Fleas are small, wingless blood-sucking parasitic insects that are noted for their ability to leap.
A flea can leap almost 13 inches which is about 200 times their own body length. Fleas live both in the home and outdoors in warm grassy areas. Realistically every home that has a dog is at risk from a flea infestation even in the cleanest of houses.
The four main stages of the flea's life cycle are:
The life cycle of a flea can range from a fortnight to two years depending on the environmental condition. The flea feels the vibration of the dog walking by and jumps onto it to feed or they can crawl onto the dog as it lies sleeping in its bed. The flea then feeds on the blood of the host animal.
Flea saliva is irritating and allergenic and it is this that causes the dog to scratch. Female fleas lay their eggs in the dog’s coat. The eggs then fall onto the carpet, bedding or the soil outside where they hatch into larvae.
The larvae move away from light and bury themselves deep within the pile of the carpet or under the floorboards where they feed on the adult fleas faeces. Flea larvae have been observed to crawl as much as 20 feet or more. Depending on the conditions, the larvae stage lasts up to 18 days then it spins a cocoon and pupates.
The pupa is where the adult flea develops. The adult flea can emerge from the cocoon in 3 or 4 days or it can remain inside for two whole years just waiting for the right conditions to emerge.
Stimuli such as warmth, humidity or the vibrations of the dog walking by causes the flea to break free from the cocoon in less than a second. The adult flea will immediately jump to find a host, either the dog or a human, on which to feed.
Fleas do not live on humans but they do bite us. One flea will bite two or three times in the same area leaving a red lump that itches. Some people may develop an allergic sensitivity to being bitten by fleas.
An adult flea can lay 25 eggs per day and 800 over her lifetime.
In 30 days 25 adult fleas can multiply into almost a quarter of a million fleas. However, before panicking at these figures, remember that a flea is just another natural organism which is designed by nature to live on other animals and, as with most similar natural parasites, it is only when an infestation occurs that you may notice a problem.