hosts. Fleas are also known to jump 30,000 times without stopping! They also change direction with every jump they make.
Fleas can hide in almost any place. They can be in clothes, books, furniture and other items. The term ‘flea market’ comes from a French word which was used for markets in Paris that sold second-hand items that mostly contained fleas.
This implies how fleas have always used modes of transport apart from the surface of animals to find new hosts. So be careful when you buy old items from markets or bazaars, they might have fleas or flea eggs!
Types of Fleas
While the cat flea is the most common of all fleas, the human flea is the one that commonly chooses to live in human hair. Although found on animals, the human flea adapts well to the conditions provided by the human body and can hitch a ride in the hair of humans. Their bites are extremely itchy, and it is important to get rid of them before they multiply out of control.***
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