Let’s follow a flea life cycle – from cradle to grave to learn about her strange and secret life.
Fleas lead very interesting lives. Unlike ground-dwelling bugs and sky-flying butterflies, fleas live an exciting, danger-filled existence that begins as a tiny egg and ends as a high-jumping insect acrobat. Let’s follow a flea from cradle to grave to learn about her strange, secret flea life-cycle.
Our flea’s life begins in an egg. She is just one egg nestled among 20 or so of her brothers and sisters. Her mother has laid her comfortably on the back of her host, a large cat. As a parasite, our flea will depend on the cat for her food and shelter throughout her lifetime.
Soon, our flea’s egg rolls off the cat’s back and falls into the cat’s bed. She will spend her youth in the dark areas of the cat’s bedding, safely hidden from view. Depending on the humidity and temperature of her environment, our flea’s egg can take anywhere from 1 to 6 days to hatch.
When she does finally break free, our flea begins the next stage of her flea life as a larva. She is a little white worm-like insect about 2 mm long. She is blind and doesn’t like the light, so she stays in dark places. As a larva, our flea is in the greatest danger of her life and could be killed at any moment. If she gets knocked out of the cat’s bed, she’ll have to hide in floor cracks, sand or gravel, where food isn’t as plentiful.
Our flea is hungry, so she crawls along the cat’s bed, looking for blood-filled feces left by adult fleas living on the cat. She can also eat bits of skin or hair, but she doesn’t suck blood as a larva. After she’s eaten, she turns from white to a rusty color. She’ll continue to eat and grow for 5 to 11 days, molting her old skin off twice before she’s finished growing.
Finally, our flea has finished the larva stage of her flea life-cycle. She spins a sticky, silky cocoon around herself and becomes a pupa, beginning the transformation to an adult flea. She’ll go through three stages as a pupa, changing gradually from a worm-like larvae to an adult flea over the next eight days.
Now, our flea will wait inside her cocoon for the right conditions to emerge as an adult flea. She can stay as an adult inside her cocoon up to six months, waiting for signs that a host animal is nearby. As long as she’s in her cocoon, our flea doesn’t need food or water to keep her alive. She waits patiently until the time is right, then breaks free to begin the next stage of her flea life-cycle.
Our flea emerges very, very hungry. She must find a host and drink some blood within a few days or she will die. She spots the cat and hops onto his back. Having eaten, our flea now needs to mate. She must find a male flea within 8 to 24 hours to reproduce. Our flea will lay up 50 or 60 eggs per day, after each blood meal.
The rest of our flea’s life will be spent eating and reproducing. If she can avoid being killed by the cat or its owner, our flea can live for up to six months or more before her life ends.
by Aaron Schulman
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More Links about Fleas
Interesting facts about fleas, and how to keep them away from you and your pets. There are four major stages of the flea life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Once the life cycle is considered, it becomes easier to see the necessary steps to take when trying to eliminate a flea infestation and to prevent one from reoccurring.