Fleas have been around since time in memorial. They belong to a group of wingless parasites called "Siphonapter", which are characterised by their highly specialised method of sucking blood. They have survived for thousands of years by sucking blood from humans and animals.
Adult fleas have flat bodies and backward-slanting spines which help them to move effortlessly between the fur/hair/feathers of their hosts and make them hard to be dislodged. Adult fleas vary in size between 1/8th to 1/10th of and inch depending on their type. They are built with strong legs, which are used for jumping from host to host. An adult flea can jump up to 200 times the length of its own body, which is roughly about 13 inches.
Fleas are holometabolous insects, going through the four life cycle stages of eggs, larvae, pupa in cocoons, and adults (Imago).
Newly formed adult fleas can remain dormant in their protective cocoons for up to 12 months, just waiting for the right host to come along. When something warm passes by, they are stimulated to open their cocoons and jump on the unsuspecting victim be it human or animal, fleas are not fussy.
Within 3 or 4 seconds, fleas can jump up to 3 or 4 times, covering a distance of 3 or 4 feet. Once fleas land on their target they set about having a meal - first they inject their hosts with saliva and then they set about sucking their blood. They will also be looking for a mate to start their reproductive cycle and/or if they are already pregnant they will of course start laying eggs within a couple of days of feeding.
In a domestic situation, fleas live on pets, in rugs and carpets, in beds and sofas, in curtains and drapes, in fact anywhere inside and outside that pets frequent and sleep. In a home with fleas present, a typical breakdown of the flea population and their habitat will be:
- 5 percent on pets.
- 95 percent in carpets, curtains, beds, sofas and other household furniture etc.
Contrary to popular belief, fleas don't spend most of their time on your dog's back, or in your cat's ear - an adult female flea will normally:
- Jump on your pet.
- Bite it up to 400 times in one day.
- Lay up to 50 eggs per day, that will drop into your pet's environment, e.g. your home and surrounds!
- Jump on and off your pet at will, sometimes only spending a couple of hours on it at a time.
- Ingest 15 times its own weight in blood each day.
- Live for approximately one year and left unchecked will cause immense misery to your pets and havoc in your home.
Horrific as it may sound, one pregnant flea and her off-spring (given ideal conditions) can be responsible for infesting your home and surrounds with up to three million fleas in just two months and that is some flea infestation!
Your most effective weapon against fleas in your home is to vacuum, and then to vacuum and again and again - fleas simply hate vacuum cleaners.