If a flea has ever bitten you, you know how irritating this parasite can be. In this article, you will learn how fleas might get to your home, their expected lifespan, and how to get rid of them efficiently.
What are fleas?
Fleas are tiny insects that feed on blood meals and can be very challenging for pest control. They do not have wings however, fleas jump to move around and reach their destination. The University of Cambridge article reports that fleas can jump as fast as 1.9 meters per second. Pest control specialists identify the following types of domestic fleas that might infest your home:
- Dog fleas
- Human fleas
- Oriental rat fleas
- Cat fleas
Do not pay much attention to the names because they do not indicate the choice of a host by the parasites. Hence, you may find dog fleas on any other animal.
Flea is a parasite that feeds on a blood meal and needs a host for survival. To understand how long fleas can live without a host, you need to know about a flea life cycle. The life stage of a flea determines its behavior and needs to live with a host.
Flea Life Cycle
The life cycle of a parasite determines whether you will be facing a flea infestation. This is because fleas of different ages have different needs. The flea life cycle consists of 4 stages:
- Pupa (in a cocoon)
- Adult Flea
The lifespan of a flea can be very short or last up to a year, depending on conditions.
As mentioned, flea infestations depend on a life stage. So naturally, flea eggs are not harmful even though they will eventually become a big problem. At a certain point, flea eggs hatch and move to the second stage of life – larvae.
Flea larvae are difficult to spot, and they can hide very efficiently. In addition, flea larvae feed on natural debris. So, it can survive easily and go unnoticed while turning into flea pupae.
The next is the pupae stage, when the parasites hide in flea cocoons. Pupae can survive for a long time in their cocoon and wait for their final formation into adult fleas.
Overall, eggs, larvae, and pupae are not directly harmful to you; however, if you notice them, you are facing infestation and its unpleasant consequences.
How long do fleas live without a host?
As mentioned, a flea does not need a host during the three stages of its life. First, flea eggs turn into larvae pretty quickly. Larvae prefer to stay in dark areas where they can feed on organic debris; hence, it does not need a host. Finally, during the pupae, stage flea hibernates and waits until there is a sign of a potential host. The pupae stage can be up to 100 days, but mostly, it continues for several weeks.
Immature fleas can live without a host for quite some time; adult fleas are not so lucky.
How long can adult fleas live without a host?
Adult fleas feed on blood; therefore, they are depended on their food source or a host. In rare cases, fleas survive without a host for a week for 2 weeks. Generally, adult parasites have a very short lifespan, and fleas die even quicker if they cannot eat.
If the parasite cannot get a blood meal, the female flea is unable to lay eggs and reproduce. So, by cutting their food source, you can slow down the infestation drastically.
How long do fleas live with a host?
Parasites can feed on humans as well as animals. However, fleas prefer to choose animals as their hosts.
As CDC reports, adult fleas only emerge from the cocoon when they feel the presence of a potential host. The pupa can feel the movement and body heat of a host. Fleas need to detect the host before leaving the cocoon because they need to get their first blood meal soon after transforming into adult fleas.
The lifespan of a flea depends on the type of host it gets. Some animals offer long-term and reliable shelter while others don’t. Hence, fleas may die soon if they do not find a suitable host.
Adult fleas can feed on human blood and may even reproduce it in exceptional circumstances. As mentioned, blood meals are essential for laying eggs. However, fleas’ amount of human blood is not usually accessible.
A study on fleas has shown that parasites can survive on human blood for up to 180 days if fed for 15 minutes daily. In reality, this is almost impossible and usually happens only in labs.
It is possible for fleas to lay eggs due to a blood meal; however, the cases are pretty rare. This is because adult fleas need continuous access to blood to be able to reproduce. The female flea lays eggs only after it gets free access to food. This is why they do not choose people as their long-term feeding source.
The cat flea is a rare example of fleas because they can reproduce on human blood only. Other female fleas need animal blood to be able to reproduce. However, if cat fleas feed only on human blood, their fertility levels decrease drastically. For example, a cat flea can lay up to 30 eggs per day in normal circumstances; however, if it only feeds on humans, the fertility drops to 3-4 eggs daily.
Overall, fleas cannot live on humans for a long time. Furthermore, they do not even try to depend on human hosts. Adult fleas only seek humans if they do not have another food source. They only bite humans once or twice and then jump away. They mainly choose pets as hosts due to various reasons.
Why do fleas live on pets?
Pet owners have the most significant challenge when it comes to fleas because the parasites mainly feed on our four-legged friends.
Fleas choose to live on furry mammals because animal fur provides a perfect shelter for them. CDC recommends bathing and brushing pets regularly for flea control. The longer pet fur is, the more likely fleas will be attracted to it. So, to eliminate fleas, one method is cutting your pet’s fur.
Furry animals are perfect for laying eggs and getting a permanent source of blood meals. Additionally, fur creates a warm environment which is very attractive for fleas.
How long can fleas live on pets?
With a dependable host, fleas can live an expected whole lifespan which lasts from several months up to one year. Fleas may live on pets or in pet bedding. As long as they can get their meals, they will be just fine.
How do fleas find their host?
Fleas find hosts during their pupal stage. As mentioned above, fleas do not emerge from their cocoons unless they have detected a blood source. Fleas find their hosts based on body heat, breathing, and vibrations caused by movement.
How to eliminate fleas?
There are various ways for flea control. There are two main reasons for flea invasion: pets and humidity. Fleas love pets because they provide food sources as well as shelter. Hence, dog and cat owners must ensure their pets are protected from fleas. Additionally, humidity attracts parasites because it creates a good environment for reproduction. Therefore, you should prevent excessive humidity and moisture from your house.
Use the following methods to prevent large-scale infestation:
- Wash and brush your pet regularly (we recommend best flea shampoos for dogs and flea shampoos for cats)
- Use flea collars on your pets (we recommend best flea collars for dogs and flea collars for cats)
- Brush your pet’s fur with a flea comb
- Clean pet bedding
- Improve ventilation of your home
- Do not overwater your garden
Methods for removing fleas
If the fleas have already invaded your house, you will need to use more drastic measures:
While flea bombs are popular, they are not very efficient because they cannot kill flea eggs and larvae. There are many flea control products, but you need to use those that will eliminate fleas at every stage of their life cycle.
Frequently asked questions
Will fleas go away on their own?
Unfortunately, no, fleas will not leave on their own. Fleas are parasites that feed on blood, and if they get a reliable host, they will not go away voluntarily.
How long can fleas live on the sheets?
Flea’s life depends on whether they have a blood host or not. If fleas cannot find humans or a pet to feed on, they can only survive around 1-2 weeks. If they have a blood host, they can live up to 1 year. Generally, if a flea does not have a blood host, it will leave to find a food source somewhere else.
How long will fleas live on my clothes?
Fleas do not usually choose clothing as their homes. Gladly, our bodies do not allow fleas to take a permanent residence. Therefore, fleas do not live in clothes for long. They can stay on your clothes for up to 24 hours maximum.
How to treat flea bites?
First of all, wash the spot with soap and water. After you have cleaned the spot, you can use a variety of flea treatments.
Better Health recommends the following actions to minimize the damage of flea bites:
- Avoid scratching
- Use icepacks to prevent swelling
- Apply anesthetic cream to reduce itching
The same applies to pets if your dog is suffering from flea bites, bath it to reduce swelling and itching.
Overall, if you have fleas in your home, you need to eliminate them. Fleas cannot live without a host for a long time; therefore, it is essential to cut their access to food sources and eliminate them quickly. In addition, if fleas have a pet host, they will reproduce very quickly. So, make sure your pet is protected from these parasites. Additionally, use flea regulators that kill eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult fleas.