We are blessed to live in the semitropical climate of Florida. It is a paradise for humans, but it is also an ideal environment for fleas. Fleas are a year round problem in South Florida. It is important to understand the flea life cycle in order for us to adequately protect ourselves and our pets against these biting pests.
There are 4 stages in the life cycle of the flea:
Egg: A female flea can lay up to 40 eggs per day. Eggs incubate in warm temperatures of about 65-85 degrees and high humidity. Female fleas lay their eggs on the pet where they fall off into the environment
Larva: eggs hatch into larvae which feed on the “flea dirt” or flea feces left behind by the adults in the environment. This stage is the stage that picks up the tapeworm eggs that later become infective to the host.
Pupa: This is the cocoon stage of the flea. They can remain dormant in the carpet for months, waiting for the ideal environmental conditions, and a nearby viable host to feed on, before they emerge as adult fleas.
Adult: Fleas can survive for months without a bloodmeal. Once a suitable host is found, they aggressively attach and feed. A female flea will begin to lay eggs about 24-48 hours after feeding, and continue until she dies. The average life span of a flea is 4-6 weeks and the average time from egg to adult is 21 days.
Fleas can spread several diseases to pets. The most common is tapeworms. A dog or cat will ingest a flea in the process of grooming. If that flea was carrying tapeworm eggs, it will develop into adult tapeworms in the intestine of the host. The eggs are shed in the pet’s stool in egg packets or segments that the pet owner can readily see. The flea larvae then ingest the eggs and the cycle continues.
Flea control must occur on the pet as well as in the environment. Environmental sprays do not kill the egg, larva l, or pupal stages, so if there is a severe infestation, the environment should be resprayed in 3 weeks, when the eggs hatch into adults.
There are many effective products for flea control on the pet. Topical flea applications and oral flea prevention are common and effective. It is important to coordinate flea control on the pet and the environment to effectively keep these pesky parasites out of our lives.