Fleas - Blood Suckers
Adult Fleas feed by sucking the blood of their hosts (our dogs or other animals). The larvae feed on tiny particles of organic waste such as bits of hair, feathers and skin and even faces. Fleas therefore only infest animals that have a nest site. This explains why most rodents (rats, mice, etc.) have fleas but most ungulates (cows, horses, deer, etc.) do not.
Fleas - Bubonic Plague (Black Death) carrier
The flea was the carrier of Bubonic Plague otherwise known as the Black Death transmitted by their hosts - rats. The species of flea responsible was the Xenopsylla Cheopis or the Rat Flea. We recommend the following link for the most comprehensive information about the Bubonic Plague in both the modern day and the Elizabethan era.
The Anatomy of Fleas
Fleas are light or dark brown small, wingless, external parasites measuring between 0.2-1.2 mm. The body of the flea is divided into three parts - the head, thorax, and abdomen. Attached to the thorax are three pairs of legs for a total of six - the last pair of legs are enlarged which give them their amazing jumping power. As previously noted fleas can jump 150 times their body length and 80 times their own height! Fleas are alerted to new hosts by their eyes and antennae which detect changes in light and shade, heat, vibration and changes in air currents.
Adult Fleas live on the bodies of the host animal. The larvae live in nests or bedding - the larvae are called detritivores which feed on minute particles of discarded organic matter
The Life Cycle of Fleas
All Fleas have four stages to their Life Cycle which can be completed within 15 days - but the pupa can lay dormant before emerging as an adult. Understanding the life-cycle is important so that strategies for treatment and prevention can be designed and implemented.
- Egg - Are white or cream and are laid on the host where they might stay, or they may fall to the ground until they hatch into larvae
- Larvae - feed on the faces left by the mother. The larvae ( detritivores spins a cocoon - the pupa
- Pupae - can lie dormant for some considerable time
- Adult - has a maximum life span of about 18 months but generally only live for 2-3 months.