In many households, our cats and dogs hold a special place in our hearts. They are just as much part of the family as anyone else in our house. We do our best to treat them well, keep them healthy and happy. But fleas can work against that. Many ask how fleas reproduce? A female flea require a blood meal before she can reproduce. Once she eats, she will lay eggs on pets fur in 20 egg packets.
The adult female flea can lay as many as 40 eggs a day and 2000 in her life time. Once an adult flea matures to adulthood, it will take its first blood meal, which finishes the development of their sex organs. They will copulate, and the female will start laying eggs. Some species, under high stress situations, will reproduce without mating. The female will produce more females, and if its really bad, males as well.
FLEA LIFE CYCLE
Fleas, like many insects, will go through four stages of life: egg, larvae, pupa and adult. Eggs are whitish in color and are extremely small. They will often fall off of your pets body in places that your cat or dog often frequent. This can be bedding, rugs, furniture, just about anything. In anywhere from 2 to 14 days, the eggs will hatch. The small worms that emerge are called larvae. These little worms will feed on any kind of organic material, but they mostly eat the feces of adults. The “flea dust”, or feces is full of undigested, dried blood that nourishes the larvae. They will go through three molts, and reach the next stage in 8 to 24 days.
A fully developed larva will spin a silk cocoon. It will use any material in its surrounding in the building process to make sure that the cocoon is sufficiently camouflaged. Once it builds the cocoon, the larva will enter it and develop for usually 5 to 7 days. After that, the adult will emerge. These reddish brown, wingless insects are excellent at jumping. They can jump 8 inches high, and 16 inches forward. They are thin and covered in rear facing spines. These spines make it difficult to remove them from fur.
WHAT DO THEY DO OVER THE WINTER?
Flea eggs hatch year round. They can do this because they are usually found in warm homes, and on warm hosts. Fur also helps to keep body temperatures high. They can’t live very long at freezing or below freezing temperatures, though. This is why fleas must keep very close to their host. These pests thrive at around 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fleas can also slow down their life cycle. Eggs can stay dormant. In the pupa stage, once the adult has fully developed, the adult can wait before emerging from the cocoon. They will wait until a suitable host comes around. In pupal form, fleas can tell what is happening in their surroundings by sensing body heat, air movements, odor or vibrations in their surroundings. They can wait for up to 5 months. This is why, often, infestations seem to start after a large gap in time, such as moving into a new home or coming back from a vacation.
ARE FLEAS ANIMAL SPECIFIC?
Fleas are animal specific, but only in preference. That means that cat fleas prefer and thrive on cats, but they can feed off of a dog or squirrel if they needed to. Fleas are usually named after the host which they prefer. A cat flea is found on cats, dog fleas on dogs, rabbit fleas on rabbits, etc. There are approximately 2,000 species of fleas that are known to live in the world. But fleas are survivors and will bite whatever animal is near them.
When a flea bites an animal other than its preferred host, it often produces less than desirable results for the flea. This type of blood meal is reserved only for survival. Females will drop the amount of egg production and fertility. Males will not attempt to mate. These fleas are usually not sticking around on this host. They just seek to survive long enough to move to their preferred host.
CAN CAT AND DOG FLEAS BITE ME?
A flea in survival mode can bite a human. They will also bite any other large, warm blooded mammals such as cows, horses, bears or rodents. Fleas don’t like to remain on humans because we don’t have fur to hide in. Plus, it is unlikely for them to get enough blood to reproduce with. Without blood, sex organs don’t develop, the male can’t resolve his seminal block, allowing him to mate, and females can’t produce eggs. Once a female has taken a blood meal, she can lay eggs, or she can jump, but usually won’t do both. Both of these activities require a lot of energy, and one blood meal isn’t enough to do both. So they will usually jump to get to a better host.
When fleas bite humans, it can be a matter of health safety. Fleas do carry diseases that can be very dangerous to humans as well as our pets. The black plague, for example, was transmitted to humans through the bite of rat fleas. Murine typhus is another disease transmitted by fleas. Both of these diseases are treatable with antibiotics, but stopping the flea from bitting you is the best prevention. Are pets can also get diseases from fleas. Cat scratch fever, anemia and tapeworm are all diseases that pets can get from fleas.
HOW DO I GET RID OF FLEAS?
If you find yourself with fleas in your home, removal is a two step process. The first step is to get into contact with your veterinarian. Your vet will guide you in removing the fleas from your pet. He will diagnose your pet based on the type of flea, your pets breed, age, size and many other factors. From there, they have access to many different treatment options. Flea collars, topical ointments, and chewables are all options at his disposal. Your veterinarian can also diagnose your pet if you believe that your pet has contracted any of the diseases from fleas. He can guide you through the entire process.
The second part of the process is to contact an experienced exterminator. Your exterminator can treat your home, business and yard if needed. Usually, treating your home and yard are two separate services, but they can be completed together. By treating both, you will eliminate any opportunity for these pests to infest your pets. It’s also important to maintain a treatment plan for at least six months. Adults that remain in pupal stage can stay there for up to five months, so it’s important to give these fleas time to be treated.