Life Cycle of the Flea and Protecting Your Home Life Cycle of the Flea and Protecting Your Home

The life cycle of a flea is what makes it so difficult to control fleas in your home once it becomes infested. A flea's life cycle comes in four stages that vary in the duration. The life cycle of a flea can be from 3 weeks to more than a year. Fleas thrive on warm-blooded hosts, using their blood to feed and reproduce.

Adult Stage

Adult female fleas use saliva to break down the host's skin in order to obtain blood for a meal. Their saliva is an irritant and accounts for the itching experienced by the host when bitten. The adult flea digests blood to produce eggs and cannot lay eggs without it.

A single female flea can lay from 20 to 40 eggs per day, or 500 to 600 in a lifespan of 3 to 4 weeks. Adult fleas can be killed by bathing your pet in baby shampoo, but new adults will soon hatch to replace them.

Egg Stage

Flea eggs are deposited on a host, but they're not sticky, so they soon fall off into the host's environment. The eggs develop where they land, on bedding, furniture, carpets, floors or anywhere your pet goes.

Flea eggs hatch in about 2 weeks, depending on environment. The most favorable conditions are 70 degrees F and 70 to 80 percent humidity.

Intense vacuuming is one way to help get rid of flea eggs from your home. Using borate powder is an environmentally safe way to kill flea eggs in carpets and upholstery. Sprinkle borate powder on carpeting and use a broom to sweep it down into the fibers where eggs are. Vacuum after 24 hours. Sprinkle borate powder in unexposed cracks and seams of upholstery and vacuum after 24 hours.

Larva Stage

After a week or two, the egg hatches into a worm-like larva. Flea larvae can move and seek dark places like cracks in floorboards and deep spaces in carpet fibers. They feed on skin cells, adult flea feces and other organic debris.

Larvae develop over a period of a few weeks to a few months, depending on conditions. Borate powder also works to kill fleas in the larval stage.

Pupa Stage

Flea larvae spin themselves into a cocoon much like a butterfly in the final pupal stage. Dirt, hair, carpet fibers and other debris stick to the cocoon, providing protection and camouflage.

After 1 to 2 weeks, the pupae may hatch from the cocoon as adults. However, the fleas can remain dormant inside the cocoon for a year or more, waiting for the best time to hatch. The pupae respond to warmth, vibration, pressure or carbon dioxide to detect the presence of a potential host. If none of these are present, the fleas will remain in the cocoon until conditions are best to hatch.

Pupae are resistant to chemicals and other means to kill them. The best way to get rid of flea pupae is vacuuming. The warmth and vibrations of the vacuum usually cause them to hatch, and they can be disposed of from your vacuum to the outdoors.

Fleas must be treated in all life stages to eliminate them from your home and prevent re-infestation.

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