Description of Appearance
- Length: Around 2mm.
- Fleas have compressed, flattened bodies with overlapping toughened plates and long, well developed hind legs for jumping.
- Fleas’ mouthparts adapted to piercing and sucking
- Fleas have small eyes and they are covered with backward-directed bristles and spines.
- Fleas range greyish through to dark mahogany in colour.
Flea eggs are 0.5mm long and pearly-coloured. They are laid in carpets, between floorboards, on fur, bedding and on clothing. They usually hatch in 2–3 days. Flea larvae are whitish and up to 5mm long. They thrive best in dark humid places; such as underneath furniture. After 2–3 moults these are fully grown in 3–4 weeks. Flea pupae: cocoons incorporating debris to feed from are spun by the larva. The development time is dependent on the temperature. Their emergence is in response to vibration. Once emerged from the flimsy cocoon, adult fleas rapidly find a host for their first blood meal.
Habits & Behaviour
Adults fleas can survive several weeks without a blood meal, they usually feed on the blood of the species to which they are adapted but will feed on other animals in the absence of the normal host. While the flea larvae thrive in dark, humid places such as animal bedding and carpet fluff, and feed on organic debris and adult flea excrement. Living on our pets and irritating humans source of blood is valuable part of the flea’s diet.
- Wall-to-wall carpeting provides a relatively undisturbed environment for flea larvae to develop, whilst central heating has served to ensure the ideal temperature conditions.
- Irritation and allergic reactions can be caused by flea bites. Scientists believe that fleas were the cause of the bubonic plague (the ‘black death’) being transferred to humans back in 1665.
- Fleas can be vectors of disease or may transmit parasitic worms. These can sometimes be transmitted to humans.
Fleas feed off the blood of humans and animals such as dogs and cats. A flea bite is intensely itchy and secondary infections are common. Treatment options include anesthetic creams and icepacks to reduce the swelling. Fleas can transmit disease including tapeworm larvae and murine typhus. Fleas can also transmit bubonic plague from animals to humans in some parts of the world.
Symptoms of flea bites
Symptoms of flea bites begin suddenly, within few hours, and, besides being very itchy, include:
- Legs and feet are usually targeted,
- Red swollen wheal,
- After some time, the wheal can develop into a blister, possibly even a small wound,
- Secondary infections are common.
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