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Fleas And Their Hosts: Can Fleas Live Without Hosts?

Fleas And Their Hosts: Can Fleas Live Without Hosts?

Whether a flea can live without a host or not is a million-dollar question. But to answer that you will have to know a lot of facts about fleas.

In this section, we will tell you all about a flea’s lifecycle, it’s habitat, behavior, it’s lifespan and more. Once these questions are answered you will gather knowledge about fleas and their hosts.

The Guidelines in this Page:

  • The Lifecycle of Fleas
  • How do Fleas Travel?
  • How and what do Fleas Feed On?
  • Fleas on Clothing and Furniture
  • Finding a Host
  • Finally: Fleas and their Hosts

The Lifecycle of Fleas

Numerous questions like: for how many days flea eggs persist, how long flea larvae last, what is a flea cacoon, may arise. The knowledge of the lifecycle of fleas gives all the answers.

Stage 1: Laying eggs:

When a female flea becomes adult and matured for motherhood, it looks for hosts for the blood meals. Once it finds a suitable host (preferably furry animals) they jump on to them, cling on to the furs and start sucking blood from their skin. After sucking enough quantity of blood from the host the female flea lay a fascicle of eggs (up to 20 eggs) on the skin of the host.

It is because of the blood meal adult female fleas can lay eggs, as the nutrients gathered from the blood makes them capable to reproduce. They can lay eggs in multiple fascicles in a time span of 24 hours and a maximum number of 50 eggs a day. The number of eggs also depends on the quantity of blood they draw from the host’s body because blood transmits energy to them.

The eggs laid on the skins of the hosts do not stick there and fall from the furry skins. The tiny, white, pearl-like eggs drop from the skins as the hosts move around. The common hosts are the domestic pets like the dogs or the cats and when they move inside the house the eggs drop on carpets, upholsteries or in the small cracks and crevices of the house. Eggs survive there since these are the best places for the eggs not to get noticed. This is also the time when ‘within the eggs’, fleas are transported from one host to the other one.

See this video to know how flea eggs look like:

Stage 2: The larvae:

When eggs are hatched, larvae come out. Larvae are blind limbless embryos and they deter from any light source. If the eggs are dropped indoors, larvae tend to dig themselves down to carpets or crevices to hide from the light. At outdoors they hide in specks of dirt and roots of plants where light can’t penetrate. They hide from the light because during the larvae stage their visionary senses are underdeveloped. The larvae live on the preabsorbed blood meals from the mother fleas during their course of physical development.

Stage 3: The Cocoon:

While the larvae mature and move towards adulthood, they spin around their bodies with a web of thin, white silky material made from soil, dust, carpet fibers, sand or any dry fragments of materials. The larvae make a capsule-like structure around them which finally takes an oval shape (nearly 4 to 5 mm long and 0.5 mm wide) and is called a cocoon or pupae and they start living inside them up to 5 months even without food and light.

During this time the larvae mature to adult fleas (though low metabolism due to no feeding). This s the longest period in the lifecycle of a flea. When a flea is nearly matured inside a cocoon and if it senses a potential host near it because of the thermal energy radiation from the host’s body, it will quickly break the cocoon and jump on to it to feed immediately.

Stage 4: The Adult flea:

Adult fleas live for a maximum of 1 to 2 weeks, that too if perfect conditions prevail. What is a ‘perfect condition?’

  • Hosts: Fleas survive on hosts. They need a continuous supply of blood meals from the hosts. That is why it is very important for fleas to find a host from whom they can draw blood at regular intervals of time.
  • Climate: Fleas live in hot and humid atmospheres and die in cold temperatures. So, a perfect lifecycle of a flea depends on these 2 conditions: an easily accessible host and a moist and warm climate. Although, conditions are not perfect always and still fleas survive. For that, you need to know more about fleas in general.

How do Fleas Travel?

Fleas can’t fly:

Fleas don’t fly as they don’t have wings. Insects that fly have wings that are matured outgrowths of their exoskeletons. Instead of flying, they jump! But their jumping is so smooth that it is misunderstood as flying.

A flea can jump up to 17.8 cm vertically and 33 cm horizontally which is about 150 times its body and that is how they travel. They jump from cocoons to hosts, from one host to another in search of a blood meal. Sometimes they crawl on the skins of hosts too but they get exhausted easily. They tend to crawl if only they are unable to jump.

Fleas can’t swim:

Fleas can’t swim and they can’t drown too. A flea’s body weight is so negligible that it can’t break the surface tension of water. Their exoskeleton, made up of sclerites, having a waxy texture, allows water not to harm them. Fleas if trapped in the water die out of hunger.

Fleas going from one animal to another:

This point is important as it comes in the minds of all pet owners. The answer, in general, is NO! Fleas jump from cocoons to new hosts and stay there till their lifespan ends. Adult fleas are not that adventurous to jump to new hosts if they are satisfied with an existing host to feed on.

If flea cocoons subsist on the skin of one animal and produce new fleas, they can jump to new hosts too (if flea eggs don’t get dropped from the skins of furry animals and cocoons are formed there only).

The situation is quite unreal for a few facts:

  • Flea eggs are small and nonsticky. It is natural that they will get dropped from the skins of animals.
  • Cocoons are made up of stationery and inert substances. Building cocoons on skins of animals who are always moving is a debatable question.
  • If we consider the abovementioned 2 points valid, isn’t it absurd for an adult flea to look for a new host when it is already nesting on the skin of a host with ample source of blood?

How and what do Fleas Feed On?

Fleas are parasites. They live on hosts, feed on them, cause them irritation, bring tapeworms along with them and most importantly harm them. The reproduction rate of fleas is also high which makes the life of hosts more miserable.

Dog Fleas:

These are ectoparasites that target dogs as their hosts. They sense the thermal energy dogs generate, identify them as hosts and jump on to them. These fleas transform tapeworms in the body of the dogs by carrying the larvae of the tapeworms inside their bodies (Dipylidium caninum). Once dogs are infected by dog fleas they scratch the skins because of the itching caused by the flea bites. A serious infiltration of fleas can make them weak and anemic.

Click here to know about the signs of dog fleas on your pet.

Harries Diatomaceous Earth

Cat fleas:

The fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) which prefer feline blood as their meal are cat fleas. They can live on various kinds of hosts too (skunks, opossums or raccoons) and are not that choosy as the dog fleas are. They can also host on road-killed animals. They get a lot of germs while sucking blood from these animals and the germs get transferred to your pet when fleas host on them.

Click here to know about the signs of cat fleas on your pet.

Human fleas:

It is quite natural for humans to have fleas if they are unclean and grimy. Dirty pets around them could be another reason. But generally, fleas prefer smaller hosts and humans if compared to other hosts are larger. Fleas jump high but compared to their size and the heights of humans (even kids), flea attacks on humans are next to impossible.

Fleas jumping from cocoons can hardly reach to a human ankle. Cat fleas being not that picky can live on human blood if they need to stay alive but that too for a single feed. Humans, generally are not fleas’ choice of hosts.

Click here to know about: How to remove fleas from humans?

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Fleas on Clothing and Furniture

Fleas can live on non-living objects like sofas, couches, carpets, etc. Even if there is no blood meal, they do hang out at these places. Let us explain.

Sofas, couches, carpets and on furniture:

Pets on whom fleas lay eggs hang around inside your home and there is no bar for them to sit on sofas, couches, carpets and other furniture. Flea eggs are slippery on the surface and they fall from the skins of pets as they shake their fur or scratch the skin.

The eggs land on these places and being minute in sizes gets unnoticed by humans. The folds and corners are perfect places for eggs and larvae as they weave the cocoon around them. Once they are near maturity, thermal energy radiation from a potential host makes them break away from the cocoons and jump on to the host.

Clothing:

There is a minimal chance that you will find fleas on your clothes. Unlike sofas, couches, and furniture, clothes are regularly cleaned and even if your pets drop flea eggs on them, regular washing in the washing machine kills them. In special cases like winter clothes or clothes which are not washed frequently, you might find flea eggs or cocoons in them but that too is a far-fetched thought.

Until and unless your flea-infected pet shakes its fur on a pile of washed clothes just delivered from laundry, it is quite impossible to find fleas in clothing. Fleas live on warmblood and without a host, they die within a few days.

Lights and lamps:

During the larva, stage fleas don’t have matured eyes and they tend to hide from light sources. That is why they tend to snuggle to darker places. Adult fleas have eyes but they are too underdeveloped if compared to other animals. Fleas sense their hosts and move accordingly. Eyesights do not help much. But their rudimentary eyesight is attracted to heat and light.

The transformation of shady light to glaring light pleases the fleas. The phenomenon is called phototaxis. They prefer residing in places where there is ample light green, blue and white light. Fleas don’t go for lights and lamps as they are not sources of a blood meal but they can jump on to hosts who enjoy bright lights. But because of their underdeveloped eyesight, fleas do get attracted to lights and by mistake, they jump on waterbodies laid as traps.

See this video to learn more:

OR

Finding a Host

The lifecycle of a flea without a host is next to impossible, except if the situation is extremely contradictory and countless variables are to be considered. Let us explain.

The Quiescent period:

This is the time when an about to be matured flea resides inside a cocoon. The metabolism is minimum as nearly developed fleas don’t get food during this time, though developing into mature fleas rapidly. The time frame of fleas to be restricted to cocoons limits up to 5 months maximum.

While they are reaching adulthood, once they sense a potential host nearby, fleas come out of the cocoons and jump on to the host. If it is an adult female flea, after getting a sumptuous blood meal the process of laying eggs on the host’s body starts, which again starts a new lifecycle of fleas.

Matured Fleas With no Hosts:

Fleas leaving the cocoons are all adult fleas and so baby fleas do not exist at all. They look for blood meals as soon as they leave the cocoons as their metabolism depends on that. If they don’t find suitable hosts for a blood meal, they starve to death within a week. So, matured fleas with no hosts die within a week.

Laying eggs need bloodmeal:

Female fleas, when emerged from cocoons, need blood meals to lay eggs. The reason for rapid flea infestation on hosts is because of search of blood meals. The more they intake blood from the hosts, the more they lay eggs. A single feeding takes about a minute and fascicle of eggs is laid soon and a new lifecycle of fleas starts.

If a mature female flea coming out from a cocoon does not find a sustainable host to feed on, it won’t lay eggs. It will be in a state where surviving becomes more important than reproduction. It needs blood meals to get the energy to survive and when its life is secured, then only it will lay eggs.

Changing hosts is not a natural phenomenon for fleas:

Once a flea finds a host, it sticks to it. It develops an appetite towards the blood of the animal and within 12 hours, it needs a refill. They become accustomed to the biological constitution of the hosts’ bodies.

They become habituated with the blood of the hosts and generally die in 4 days if they are forcefully removed from the hosts. This is the reason a flea lives on a host for its lifetime and jumping to new hosts is not natural for them.

Finally: fleas and their hosts

To have thorough knowledge about fleas surviving without a host or not requires an understanding of a flea’s lifecycle, their survival strategies, choice of their hosts and their locomotion techniques.

Just keep in mind:

  • Fleas feed on blood.
  • Fleas die without hosts.
  • Fleas jump and don’t fly.
  • Fleas can’t swim or float.
  • All fleas are adult fleas.
  • Fleas jump on to cats, dogs and sometimes on humans too.

Skip the research and talk to the exterminator to kill Fleas

Click here and access our exterminator search tool- instantly get free quotes from the authentic house of exterminators in your local area.

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