The Life Cycle of a flea
The flea life cycle has 4 stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult flea. The entire cycle, from egg to adult flea, is complete in 12 – 22 days when temperature and humidity conditions are ideal, but more commonly takes 3 – 4 weeks.
Surprisingly, only approximately 5% of a flea infestation is made up of adult fleas on your pet, whereas 95% is in your home as eggs, larvae and pupae. This means that to prevent and control flea infestations, both ‘on animal’ AND environmental protection MUST be used.
Ask your vet about the most appropriate flea control for your pet, and spray your home (but NOT your pet) with R.I.P. Fleas Extra. Remember that your pet picks up fleas from hatching pupae in the environment (either in the home or outside) – NOT generally from other pets.
Adults: Brown-black insects which range from 1.5 - 4 mm in length and are just about visible to the naked eye.
Fleas are flightless, but very good at jumping, and once adult fleas emerge from pupae, they jump onto an unsuspecting passing animal host and start feeding on blood within minutes.
Before feeding, fleas pump saliva onto the skin to prevent the blood from clotting. Proteins in this saliva can cause severe allergic reactions in your pet.
Just 24 hours after her first blood meal, the female starts laying eggs and can easily lay more than 2000 eggs in her lifetime.
Adult fleas pass faeces (‘flea dirt’) which consist mainly of undigested clotted blood and are usually the main sign of a flea infestation. If the coat is brushed onto some damp kitchen paper, flea faeces will be seen as small brown/black particles that leak small amounts of dark red blood on contact with moisture.
Eggs: Smooth, oval, pearl-white and approximately 0.5 mm long.
They are deposited by the adult flea on the coat of your pet and shaking, scratching or even ordinary movement is enough to dislodge flea eggs and faeces from the coat.
Everywhere your pet goes in your house, so do flea eggs, with largest numbers in areas where your pet spends time sitting or lying down (e.g. sofa, dog basket).
Under optimal conditions, eggs develop into larvae in 1 - 6 days.
Larvae: Maggot-like in appearance, larvae start off approximately 2 mm long, pale, almost see-through and grow darker in colour and up to a length of 5 mm when fully developed.
Larvae move away from light and develop in carpets and dark crevices, e.g. between floorboards, where they feed on blood-rich flea faeces and other animal waste and vegetative matter.
Larvae undergo two moults and stop feeding when they reach the third larval stage (pupa) – this can take 5 - 11 days depending on food supply, temperature and humidity.
Pupae: The final larval stage spins a whitish cocoon or pupa from silky, sticky gossamer which is difficult to vacuum up and eventually attracts dust, dirt and flea faeces to provide excellent camouflage and a hardened shell.
The pupal cocoon is immune to R.I.P Fleas Extra and any other household flea spray and therefore the pupae need to hatch into adult fleas before R.I.P Fleas Extra can take effect.
Pupae can easily survive for 6 months to a year when undisturbed. However, complete development from pupa to adult takes only 8 - 12 days if conditions are optimal.
Stimuli for pupae to hatch include warmth, vibration and exhaled carbon dioxide i.e. the presence of your pet (or yourself!) in the same area as the pupae.