Isn't she lovely? Yes, folks, this is the almighty ctenocephalides canis, or common dog flea, a disgusting little parasite that was obnoxious enough to survive the ice age and the eradication of the dinosaurs only to wreak havoc in modern day pet-dom. To this end, scientists have spent uncountable sums developing sprays, powders, soaps, dips, pills, and insecticides of every variety to eradicate them from our pets' lives. To no everlasting avail. The almighty flea doth prevaileth.
And she's about to make her annual appearance in Northeast Indiana once again. Poor little thing. After lying around frozen solid for months, she'll be hungry and then what's a poor girl to do?
The heck with her, what do we do when this seemingly invincible and almost microscopic blood-sucking little critter decides to make herself comfortable in our homes and on our pets? The list is long and the process slow but with a little effort, the battle can be won.
But at first, a little background on our less than amiable friend, Frieda the Flea.
Frieda began life as a tiny, white oval-shaped egg only about 0.5 to 2mm in length. Her mother, herself a blood-thirsty parasite, laid Frieda on her favorite host, the family dog (or cat), then promptly went off to find another mate and suck more blood. (She was never choosy with her sexual partners-anything with the same such single-minded desires and similar body parts are welcome in her fur-lined boudoir.) At the height of her sexual maturity, Freida's mother will lay 30-50 eggs per day. And that's not counting tips.
But when the dog got to scratching, Frieda (still in her egg) promptly fell off and lodged in the cat's bed, a plump pillow situated at one end of the sofa. After 2-12 days of incubation, Frieda hatched into a larva. But she wasn't a pretty baby by any means. 1 to 2 mm in length, she was white, legless and maggot-like. Right away she began to feed on organic matter, including dried blood and flea fecal matter, which was ample on the pillow where the cat sleeps several hours a day. Under optimum conditions, Frieda will undergo a series of moults (usually three) in 1 to 2 weeks.
In her third stage of life, (and getting tired of being legless) Frieda will spin a thin cocoon and within a few days, transform into a pupa. Depending on the atmospheric conditions, Frieda will then hatch into a hard-shelled, six-legged, wingless reddish, brown, or black insect about 1/32nd of an inch long (less than 1mm) that will be capable of leaping as high as 8 inches and as far as 12. (Actually, except for the jumping, she's not that much better off than the maggot.)
Gluttonous and eager to go out and start a family of her own, Frieda will soon set out in search of her own host, which, incestuous little thing that she is, will most likely will be the same cat (or dog) on which she was conceived.
Her lifetime can span 16 days to 21 months, but will most likely last 6 to 12 months. Most of her life will be spent off her chosen host, however, as she explores her environment. During this time, Frieda will only eat every 1 to 2 days, ingesting blood in order to reach sexual maturity and later, to leave enough blood-enriched fecal matter for her offspring to feed upon.
Under ideal conditions, Frieda will produce over 2000 eggs in her lifetime. In other words, if she were to remain faithful to one male (Which you know she won't, promiscuous as she is) and they could be responsible for the creation of 250,000 progeny in a single year. With that in mind, if you see Frieda at any given time, there are likely to be 100 to 200 of her kin laying around in various stages of life eating the poop of other fleas and being otherwise useless.
Ideal temperature for Frieda is 65 to 80 degrees F. She loves to be wet and hates the sun. Altitudes over 5000 feet will kill her off and relative humidity below 50% and greater than 92% will kill flea larva. Which is why Frieda and her family prefer not to vacation in the mountains or most parts of Canada. Lucky them, aye?
Before we close out the flea family tree, however, we would be remiss not to acknowledge Frieda's family pet, the even more disgusting Dipulidium caninum or the indomitable tapeworm. Unlike Frieda, who prefers the home life, her pet parasite likes to roam, preferably into Freda's host cat or dog (or an unsuspecting child) who might inadvertently swallow her live or dead body (See? She's even troublesome after she's dead.) There he will wreak havoc by holing up in the intestines, causing anemia and other parasitic related maladies. Nothing good, in other words.
Nice family, huh?
Just consider yourself lucky that you have the power to keep her relatives out even if you're not so lucky with your own.