Fleas are some of the most unwelcome pests to have in your home or on your pets because their bites can be very annoying and even dangerous to your and your pets’ health.
These insects belong to the Siphonaptera order and there are 2,500 species of these flightless insects. They are tiny with adults growing to a maximum length of just 3 millimeters.
Despite that they cannot fly, they are still very agile since a flea can jump up to 50 times its own body length. Their ability to jump so far is exactly what enables them to easily intercept a new host whenever they need food or feel threatened in their current environment.
Fleas are usually found on warm-bodied creatures such as humans, dogs, cats, and livestock. They prefer hairy animals such as dogs to humans because the hair enables them to cling better to their host and lots of hair offers a cozier and more shielded living environment for them.
These annoying pests all feed on blood and small skin cells. Different flea species may prefer different hosts. For example, dog fleas prefer to feed on dog blood but some dog fleas might stray to cats or even humans if a dog host is unavailable.
Here is a quick look at the most common food hosts that fleas love to infest.
Humans can be a good food source for all sorts of flea species. Fleas like sand fleas, dog fleas, cat fleas, and many others will feed on humans if their natural food source is unavailable. Jigger fleas are some of the most dangerous flea types for humans because they can infest your foot and they can be very hard to get rid of.
In most cases, fleas avoid humans because there isn’t much for them to hold onto since humans don’t have quite as much hair. Fleas can however infest your bed and will bite you while you sleep at night. Those who do not bathe frequently are most likely to struggle with prolonged flea bites.
Fleas prefer warm-bodied furry animals. They will feed on any type of furry animal including dogs, cats, squirrels, rats, mice, lions, jaguars, goats, cattle, sheep, and many others. Some flea species do prefer certain food hosts. Cat fleas, for example, prefer cats but will also feed on dogs and other animals.
Some flea species like the Ceratophyllum gallina love to feed on poultry and other birds. They will feed on just about any type of poultry and birds they can find including chickens, turkeys, parrots, cockatiels, and a great many others.
Flea larva that just hatched from eggs will eat any type of organic material they can find. They will eat feces, eggs, vegetable matter, dead insects, and many other food sources. Flea larvae cannot survive on just blood. In a test, only 12% of flea larvae fed on blood survived. In this stage of their life, they need to live in a dark, humid area where they can access all of decayed matter.
While fleas usually prefer a specific host, they can switch to other food sources if their main food source is unavailable. Cat fleas, for example, are very likely to jump to dogs and dog fleas are often found in beds where they feed on humans.
As an adult, the flea becomes a parasite that needs to feed on a host to survive. To do this, they will jump up onto the host and bite into the skin. The flea will sit there and suck up blood. Fleas usually prefer to feed on their host while its host is resting or sleeping. In the meantime, it will dwell on your skin and hideaway in the fur or clothes until the host becomes peaceful.
Baby fleas are called larvae. They look like worms and are just about invisible to the naked eye since they are so microscopic small. As larvae, fleas live in dark and damp areas where they can feed on decayed organic plant matter such as leaves, vegetables, oils, dead insects, feces, eggs, and other microscopic foods.
These insects are tiny but they do have a remarkable appetite considering their size. Female adult fleas can consume up to 15 times their body weight each day. Males don’t require quite as much food and even female fleas can survive on much less.
Fleas prefer to feed undisturbed. They will wait for you to fall asleep or rest before they will start to feed. When they do feed, they eat as much as they possibly can just in case they lose their host.
Fleas can survive for several days on a single feeding. In many cases, they will eat off an unsuitable source such as humans before moving on to look for a more suitable host like a dog.
If you are struggling to keep your home and pets flea-free then you should consider using more lavender in your home. Fleas hate the scent of lavender and usually avoid places with this type of scent.
Flea bites can be very dangerous. The rat flea carries a certain bacteria that cause bubonic plague. The disease is spread when infected fleas bit rats. These rats can then spread the disease to humans. A few examples of devastating outbreaks include the Plague of Justinian in 540 and the Black Death in 1350 during which a huge fraction of the human population died.
Flea bites are also very annoying. They can itch terribly and cause a lot of discomforts which can make it hard for you to get enough sleep.
Some people and animals are also allergic to flea bites. When they are bitten, the bite mark will swell out of proportion and a skin rash can also start all over your pets’ skin. These rashes can result in sores or the loss of hair.