A very common bane for pet owners are FLEAS. Unlike some northern states, fleas are a year-round problem for Florida pets. This article will not attempt to explore ways to eliminate fleas but rather give you an overview into the life cycle of a flea.
There are several stages to its life cycle: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa or cocoon, and adult. The length of time it takes to complete this cycle varies depending upon the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and the availability of a nourishing host. The flea’s host is a warm-blooded animal such as a dog or cat. The adult female flea typically lives for several weeks on the pet and lays twenty to thirty eggs each day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her life span. These eggs fall off of the pet into the yard, bedding, carpet and wherever else the animal spends time.
These eggs then proceed to develop where they have landed. Since they are about 1/12 the size of the adult, they can even develop in small cracks in the floor and between crevices in carpeting. In order to develop, flea eggs need a warm, moist environment and hatch into larvae about 12 days in these conditions. The tiny worm-like larvae live among the carpet fibers, in cracks of the floor and outside in the environment. They feed on organic matter, skin scales, and even the blood-rich adult flea feces.
The larvae grow, molt twice and then form a cocoon and pupate, waiting for the right time to hatch into an adult. These pupae are very resilient and are protected by their cocoon, enabling them to survive quite a long time, waiting until environmental conditions and host availability are just right. Then they emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide, all of which indicate that a host is nearby. The newly emerged adult flea can jump onto a nearby host immediately. Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days.
Because flea cocoons can remain dormant for long periods of time, people who have just moved in to a previously flea-infested home may find fleas coming out of the carpet and biting them even when there are no pets present. These cocoons hatch in response to the new owner’s movement, body warmth and exhaled CO2 gas.
Knowing this life cycle allows you to understand why it has always been important to treat both the host animal and the indoor and outdoor environment in order to fully control flea numbers. Simply sprinkling some flea powder on your pet will not work; simply vacuuming the home vigorously will not work, simply placing a flea collar or using a flea topical on your pet will not work. Ask your Vet for help with keeping your pet and home flea-free.
Sources: PetMD, Pet Informed, Veterinary Advice Online, How Stuff Works