Fleas are a serious pest problem and can cause many health issues, including:
Although nearly everyone is aware of fleas, very few people understand the reason this pest is so commonly encountered and so difficult to get rid of. In order to understand why it is problematic to eliminate fleas, one must first understand the life cycle of the flea.
Eggs account for 50% of the flea population in an infestation. Adult fleas lay eggs within 36 to 48 hours and these eggs usually hatch within 1 to 10 days. The eggs are not sticky and can fall off into the environment.
Larvae account for 35% of the infestation. These immature or “baby” fleas are free-moving in the environment. They naturally avoid light and move downwards. This means they are commonly found deep in carpet fibers, mattress or couch stuffing, and organic debris. The larvae go through two molts before reaching the next stage of development.
Pupae account for 10% of the total infestation. After molting, the larvae produce a sticky cocoon and enter their pupae stage. They can remain dormant for weeks and even up to a year. Certain stimuli can encourage the pupae to hatch:
- Physical pressure (being stepped on)
- Carbon dioxide (that mammals exhale)
- Vibration (from walking or vacuuming)
- Heat (generated by potential hosts or heated homes)
No chemical sprays can penetrate the pupael cocoon! When a flea is in this stage of development, they are nearly impossible to kill.
Adult fleas account for only 5% of the infestation. They are attracted by body heat, movement, and exhaled carbon dioxide. Adult fleas naturally move towards light and prefer to move upwards (opposite of the larvae stage). These insects can live as long as 4 months if not killed and reproduce for 2 to 4 weeks.
It is important to note that a flea infestation is not indicative of a “dirty” home. So long as there is a host to feed on, sanitary conditions do not matter.
Luckily, preventing a flea infestation is relatively easy. Keeping your pets on flea preventative year-round will help break the life cycle. There are many different types of flea preventatives available, so ask your veterinarian which product is right for your pets.